When I was asked to be the Manchester United correspondent for the Planet FPL Podcast site I was delighted. For about one gameweek. Then reality hit, United players were an irrelevance, overpriced and playing in a dull, conservative formation. But still conceding goals. I got my biggest pleasures writing about Abba, Raheem Sterling, Eden Hazard and even Jurgen Klopp at one point!
Then in Christmas week he who won’t be named was sacked and club legend Ole Gunnar Solskjaer came in. Since then six league wins in a row have accompanied progress to the fifth round of the FA Cup after a brilliant away win against Arsenal.
Now United players are all the rage in FPL, with Pogba and Rashford approaching must own status and still value to be found in Martial, Lindelof and Lingard. Primarily this is because after a poor opening to the season they are all cheap as chips but with Solskjaer playing a brand of football playing to their strengths goals always look likely.
Solskjaer has been damned with feint praise so far, being accused of just rocking up and getting smiles on faces. The counter argument to that is that firstly in the modern era getting players to play for you is a skill in itself. We can all sit and moan and whinge and say players should play for the badge no matter what but life isn’t like that anymore. People criticising players for that are probably also the ones boycotting Gillette razors and getting annoyed at vegan sausage rolls. Players are much more aware of their worth, their power and aware of how they should be playing compared to their peers. The ex players and pundits who constantly branded this set of players as not good enough have gone remarkably quiet recently. Almost as if poor management was an issue. Solskjaer has recognised this and whilst it is true he had a low base to recover from he deserves respect for instantly tapping into this group of players.
He has also developed a fast counter attacking style in the two difficult away games he has played resulting in great away days against Tottenham and Arsenal.
So far so good then. Pick three United players in FPL and crack on. I can foresee one possible issue going forward though. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will be the next permanent manager.
I mentioned in my piece pre Christmas when Solskjaer was hired that United will find it incredibly hard to extract Pochettino from Spurs. Nothing has changed that issue. The Argentinian has showed no real signs of forcing a move so far and even if he does how much will he cost? 50 million?
Solskjaer has shown, like Gareth Southgate at England, that he has the perfect skill set to manage the club. His previous managerial career is almost an irrelevance now. Alongside Phelan, Carrick and McKenna the current coaching set up seems perfectly positioned to lead the club forward and at a hugely discounted rate of Pochettino. Indeed I genuinely think United are only victories against Paris St Germain and Liverpool away from appointing Solskjaer full time.
If this happens how will it affect this years FPL? Well will Solskjaer’s mentality change towards team selection? So far he has been able to disregard the star names and play Rashford, Martial and Lingard as part of a modern, fluid front three. However Sanchez and Lukaku have both impressed from the bench and in cup games and won’t stand being reserves for very long. Unless United are planning on taking financial hits to sell both players it stands to reason they will need to play matches. Can Solskjaer’s Midas touch extend to taking Lukaku and Sanchez into being happy being on the bench? If not we may find our FPL investments involved in a Manchester City style Guardiola tombola as Solskjaer positions himself to be the next permanent manager.