“And Solskjaer has won it!” The legend is back replacing the increasingly beleaguered Jose Mourinho and bringing a new optimism to United fans and players and more importantly making the players look like FPL assets.
As a United and fantasy football fan Solskjaer has played a huge part in my football life and I can remember owning him in Telegraph fantasy football 1999 when he scored four against Everton. He would also have been a tremendous triple captain pick if FPL existed in 1997 as Manchester United had a triple gameweek in May. Solskjaer scored two against Leicester in a 2-2 draw on the Saturday, an equaliser in a 3-3 on the Monday before a sub appearance on the Thursday would have brought a healthy return (Gary Neville played all three and scored, assisted and got a clean sheet if anyone owned him!)
So while I revel in nostalgia (don’t get me started on the Rob Lee tackle, the 94th minute winners against Liverpool and Bayern and the four off the bench) we can debate the merits of whether a club the size of Manchester United should be hiring someone based on nostalgia and feelgood factor another day but what is definitely true is that the next six months will be entertaining and might see the club score five goals in a league game for the first time since Ferguson’s retirement.
With little to play for in the league and flanked by attack minded coaches in Carrick and Phelan it seems likely that Solskjaer will try to open up games a bit more and get on the front foot against the bottom half teams.
A lot has been made of Solskjaer’s time at Cardiff and whilst ignoring it is foolish its relevance also needs putting in context. Afterall we don’t judge Klopp on getting Mainz relegated. Solskjaer was poor at Cardiff and unable to stop a basket case team getting relegated in bizarre circumstances.
What may be more relevant at United is the fans worship of him, the attacking style and the fact he’s worked with Paul Pogba before. It also needs remembering that Solskjaer isn’t there to have a restructuring of the club he’s there to keep things ticking over and get star players smiling again. We will definitely still finish sixth and may sneak a cup run or two. Is Solskjaer the next full time boss? Unlikely although maybe he might be United’s version of Southgate? A caretaker who flourishes! Solskjaer won’t be afraid to speak his mind either, he has nothing to lose and also sided with Roy Keane, walking out of the infamous meeting in solidarity with Keane, who went on to leave the club. The baby faced assassin has a bit of steel and might be able to steer some of the dissatisfied players to a bit of form with a blend of good cop bad cop instead of Mourinho’s horrific bullying cop, horrific bullying cop.
In fantasy terms the Cardiff game showed how good the attacking players can be but in truth there was evidence of this in Mourinho games against non top six sides. Only a fortnight ago Fulham were dispatched 4-1 with Rashford getting a 14 point haul to go alongside his two assists against Southampton. Jesse Lingard scored against Arsenal and Liverpool in recent weeks and his Cardiff brace suggests he might be on a similar run of form to last winter. Anthony Martial has been in form since the Newcastle game that prolonged Mourinho’s stay and has 8 goals and an assist in his last 8 starts. The obvious benefactor from Mourinho going was Paul Pogba and the Frenchman was involved in everything against Cardiff and his three assists suggest he is worth a look although his lack of goals would put me off longer term.
Defensively United are still to be avoided, Solskjaer isn’t going to bring the positivity back focusing on clean sheets and until we see proof of clean sheets and that de Gea is back at the elite level rather than the very good level he’s been at all season the defenders are best avoided.
Attacking wise it could be full your boots time. Home games against Huddersfield and a rapidly plummeting Bournemouth could be a forwards dream, then follows Newcastle away. Those three games should be enough of a sample to see if we want United players in longer term.
Pogba and the in form Martial are obvious picks given the flashes of form we have seen already this season. The standout though must be Marcus Rashford. The youngster is in form anyway and with Lukaku out for the next few games seems certain to play up front. Rashford should also appeal to Solskjaer as a young, hard working striker, happy to do a job for the team even after being regularly benched.
And who knows maybe Rashford could score a hat trick and become the second person at the club with a Manchester United hat trick. The only person at the club with one so far? The new caretaker manager.