Manchester United’s evolution under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is clearly evident

The Norwegian manager has transformed Red Devils into a force to be reckoned with

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in a file photo; Credit: Manchester United Twitter page

It should come as no surprise that the last time Manchester United topped the goals tally in the English Premier League was in 2012-13 season under the retired Sir Alex Ferguson. That season the Red Devils notched 86 goals. Eight years later, the club is on the path to end the season with a respectable goals tally. In the current campaign, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s boys have already netted an impressive 58 goals in just 30 games – the second-best in the ongoing season of the Premier League.

The last time when Manchester United ruled the goals chart, the Reds lifted the Premier League title – the final trophy of the illustrious Scot’s reign. After eight years, Manchester United might not be the favourites to lift the title, but sitting in second is a big improvement. Solskjaer has to be the man credited for the team’s remarkable turnaround this season.

As United struggled for identity in the post-Alex era, the club went back to their tried and test method, appointing the Norwegian coach in December 2018. They also brought in former Ferguson’s assistant Mike Phelan. The club wanted to bring back the glory days in terms of playing style and the points tally. And, Ole looks to have cracked the code.

Main catalyst

After the departure of Sir Alex, Manchester United have not even scored 70 goals in a single campaign. For little over a year, Ole struggled to find the balance, with demoralizing scorelines becoming a norm at the club. Once Bruno Fernandes joined the club in January 2020, United have been on an upward trajectory.

In the last 14 matches of the 2019-20 season, Manchester United garnered 32 points – nine wins and five draws. To put things into perspective, in the first 24 matches of last season, United managed a mere 34 points. The final unbeaten streak helped the club finish in Top 4, which seemed unlikely before the Portuguese player’s arrival.

Solskjaer used him wisely. From his debut against Wolverhampton Wanderers on February 1st 2020, Fernandes has played in a free No 10 role behind the striker. He has often been the bridge between attack and defence.

The Portuguese offered something different than his predecessors. He provided the thrust, demanded urgency from his teammates and was the driving force in the middle of the pitch.

He did not stop with being the midfield provider, but ended up getting into the penalty box regularly to score many goals. Fernandes has scored 24 goals and provided 14 assists in the 47 League games he has played so far this season. Last season, he has scored eight leagues and provided seven assists, impressive for a mid-season arrival who hardly had any time to settle in.

Full-back threat

Gone are the days when full-backs’ primary role was to defend. In the modern game, they act as secondary wingers. United, however, struggled to get the best out of them, a trick which Liverpool and Manchester City utilised to the maximum.

Thanks to Ole, United full-backs are one of the most creative in the EPL currently. The signing of Alex Telles last summer has improved Luke Shaw’s game massively. He along with Aaron Wan-Bissaka has been regularly surging forward to provided crosses and through balls for their teammates.

It has increased Manchester United’s attacking outlet as a unit. The 9-0 thumping of Southampton was one such example. If United can tighten up the defence and keep the attacking form going, they may very well win their first trophy in Solskjaer’s reign.




WRITTEN BY
Karthik Raman

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