Ole Gunnar Solskjaer Proves He’s No One Trick Pony
January 14, 2019
‘Ole Ole Ole’ was the chant that was beckoning around North London yesterday, following Manchester United’s 1-0 victory over Tottenham Hotspur. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer proved that he was no one trick pony, as his tactical game plan ensured that the Red Devils left Wembley with the precious three points. A large proportion from the red side of Manchester are now calling for the Norwegian manager to permanently remain in the hot seat, and it is not hard to see why.
It was United’s first league win away at Spurs since 2012 and Solskjaer’s sixth in a row, making him the first manager in the club’s history to do so. Not only have the Red Devils now drawn level on points with Arsenal, with a top-four finish closely in their sights, but they have also been playing some scintillating stuff along the way.
Yesterday’s victory taught us a few things about the rejuvenated United side:
Solskjaer Showcases His Tactical Knowledge
Since taking charge of United, many rival fans have argued the point that ‘Solskjaer has had it easy.’ His side have swept aside opposition that many would have expected them to and despite playing some slicker football, his ability as a top tier manager had rarely been tested.
Against the lesser-tabled sides, Solskjaer consistently set up in an offensive manner, paying heavy emphasis on his frontline. This expansive system had been successful so far, but the Norwegian recognised that he couldn’t afford to play so open against such a dangerous Tottenham team. Although the starting XI looked familiar, the tactical game plan was altered to target specific counterparts of the opposition. Something that was executed rather efficiently.
As expected, Spurs operated with their two wing-backs, who loved to rampage forward in attempt of pinning United back. Subsequently, the space in-behind Kieran Trippier and Ben Davies was left exposed, with Paul Pogba and Ander Herrera looking to release the frontrunners into this space whenever possible. Jesse Lingard as the no.10 was the central point in the side, with Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial occupying the wings.
The system certainly played to the front three’s strengths, as each attacker continued to penetrate Spurs with runs in-behind the midfield and defensive lines. Herrera and Nemanja Matic comfortably sat screening the back four, whilst the aforementioned frontmen and Pogba broke free to hurt Tottenham’s unprotected backline. An attacking mindset against a top-six side? Ole may be the one after all.
Rashford – The New Baby Faced Assassin?
The players have certainly taken well to Solskjaer’s appointment, but perhaps no more so than Marcus Rashford. As the no.9, with the freedom to roam and directly run in-behind the opposition, the Englishman has flourished in his role, particularly under a philosophy that encourages the offensive players to express themselves in the final third.
With four goals in his last five, the young prodigy has certainly looked more clinical in front of goal, specifically focusing on his composure and technique when 1v1 with the keeper. It appears that Solskjaer and Rashford have quickly adopted a relationship of the ‘student and the master’, with the Norwegian passing on his own tips and experience to the upcoming star.
As the clock struck the 44th minute and Rashford strode onto Pogba’s inch-perfect pass, it certainly didn’t look to be an easy finish. The far corner looked to be the only opening in Hugo Lloris’ goal and the Englishman cutely nestled the ball into the corner with significant ease. Fans have quickly become accustomed to seeing the no.10 rush off to the corner in exuberant celebration and with Solskjaer as his mentor, this form looks destined to continue.
Dave Saves Again and Again
No other goalkeeper in Premier League history has had more standout performances than David De Gea. Never far from the limelight or praise, the Spaniard showcased exactly why he possesses the label as the greatest in the world, following a flurry of miraculous saves to help United keep a clean-sheet at Wembley.
It was eleven heaven for the keeper, who made a record number of saves in the league this season. The likes of Harry Kane and Dele Alli had golden opportunities to win the game for Spurs, but they couldn’t find a way past the Spanish wall. In what was one of the individual performances of the season, De Gea’s teammates were quick to praise their special keeper, who also received an overhaul of plaudits online from fans.
Watch out Felipe, Dave is coming for your throne.
Swede As You Like At The Back
De Gea’s heroics may have ensured United a clean-sheet at Wembley, but Victor Lindelof also deserves some recognition. The Swede has been instrumental under Solskjaer so far and his presence on the field has quickly become a reassuring sight to those around him. For just the second time this season, Tottenham drew a blank in front of goal, with Lindelof’s defensive positioning being a large reason why.
Having now asserted himself as the club’s most reliable defender, the 24-year-old’s development this season has not gone unnoticed by fans. At the heart of the defence, Lindelof has been a key figure behind why the club have now achieved three clean sheets on the bounce. With his agile style of defending, the Swede was able to match Kane’s runs and prevented his chances inside the box well.
Should Lindelof’s form continue, he could well be in contention for United’s player of the year award. For now, though, supporters are just happy to see a trusted centre-half in their club’s backline. Long may it continue.
Top Four Now In The Sights
Champions League qualification looked dead and buried for Manchester United before the festive period, but now there is a glimmer of hope. For once, Arsenal were cheering their North London rivals on yesterday, as United’s victory moved them on level points with the Gunners.
The top three positions look settled in the league, so the Red Devils will be hoping for a slip up at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea are currently in fourth-placed, nine points ahead of United but with sixteen games to go, there is plenty to play for. The Blues have to face Arsenal and City over the coming weeks, so there is potential ground to be made on Maurizio Sarri’s men.
If Solskjaer can achieve a top-four finish, many fans will be expecting the Norwegian to be in charge next season. He has already silenced the critics with a phenomenal start to his managerial career at Old Trafford and their forthcoming fixtures make this run a likely one to continue. As a man who understands and values the club’s traditions, he certainly has the United faithful behind him. Should this emphatic form and uplifting moral last, not many people will question the permanent appointment of Solskjaer.
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As an experienced sports writer, Josh has been published across various different platforms, writing about his beloved club Manchester United and other footballing topics. He also covers a range of other sports, specialising in UFC and Formula One.