What has changed at Manchester United?

Since Jose Mourinho left Old Trafford, it is almost as if a cloud has lifted and everyone has a smile on their faces again. So what has new interim manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer done to change the atmosphere and what is noticeably different about his playing style?

Firstly, he was brought in with games against his former club Cardiff, then Huddersfield and Bournemouth in the Premier League and a home FA Cup tie against Championship strugglers Reading as his first four games in charge. There have been a lot of comments made on Match of the Day about United obviously wanting to bring him in when he had some (with the greatest respect to those teams) should-win games coming up.

Secondly, when Mourinho left, the fans were disenchanted with the team and the club, and there was a severe gap which needed to be bridged very quickly. Replacing a relatively unpopular manager with a fan favourite and ex-United striker was a really good move for this reason – he has already got the fans back onside which was important.

Solskjaer has also employed several formations, but the one that I think best suits his style is 4-3-3 which he played against Cardiff and Huddersfield. It allows them a balanced approach to the game, and allows them to defend but also to do what United are known for – their attacking play. Nemanja Matic was deployed as the anchor in the middle of midfield, and Ander Herrera and the rejuvenated Paul Pogba outside him as the midfield three. Matic’s range of passing means that the attack have plenty of ammunition to use against opponents. Herrera and Pogba have also been given license to run more, and help the attack out as extra options. The fact that Herrera’s goal against Cardiff came from outside the area illustrates this. Paul Pogba was instrumental throughout, setting up the final goal with a clean pass and was just brilliant all game.

Herrera definitely looks like someone that Solskjaer has taken hold of and changed the way he wants to play. I say this because he has become the perfect box-to-box midfielder. Not only was his attacking play really impressive, but he tracked back to help out defensively as well. This was evident against Bournemouth in particular. In this way, he was the epitome of the new and improved and much more enjoyable to watch Manchester United.

It’s not perfect, but nothing ever is. They have conceded three goals from set pieces since Solskjaer was appointed, so that is something that they need to work on. However, whereas with Mourinho, a goal conceded often meant that the game was lost, under Solskjaer he has taken the club back to its attacking roots, and with seemingly very little effort. They scored 5 against Cardiff, 3 against Huddersfield, 4 against Bournemouth, and 2 against Reading, so if they keep scoring these high numbers of goals, then conceding the odd goal here and there will still be annoying, but won’t matter so much anymore.


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