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Monday 22 April 2019

United bunch under happy-go-lucky Ole

Weird Wide World of Sport

Ole Gunnar Solskjær has restored pride to Manchester United
Ole Gunnar Solskjær has restored pride to Manchester United

Dave Devereux

People said I'd never get over my obsession with Phil Collins. But take a look at me now.

Anybody familiar with eighties pop dirge will be aware that the above dreadful dad joke is referring to 'Against All Odds', a slogan which could easily apply to the job being done by Ole Gunnar Solskjær at Manchester United since his arrival as caretaker manager.

When the Norwegian took the reins, not even the most deluded of Man. United fans would have expected a miracle, just a flicker of light at the end of the tunnel after Jose Mourinho had managed to envelope the club in the sort of darkness where you can't see your hand in front of your face.

It was certainly a wise move by the powers-that-be to bring in somebody that's a glowing reminder of the beautiful days, a time when the Red Devils were feared and respected in equal measure as they saw off all before them in swashbuckling style under Alex Ferguson.

Solskjær's good-natured mannerisms couldn't be any more of a contrast to the dour, scowling, always finding something to moan about Mourinho, who from the get go was never the right fit for the Old Trafford dug-out.

The former United player was always going to put the club first and in doing so has managed to win six games in six in less than a month in charge, and transformed the way the team plays.

The party-poopers will point to the fact that, prior to Sunday's win over Tottenham, they were all teams that a side the calibre of United should be expected to beat, but under the Mourinho cloud they would have struggled to win half of them.

Two men who have played a pivotal role in United's resurgence are midfielder Paul Pogba and goalkeeper David de Gea, but the difference between the two is as stark as night and day.

The Spaniard has been pretty much the one constant for United, even through the toughest of times, earning them countless points they scarcely deserved when Mourinho was at the helm.

Pogba, on the other hand, turns it on when his ego has been massaged, and a happy-go-lucky type like Solskjær seems ideal to feed his sense of self-importance.

Whatever he's doing, it's working, and the World Cup winner is playing with a freedom that's allowing him to shine.

Of course, tactics have a lot to do with it. Mourinho set up the team in such a rigid and military way that Pogba rarely had the opportunity to show off his range of passing and superb vision.

When a team attacks in numbers, rather than aimlessly hoofing the ball forward, a player of Pogba's ability has the options in front of him that allow him to positively affect a game.

However, that still doesn't excuse his behaviour and United fans should enjoy it while it lasts, because generally players who tend to throw the toys out of the pram when things aren't to their liking will find another excuse to do so again once the feel-good factor subsides. De Gea is the polar opposite, as reliable as they come, even when the world and his wife seem to be against him.

No matter what Spurs threw at him on Sunday, the netminder just wasn't going to be beaten.

Manchester United were impressive in the first-half and deserved their 1-0 half-time lead, but de Gea had to show his worth again after the interval, pulling off eleven saves in that 45 minutes alone as Tottenham came forward in waves.

United have done their old friends Liverpool a favour by removing one of the threats to the title, although admittedly Spurs' hopes were already slim prior to Sunday's crushing defeat.

The Manchester reds still have an opportunity to inflict a wound on Jurgen Klopp's men when the pair face off at the end of February, a contest which could have a big bearing on the title race.

After all their glory days, the United faithful won't be happy with just being the team that ruins the dreams of others. However, for now, that and a Champions League spot would be a start.

When the former baby-faced assassin, Ole Gunnar Solskjær, was brought into the club he was seen as a stop-gap solution, but if United continue to produce the performances and results, he'll shoot down all other pretenders to the throne.

As good old Phil Collins might say, there's definitely something positive in the air at Old Trafford.

Bray People

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