His Manchester United managerial record so far reads two games, two wins. Yes the opposition might only have been Cardiff City and Huddersfield Town, sides that sit 17th and 20th in the division respectively, but there’s already a positivity around Old Trafford under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer that hasn’t been felt for some time.
Tougher tests are of course to come but the Reds have already returned to an attacking style of football which resonates with United fans the world over.
Nobody has benefitted more from the philosophy change than Paul Pogba. With two goals and two assists, the Frenchman has been directly involved in four goals under Solskjaer, the same total he had registered in his last 12 games under Mourinho.
In their time at Old Trafford together, Mourinho rarely openly praised Pogba after an impressive display. In stark contrast, we have already seen Solskjaer give him public credit.
After his display in the Boxing Day victory against Huddersfield, the Norwegian said of Pogba: “That’s the Paul I’ve known since he was in the reserves and youth team.
“He has always been a happy boy, he has always had a big smile on his face and when you score a goal, or two, of course you are happy.”
To many it may have seemed like an obvious change, one which Mourinho should have made months ago, but taking the shackles off Pogba has reinvigorated the World Cup winner and United are already reaping the benefits.
Next up it’s Bournemouth at Old Trafford and after shipping five at Tottenham on Boxing Day, the Cherries will be fearful of another tough day at the office. A third straight win will complete a very pleasing festive period for United fans, but what, if anything, does Solskjaer need to do between now and the end of the season to stake a claim for the permanent manager’s job?
Paris Saint-Germain await in the Last 16 of the Champions League in February. The French champions have suffered just one defeat in 20 matches this season in all competitions. If Solskjaer were to mastermind progress to the Quarter Finals, currently priced up at 59/20, he’d be laying down a serious marker.
In the Premier League, the gap to fourth placed Chelsea currently stands at eight points at the halfway stage of the season. Right now there isn’t a United fan anywhere who wouldn’t jump at the offer of a Champions League Qualifying place for next season. It’s not out of reach (a Top 4 finish is 9/2) but after five league defeats so far this term, it would again require a sustained improvement under Solskjaer. The type of turnaround in form that would make him a candidate for the longterm.
Ole has already admitted he’d count himself amongst numerous others who would love to be full time Manchester United manger. Inevitably though, as well as he does during his tenure to the end of the season, his chances of fulfilling that dream depend on the availability of others.
Tottenham’s Mauricio Pochettino is the much talked up favourite amongst the media. Zinedine Zidane, former Red Laurent Blanc and Juventus’ Massimiliano Allegri are other names firmly in the frame.
Other candidates may also emerge as Ed Woodward and co assess their options, but for now all Solskjaer can do is get on with the job at hand and bring 2019 to a close with another three points on Sunday.