Manchester United’s 5-1 win over Cardiff city giving Ole Gunnar Solskjaer the perfect start to his reign
5 things we learned from the new manager’s first game in-charge.
1. Manchester United unshackled
Fans and pundits alike had predicted United would come flying out of the blocks at Cardiff and it turned out to be better than expected. Marcus Rashford kick-started proceedings with a free-kick to make it 1-0 within 3 minutes, before a deflected Ander Herrera strike and a beautiful team move finished off by Anthony Martial, either side of a Cardiff penalty made it 3-1 just ahead of half-time.
The half-time stats made for an interesting read – it was the first time Manchester United had scored 3 goals in the first half in over a year. While there remains work to be done, the manner of their performance definitely suggested this was a team cut free from the tightest of shackles.
2. Pogba the focal point
Paul Pogba – widely touted as the happiest man in the United camp at the moment, was restored to the starting line-up after being benched for 3 matches in a row and the Frenchman certainly brought his happiness into his game. While not quite at his best, the World Cup winner did add an assist to his tally – teeing up Jesse Lingard for United’s fifth of the night. Paired in a midfield 3 alongside Nemanja Matic and Herrera,
Pogba’s positioning was fascinating to follow throughout the match and his advanced role gave an insight into where Solskjaer plans on deploying him this season, far removed from the deeper role he was thrust into under Mourinho.
3. Mourinho ghost exorcised as United score 5 for the first time since Sir Alex Ferguson
As if the 3 goal-salvo in the first half wasn’t enough, United went on to add a further two strikes in the second-half, both courtesy of academy product Jesse Lingard. In what was a fitting start to the new manager’s reign, Lingard scored United’s fifth late on to mark the first time that they have scored five in a game since Alex Ferguson’s final game in-charge.
What is even more telling is the fact that Manchester City have scored 5 or more in a game 33 times since that day – clear illustration of the gulf in class between the two sides and a reminder of the gap that now needs to be bridged.
4. Solskjaer employs possession-oriented style
In another major change since the Mourinho era, United completely changed their approach in this game to what was essentially a possession-based philosophy.
Contrasting majorly with the previous manager’s game-plan, who was never shy in conceding possession to the opponents, this was a United team concerned as much with style as it was with the substance of it’s performance and it clearly showed with Martial’s goal, a work of art in itself, stemming from this very style and with a swagger very rarely seen in days gone by.
5. United squad brimming with quality
Accustomed to their previous manager moaning about the quality at his disposal, it must have been a pleasant surprise for Manchester United fans watching their team play with a tempo they didn’t even know existed.
Solskjaer promised a clean slate to everyone and it’s difficult to argue the players didn’t make the most of it, with even the defenders – the same ones Mourinho bemoaned as lacking technical quality, passing the ball around at will. Bustling with quality, this is a squad that certainly has the tools to go places. Whether the new man in is indeed the one who can get them there remains to be seen.
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