Following the debacle that was Jose Mourinho at Old Trafford, Manchester United appointed Molde manager and former Red Devils striker Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to fill its managerial vacancy. The appointment was initially meant to be a “placeholder” for a more seasoned and recognizable figure from the world soccer community, but an interesting thing has happened in Manchester: The Red Devils seem to have gotten their swagger back, which was missing under the managerial prowess of the “special one”.
It is hardly unusual for a team to initially respond positively under new leadership initially, with most players wanting to impress the new man in charge. But since the arrival of Solskjaer, the Red Devils have played eleven Premier League matches, winning nine and tying two without a loss. What makes this even more amazing is that during this stretch 10 players on the team have suffered injuries, including first-team strikers Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford as well as playmaker Jesse Lingard.
The results speak for themselves. After only 11 games with the Norwegian at the helm, Manchester United have won as many games as they did prior to his arrival under Mourinho. They have won their first six games overall and eight consecutive road games, a record for the Red Devils. While they did lose the first leg of their Champions League match against French powerhouse Paris Saint-Germain, they beat EPL rivals Chelsea in an FA Cup match, their first time in 10 attempts and their first win at Stamford Bridge in six years.
With Solskjaer having spent the majority of his playing career with the Red Devils, he was their reserve team manager until he returned to his native Norway to manage Molde FK in the country’s Tippeligaen First Division. Knowing his passion for Manchester United, Molde released him from his current contract on a temporary basis and have said that they would step aside should Solskjaer desire a permanent return to Manchester.
The Norwegian has remained an ambassador for the Red Devils, and has always retained his friendships with the organization, perhaps none greater than the one with legend Sir Alex Ferguson. While staying mum on the subject publicly, it is thought that Sir Alex supports the permanent appointment of his former striker. No decision is expected to be announced before the end of the season, however, and there is a lot of football left to be played.
The list of potential managerial suitors for a club willing to pay top dollar for a top name is finite, and names like Zinedine Zidane, Antonio Conte and current Tottenham Hotspurs manager Mauricio Pochettino continue to swirl around the Manchester United rumor mill. But with a man like Ole Gunnar Solskjaer quickly turning the team into true contenders, the Glazer family and the Board at Old Trafford would do well to remove the “caretaker” moniker from Solskjaer and officially appoint him as the club’s 23rd manager.