The Norweigian legend of the club has certainly enjoyed a rollercoaster ride throughout the 2020/21 season so far, but with rumours swirling that a new contract has practically been penned and signed on the dotted line, here are the five results that saved Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s job.
Paris Saint-Germain 1-2 Manchester United (20th October 2020)
Manchester United’s first foray into the Champions League since the 2018/19 season, Ole’s side travelled to face Thomas Tuchel’s Paris Saint-Germain side on the 20th October in a crucial match in the competition’s ‘group of death’. PSG were fresh off of their narrow loss to Bayern Munich in the 2020 Champions League final, however Ole’s nouse for performing against the top sides in the world once again returned and United put in a superb performance based around structural superiority and breathtaking bursts on the counter.
Alex Telles, appearing for the first time in a Manchester United jersey, as a left wing back with Luke Shaw proved to be a stroke of genius and goals from Bruno Fernades courtesy of a retaken penalty and Marcus Rashford in the 87th minute secured three well deserved points, and proved that Solskjaer still possessed a fine touch when his side came into a match as outsiders.
Everton 1-3 Manchester United (7th November 2020)
The defining point of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s reign at Manchester United so far. In a week that was dominated by Mauricio Pochettino rumours and the post-mortem of United’s Champions League ending loss in Istanbul, OGS rocked up to Goodison Park in an unusually fiery mood and with his back against the wall.
Throughout his tenure, one thing Solskjaer can not be accused of however is losing the support of his dressing room, and his players rallied behind him that Saturday lunchtime to crown a frankly superb 1-3 away win against Carlo Ancelotti’s then-flying Blues.
Manchester United 6-2 Leeds United (20th December 2020)
The first meeting between the reds of Manchester and the whites of Leeds since the latter’s relegation in 2004, United might have found some form and been the favourites in the football spread markets before kick-off, but the means in which Solskjaer’s side dismantled Bielsa and co. had fans and pundits alike purring.
Two goals from Scott McTominany in the first three minutes set the tone for the afternoon as Bruno Fernandes and Daniel James joined in the eventual massacre. For the first time in the season, United entered the league’s top four, silencing the biggest critic surrounding Solskjaer at the time.
Burnley 0-1 Manchester United (12th January 2020)
2012/13, United’s 20th and latest title triumph, was the last time the Red Devils had ended the midway point of January top of the table, and Paul Pogba’s 71st minute winner ensured Ole Gunnar Solskjaer would become the first man to break the cycle on matchday 17.
In a gritty and admittedly largely uneventful affair, Solskjaer and co. proved that they could hold their nerve and produce against all manner of games. Taking United to the summit of the table, albeit for a couple of weeks was also a welcome sensation for the fans and further proof that he isn’t a manager that gets dizzy when his side begin to hit the highest peaks in the table.
Manchester City 0-2 Manchester United (7th March 2020)
By the time the second Manchester Derby of the 2020/21 league season rolled around, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was once again bearing the brunt of a significant amount of criticism from fans and pundits alike. From seven matches played against the traditional top six, United had only scored once (a Bruno Fernandes penalty in an eventual 1-6 loss to Tottenham) and only racked up five points. Given that it was one of the biggest pluses of the Solskjaer era before, the sudden reluctance to go at these crucial games more than justified a few raised eyebrows from around the football community.
United had been on the back of two dismal 0-0 performances against Chelsea and Crystal Palace ahead of the derby, practically surrendering their title ambitions and taking their record to just two wins from eight games. However, despite all odds, Solskjaer masterminded his fourth victory over Pep Guardiola in less than two years, putting on a spellbinding display of structural solidity and his trademarked counter-attacking style as goals from Bruno Fernandes and the Norweigian’s biggest success story Luke Shaw netted three vital points.
This result proved three things: Manchester United are still the best counter-attacking side in the league, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer still knows how to do it against the top managers, and his man-management of players like Luke Shaw remains his biggest plus as a coach.
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