Solskjaer has brought Sir Alex Ferguson’s gameplan back to Man United
Last weekend’s opening game against Leeds saw Manchester United record a convincing 5-1 win, an impressive haul, which included a hat-trick from Bruno Fernandes and a goal each from Mason Greenwood and Fred.
Since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer took the reins at United in December 2018, this is now the 10th occasion on which they have scored five or more goals in a game.
This is a marked improvement in attack when compared to the eras of David Moyes, Louis Van Gaal and Jose Mourinho, with the aforementioned United bosses only mustering hauls of more than five goals on just two occasions between them.
In fact, it took Solskjaer less than 90 minutes to get his first five-goal result, beating former club Cardiff 5-1 in his first game at the helm.
Jesse Lingard would star for United that day with two goals and an assist and it was clear that the shackles were off from this point onwards.
Under Mourinho, United’s football had become stale and predictable, and following a 3-1 defeat to rivals Liverpool it was clear the Portuguese tactician’s time as United boss was about to come to an end.
The instant switch from what was a dismal showing against Liverpool six days earlier to a five-goal win — a victory that was followed by three and four goal wins over Huddersfield and Bournemouth respectively — gave United fans a glimpse of what was to come under Solskjaer.
Even if you take umbrage with the fact that Solskjaer is yet to win a trophy with United, it’s difficult to argue that the style of football hasn’t improved greatly.
This weekend’s opponents Southampton have already been on the receiving end of United’s new-found attacking philosophy, with Solskjaer’s side thumping the Saints 9-0 in February, a result which marked one of the standout moments in the Norwegian’s Old Trafford tenure so far.
This scoreline matched United’s biggest ever win in the Premier League against Ipswich as Solskjaer’s side stunned the Saints with wave after wave of attack.
The free-flowing football and build up to attacks was the real highlight of the game.
Anthony Martial, who had been struggling to find form last season after his stellar end to the 2019/20 campaign, scored a brace alongside goals from Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Marcus Rashford, Edinson Cavani, Scott McTominay, Fernandes and Daniel James.
There were obvious caveats to this performance. The dismissals of Alex Jankewitz and Jan Bednarek (after the latter had scored an own goal and given away a penalty) meant that Southampton were severely weakened during the match.
Nevertheless, it’s clear to see Solskjaer has implemented the style of play that he learned while playing under Sir Alex Ferguson; midfielders playing long balls out wide to the winger to get in behind defences are commonplace, so too is a high tempo when the ball is won back.
This means that against teams that play high up the field, Solskjaer’s side have seen more favourable results, which is why we’ve seen two high scoring games against Leeds.
The respective 6-2 score lines against Leeds and Roma last season were also clear examples of what Solskjaer wants from his side — a high creation of chances but also an emphasis on taking those chances when they come.
Solskjaer hasn’t won any trophies in his Old Trafford tenure, but he has a project in mind, and his history as a tactically-minded forward has transferred into his managerial career at United in how they attack.
Hopefully for United fans, the five-goal result against Leeds is the first of many to come this season and all the work Solskjaer has put in during his first two and a half years at the club can come to fruition with silverware.