Manchester United had a big chance to enter the top four position for the first time since the start of the season, with their next fixture being away to Fulham, a side that have only won four league games and are in the relegation zone. With Chelsea and Manchester City facing one another on Sunday, it was important for the Red Devils to pick up the three points and in a secure manner.
Overall, United dominated the game from the first second of the match till the final whistle, where they could have even scored a further couple of goals to pile on the misery. Despite the early scares and nerve-wrecking moments, the visitors were allowed to attack in numbers and simply take their chances, which they did so as both Anthony Martial and Paul Pogba scored in the first 25 minutes.
Things went from bad to worse for the hosts in the second half, as the side’s positional awareness on and off the ball was something that you would truly witness from a Sunday league team. Not only that, manager Claudio Ranieri has been struggling to motivate and revive this Fulham side, otherwise they would be showing positive signs in recent weeks and would be climbing slowly up the table.
Here are the three valuable factors we learnt from Manchester United’s latest league game…
Changes to the side were effective in the end
When deciding who would start in the fixture against Fulham, Solskjaer was bound to keep one eye on the monumental Champions League fixture at home to Paris Saint-Germain, whilst choosing which players deserve a rest and which could do with some further game time. Due to this, the likes of Ashley Young, Jesse Lingard, Marcus Rashford and Victor Lindelof were given a well deserved rest.
Meanwhile, individuals such as Chris Smalling, Diogo Dalot, Juan Mata and Romelu Lukaku returned into the line-up, and went on to play a key role towards the side winning the three points. Although these four players may not be seen as good enough players to play regularly for Solskjaer, they still have a duty to complete when they are required from the bench or in the less relevant matches for the remainder of the season.
Anthony Martial and Paul Pogba continue with their brilliance
At this moment of time, it can easily be stated that both Anthony Martial and Paul Pogba are the club’s best outfield players, two individuals that are capable of producing something out of nothing and are able to help the side’s midfield and attack tick. When the pair are not in the starting line-up, the team’s style of football has a tendency to become slow on both sides of the pitch and painfully predictable.
With Martial signing a contract extension recently and Pogba reportedly expected to sign one once the season comes to an end, United have two serious Premier League beaters that they can build their team around for the next five years. Now, it all depends on who is the next permanent manager, because the Frenchman’s will not want another Jose Mourinho type of coach to come in to shamelessly limit and nullify them.
The Red Devils and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer can now aim for a top four finish
At the beginning of December, the former manager in Jose Mourinho had publicly stated that it would be a miracle for the team to get into the top four as they sat 10 to 12 points behind the likes of Arsenal and Chelsea. Ten weeks later, under the managerial of interim coach Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Manchester United are just about sat in fourth-place and are also 14 points off the league leaders.
The race for the last spot in the top four will go down till the end of the season, where the full focus will be on Arsenal, Chelsea and United on a weekly basis. Also, if Tottenham do drop points in the upcoming matches, they could also fall into the race where third place and fourth place is up for grabs. In the end, if Solskjaer somehow leads Manchester United to a top four finish, he will surely get the job permanently.