The curious case of Manchester United’s Eric Bailly

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When Manchester United completed the signing of centre-back, Eric Bailly, in the summer of 2016, it had seemed like the club’s diabolical presence of Chris Smalling and Phil Jones in the backline had come to an end. Having left Villarreal and La Liga at such a young age, the Ivory Coast international moved to England as an unknown player who cost the biggest club in England a fee of £30million.

The player himself moved to a new country and a new league with very little expectations, given that he wasn’t seen as one of the best rising and upcoming centre-backs within Europe. However, the instant mentions about his athleticism, composure on the ball and his mentality of intercepting and tackling every ball, made it feel like a defender was coming in to fix the side’s ongoing issues.

Looking back at Bailly’s first season in the Premier League, it can be easily stated that he exceeded all opinions and predictions of how he would do, as he formed a really consistent and dominant partnership with the likes of Jones and Marcos Rojo throughout the campaign. In that very moment, the centre-back seemed like the perfect individual for the manager to form his defence around.

Although the main focus was on Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Paul Pogba and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who arrived in the same window as Bailly did, it was the latter that instantly became a fans favourite and was seen as one of the signings of the season. Not only that, he came out on top when facing the likes of Harry Kane, Jamie Vardy and Sergio Aguero in his first campaign within English football.

Though, the unfortunate issues began in the following season with an unknown injury in October 2017, which kept him out on the sidelines until the first week of December as he missed five games altogether. At first, it was regarded as a minor setback that would keep him away from the side for four to six weeks, but he returned to training and a week later, he suffered a major ankle problem that would see him face his longest spell so far in his professional career as an injured player.

Within the period from October 2017 till February 2018, Bailly missed 26 important games and it could very well be the reason to why he has fallen down the pecking order over the last couple of months. Also, the defence has been mentioned as a department that is filled with flaws and weaknesses, so it’s not actually a surprise to see the backline being changed week in and out.

Also, the 26 games he missed should be seen as three quarters of a season that the 24-year-old spent on the sidelines, which has simply stagnated his development and has prevented himself from proving that he is one of the best centre-backs within England and Europe. If the long-term injury had not occurred, he would have potentially had another 15 to 20 league games of experience under his belt and he would now be playing alongside Victor Lindelof at the heart of defence on a regular basis.

On the other hand, Eric Bailly still has a lot to learn given that he has a tendency to lose focus in the matter of seconds and can frustratingly be seen as a red card waiting to happen. If the former manager, Jose Mourinho, who has a history when it comes to improving young and upcoming defenders, cannot help take the centre-back to the next level, the question has to be seriously asked on what needs to be done, in order to make the individual become consistent and defensively dominant again.

Overall, the majority of Manchester United supporters and the Old Trafford faithful know how brutal and talented Eric Bailly is, someone who is not afraid of putting his head where most would not even confidently put their feet into the challenge. And in the end, all he may need is more game time alongside Lindelof under a manager that has an actual footballing system, or a defensive coach that can kind-heartedly assist him on and off the pitch to become a more complete and perfect centre-back.

Talking points from Manchester United 2-1 Brighton

Ole Gunnar Solskjær became the first manager in Manchester United’s long history to win his first six league games after his side overcame a resilient Brighton & Hove Albion.

Goals from Paul Pogba and Marcus Rashford sealed the game in the first half, but Brighton gave their travelling supports a glimmer of hope after finding the back of the net with just under 20 minutes to play.

However, the Red Devils’ defence stood strong and came away with their seventh consecutive win under the caretaker manager, suggesting they are listening intently to the Norwegian’s methods and relaying his messages onto the pitch.

Here are four talking points from Manchester United’s latest win:

Marcus Rashford in fine form 

The transition in Rashford’s game since Solskjær took over has been nothing short of mesmerising. The England international had struggled initially this season, looking fatigued come the end of games and failing to score on a regular and consistent basis.

Rashford was squandering good opportunities in front of goal and looked depleted in confidence under José Mourinho. But since the Norwegian has come in – who, of course, played in the same position as the Englishman – Rashford’s form has exponentially increased, scoring five goals in his last six Premier League appearances.

His latest, an absolute peach into the top right-hand corner of Brighton’s goal, demonstrated how quickly he has mastered the art of finishing under Solskjær. The Norwegian has been working closely with improving that aspect to Rashford’s game and it is evident to see the England centre forward’s newfound confidence when given the responsibility of being the main goalscorer of the team.

Solskjær mentioned in his post-match press conference that Rashford can become the best striker in the Premier League with the injury to Harry Kane. The on-loan manager from Molde FK has given nothing but praise to Rashford, which has clearly been received well.

Paul Pogba is unplayable at times

Rashford is not the only player to have improved drastically since the arrival of Solskjær

Pogba has been given a new lease of life with his attacking-minded coach at the helm, allowing the France international to bombard forward and cause havoc in the opposition box.

The World Cup-winning midfielder’s latest moment of magic was controlling a cross-field ball with one touch to get around Brighton’s left back, Gaetan Bong, and cause the defender to commit a foul inside the penalty area. Although his slow, stuttering penalty routine breeds doubt among the supporters, Pogba tucked it away to score his 10th goal of the season.

Pogba has shown his prowess under Solskjær with his combined nine goals and assists in just six appearances – all coming in the Premier League. With his new position and two midfielders in Nemanja Matić and Ander Herrera that cover his back, Pogba is given the licence to roam forward and provide his tools in attack

There is still much more to come from Pogba which can only excite the Old Trafford faithful.

Victor Lindelöf is turning into a reliable centre back

It is fair to say that Victor Lindelöf has had a slow burn of a career at Manchester United, initially struggling to get into the team under Mourinho – the very manager that initially bought him – but he has done magnificently well in the last few months and has become a mainstay in their defence.

Gifted on the ball, Lindelöf was rarely seen marauding forward and trying to fasten up the transition from defence into attack. The Sweden international has expert vision which he showed with a delicious over-the-top ball into the path of Anthony Martial, leaving the Frenchman one-on-one with the goalkeeper. Unfortunately for Lindelöf it did not go down as an assist, but the execution of the pass was first class.

While Manchester United still need a central defender in their team – perhaps a more experienced one to partner Lindelöf – the 24-year-old has been the Red Devils’ best defender this season and is only likely to improve as he enters his prime years.

Diogo Dalot shows his promise 

With Luke Shaw being ruled out in the warm-up, Diogo Dalot took to the field in his secondary position at left back. Not uncommon to the young Portuguese player, Dalot showed his promise with his willingness to take on his man and fire crosses into the box.

The 19-year-old has been hailed as one of the brightest youth players in the game and it is clear to see why: Dalot remains unfazed by anything put in front of him. The Portugal youth international looked assured of his ability on the left, often intercepting play and quickly looking in front of him to get Manchester United pouring forward.

Dalot will, of course, make mistakes, as he did when letting Pascal Gross manoeuvre in front of him to score Brighton’s goal, but there is more than enough shown by him to suggest that he has the makings of a top full back for years to come.

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Manchester United 2-1 Brighton & Hove Albion: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s winning streak continues

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As the Manchester United supporters and the Old Trafford faithful enjoy the rollercoaster of a ride they are currently experiencing under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, the side’s next league game was against Brighton & Hove Albion at home, a team that have picked up more points at home than away so far this season. With Arsenal and Chelsea facing one another in the evening fixture, it was more than crucial that the Red Devils picked up the much need three points and also in a comfortable manner.

Overall, United had a perfect first half performance, where they managed to take a healthy lead into the half-time break with the important goals coming from Marcus Rashford and Paul Pogba. Though, the last 30 minutes of the game should be seen as a reality check for the manager and the players, as the visitors pulled back a goal through Pascal Gross and a couple of chances to get the equaliser too.

Here are the three factors we learnt from Manchester United’s latest league game…

Marcus Rashford comes up with the goods again

Since the arrival of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Marcus Rashford has been one of the few players within the squad that has benefitted from the 45-year-old Norwegian international’s presence as the club’s caretaker manager. The instant progress has been more than obvious over the last couple of weeks, where the forward has managed to become more clinical and proactive in the final third of the pitch.

Rashford is currently on five goals and one assist in his last six league appearances, and he has more or less been the main reason to why Romelu Lukaku has been experiencing a lot of time on the bench. If the rising star from Wythenshawe continues to develop and improve to a consistent level, he could potentially become the 20-goal-a-season striker that the current United side badly needs.

Ander Herrera came up with a Man of the Match performance

Ander Herrera is one of those types of midfielders that gets the job done without any complaints or any excuses at all. From intercepting play and tackling the opposition to moving the ball at a quick level, he produced another top notch performance on both sides of the pitch. With how he is playing at the moment, there is no chance that he will be leaving the club in the summer on a free transfer.

Focusing back onto the last 30 minutes of the game, Herrera’s role quickly became into a defensive and safe minded one, which allowed the team to survive some tough moments in their own half until the final whistle. Time and time again, the dominant displays that the former Athletic Club player produces must make one truly think he has been playing in England for his whole life.

The second half was a huge lesson for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer personally

Although the hosts dominated possession and created a couple of chances in the second half, they did not do enough in taking their shots and it led the visitors to grown in more confidence as they began to have more space and time on the ball. In the 72nd minute, Brighton created a chance out of nothing, which was calmly taken Pascal Gross, who placed it perfectly into the top corner of the net.

On top of that, the Seagulls had a chance or two in the final moments to seize a crucial point away from home, but the end product was not there when it was needed the most. With how relieved the Manchester United players and the manager himself were once the game to an end, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will be looking to improve his in-game management as well as his ability to quickly react to the ever so growing and rising threat that is offered by the opposition in the late stages of the game.

Tottenham Hotspur 0-1 Manchester United: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men keep bouncing on

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After spending a good couple of days in Dubai to recover back their energy and momentum following the festive fixtures, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Manchester United first task back was a tricky trip away to third-place Tottenham Hotspur. The match would be seen as a make or break moment for the visitors, as a defeat would seriously deny the side’s chances of finishing in the top four.

However, Solskjaer did what the likes of David Moyes, Jose Mourinho and Louis Van Gaal couldn’t do, and that was beat an aggressive and dominant Tottenham team away from home. With how the Red Devils played on and off the ball, as well as the patience they showed on both sides of the pitch, it would not be a surprise to see the race for third and fourth place being extreme from now till May.

Here are the three valuable factors we learnt from Manchester United’s latest league game…

David De Gea shows his brilliance in goal

Today at the Wembley Stadium, David De Gea set a new personal record, as he incredibly managed to complete 11 saves in a single Premier League for Manchester United without conceding a goal. His increasing influence is what makes him the best goalkeeper in the Premier League and one of the best in Europe, as he continues to save the club at least 10 to 12 crucial points season by season.

Time and time again, the opposition’s attackers and their home supporters are left in awe and total shock, especially when they feel a clear chance is going to end into the back of the net, bar it is saved by no one else but De Gea himself. Without a doubt, the Spanish international is up there with the likes of Eden Hazard, Harry Kane and Kevin De Bruyne as one of the best players within the league.

Marcus Rashford is proving he can be clinical and deadly

From his early days under Louis Van Gaal to playing on a regular basis for Jose Mourinho, Marcus Rashford had always shown magical moments as well as his scary potential to go onto become United’s ideal number nine for the next ten years. Though, the only thing that was letting him down was his lack of ability to be clinical and to finish, something he could not improve on straightaway.

On the other hand, the arrival of Solskjaer has helped him to evolve into an individual that can slowly reach the appreciation and hype that the likes of Kylian Mbappe and Ousmane Demebele receives, as long as he becomes consistent and reliable. For the time being, Rashford has done more than enough over the last couple of weeks which has led the coach to drop Romelu Lukaku to the bench.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer succeeds in his first big task as interim manager

The victories against the lower sides in Cardiff City, Huddersfield Town, Bournemouth and Newcastle United were seen as the much needed and straightforward ones, particularly because of the fact that the team were moving away from the top four spots week in and out. However, a cool, calm and collected victory away at Tottenham is starting to show that Solskjaer could be the real deal.

It may not be the right time to question if he is the right manager for Manchester United in the long run or not, but you cannot deny that he has began to revive the side’s attacking and breathtaking football. If Ole Gunnar Solskjaer somehow rallies the current squad to a top four finish as well as a potential FA Cup trophy, the Old Trafford faithful will without a doubt feel he is the chosen one.

Four things we truthfully learned about Manchester United in 2018

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The majority of Manchester United supporters will be hoping that the New Year is filled with memorable moments as well as one or two trophies. 2018 as a whole will be one to forget for the Red Devils, given that a lot of unforgettable things had happened, from the unconvincing transfer windows to the disappointment in the Champions League and the defeat in the FA Cup final.

On top of that, the Old Trafford faithful had to bare the appalling and dire football that was played under Jose Mourinho, which resulted in a number of points being dropped home and away during the season. Due to this, the board made a huge managerial decision and are now looking to get back to their best, before they can start to challenge for the league title and the domestic trophies again.

Here are the four fascinating things we learned throughout the year of 2018…

A director of football is badly needed

With the likes of Andrea Berta, Fabio Paratici and Paul Mitchell being reportedly linked as the new director of football at Manchester United, the board and Ed Woodward are starting to understand the importance of having an individual that has the football knowledge to help take the football club to the next level. If this was to happen within the next couple of months, the next permanent manager of the team will enjoy the presence of someone who has positive plans for the long run.

Most vitally, a director of football will help to target players in a simple yet effective way, which will allow the club to utilise their money properly rather than splashing it out on midfielders or attackers who have not proved themselves at the top level. The revival of Atletico Madrid, Borussia Dortmund and Sevilla over the last five to ten years have been because of the board’s capability to bring in a sporting director, who can bring forward a controllable philosophy that everyone can follow.

Jose Mourinho was the virus, not Paul Pogba

For a large number of months in 2018, it had seem like the gloomy days and painful nights at Old Trafford were solely due to the rift between Jose Mourinho and Paul Pogba, two individuals who could not get along with one another and could not put their differences aside for the sake of the football club. With the situation becoming worse and worse, the Premier League pundits and Manchester United supporters felt one of them had to leave before it affected the team as a whole.

In the end, the hierarchy felt enough was enough and chose to relieve the manager of his duties, which now happens to be a great decision as the side are now playing their football with more confidence and freedom as well as Pogba himself being the heartbeat of the midfield. Had the board decided to back the manager and get rid of the player, they would have potentially looked very stupid in a year’s time, where the Frenchman could be playing the best football of his career at Barcelona or Paris Saint-Germain whilst they are stuck with a declining and finished Mourinho.

David De Gea has constantly been saving United’s defence

Over the last couple of years or so, both Louis Van Gaal and Mourinho set United up in a defensive and counter-attack way, which made it look like the side were defensively a solid unit whilst being just about clinical on the other side. However, the side’s defensive displays in recent years have been largely exaggerated due to the brilliance of David De Gea, a goalkeeper that comes up with a number of saves with ease on a regular basis, which has made him to be recognised as the best shot-stopper within the Premier League as well as one of the best goalkeepers in Europe, if not the best.

The defence has to be seen as a weak department and an area that needs shuffling around, especially given that the likes of Antonio Valencia, Ashley Young, Chris Smalling and Phil Jones have been playing at the club for far longer than necessary and have simply failed to reach the potential they were expected to meet. If the board want to make a statement and are looking to show ruthlessness, then they will be willing to seriously revamp the backline over the summer transfer window.

The future looks bright for the Red Devils on and off the pitch

For sure a lot of money has been spent from after the Sir Alex Ferguson era up until now, though, it cannot be kept as a secret that the current squad is filled with a number of talented players. They maybe yet to prove themselves as Champions League or Premier League winners, but the important individuals such as Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford, Paul Pogba, Victor Lindelof as well as a couple of others who have shown moments here and there are ready to take this football club forward.

Overall, it is impossible to see United fall far away from the top sides within England and Europe, as they have the financial resources to aggressively buy in every transfer window. On the other hand, it is critical for the club to start reflecting and showing their dominance on the pitch, otherwise, their chances of creating another successful legacy decreases season by season. In the end, there is simply no doubt that the Red Devils will be bouncing back and return to the throne that was once theirs.

FA Cup: Manchester United 2-0 Reading

Ole Gunnar Solskjær made it five wins from five matches after overcoming Reading in what was, perhaps, the most underwhelming performance of his tenure so far. 

Goals from Juan Mata and Romelu Lukaku sealed the game, but Manchester United’s overall output was lacking intensity and the same, relentless pressure as seen in the other four matches so far was not present.

While not every game is going to make fans sit on the edge of their seats, Solskjær will be hoping that when his first-team starting players return to action next weekend against Tottenham they elicit a better response than what was seen out there for 90 minutes.

Here are some talking points from Manchester United’s FA Cup third round fixture:

Sergio Romero comes up trumps again

It is difficult for any goalkeeper with the ability to be a team’s number one to remain on the bench, patiently waiting for their chance and opportunity. The Argentina international, who played in last year’s World Cup for his country, has predominantly been used as United’s Cup goalkeeper and has excelled enormously.

Romero kept yet another clean sheet in a season where goals had been flying in before Solskjær’s arrival. The defence in front of him was makeshift, with Matteo Darmian slotting in as a right-sided centre back, but the former Sampdoria ‘keeper rose to the occasion and delivered another top performance that has rightly been on the receiving end of some praise.

The Argentina international has had opportunities to leave Manchester United in the past, with clubs from all over Europe offering him the chance to become their first choice, but Romero has stuck with it at Man United. While he is unlikely to ever usurp David de Gea, Romero plays such an important role at Old Trafford for when he is called upon.

There are not many clubs who have the same type of sheer quality in reserve as Manchester United do with Romero, which is why the fans should be extremely thankful for the Argentine’s services over the course of the last three-and-a-half-years.

Alexis Sánchez and Romelu Lukaku return 

Manchester United are patiently hoping for Alexis Sánchez to turn 2019 into his year after a disappointing 2018 that caused a bit of distrust between the fans and the Chilean.

Sánchez, who has now assisted twice in his two appearances under the Norwegian, looked sharp against Reading and had the foresight to see the runs of Lukaku appearing in behind the last defender. While he came off with what looked like a hamstring issue, Solskjær sounded confident that it was just precautionary and that he should be fit for the game against Spurs next weekend.

Romelu Lukaku has sprung to life under the caretaker manager with three goals to his name in as many appearances. While his overall game still needs a fair amount of work on – as does his first touch – Lukaku is putting away the goals when in front of goal and in promising positions. The Belgian is no Rashford when it comes to attacking space and interchanging with teammates, but he has certainly found his shooting boots.

It will be interesting to see who Solskjær opts for to lead the line for the Red Devils at Wembley with both Rashford and Lukaku now in a rich vein of form.

Tahith Chong is the future 

Manchester United embody the philosophy of promoting academy graduates into the first-team and it was Tahith Chong’s turn to make his senior debut for the Red Devils this time out.

Chong, who has been on fire for Manchester United’s U23 team in the reserve league, as well as in the UEFA Youth League, has been on the periphery for some time, training constantly with the first-team. The Dutch U21 winger looked at ease when entering the cauldron of Old Trafford with some applause and opted to taking on his opposite man at every given moment.

Of course, Chong is still in the early stages of his development into men’s football, but the willingness to run forward and not be fazed by the stage will have filled the fans and manager with confidence that he has a bright future ahead of him. Chong is certainly one to keep an eye on.

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Is 2019 the year of Alexis Sánchez?

When Alexis Sánchez arrived at Manchester United in the January transfer window, there was a great sense of optimism over what this signing could bring. Under José Mourinho, the Red Devils’ attack was stifling and very few chances being created let alone scored. They needed something to revitalise their attack and Sánchez was a real possibility of doing just that. 

After beating Manchester City to the signing of the Chile international, fans were incredibly excited to see what he could bring to the team. He might have signed on ginormous wages, but he would certainly live up to expectation and be of value if he was to replicate his immense form under Arsène Wenger for Arsenal.

However, life in Manchester was not plain sailing for Sánchez. While there were a few games in which he excelled in – against Tottenham in the FA Cup semi final – it was a case of huge inconsistencies in his performances that gave the overwhelming sense of disappointment. Injuries took their toll and it appeared Sánchez was failing to gel into Manchester United’s attack.

After a solid pre-season in which it was his first summer in half a decade where international football did not take precedent, Sánchez looked sharp and raring to go for the start of the Premier League. But just as he was ready to take the campaign by storm, another injury curtailed his progress and he did not look at peak physical performance.

A run in and out of the team, mainly from the bench, caused great concern among United fans, who were yet to see the player they were promised back in January. Everyone knows what a fantastic forward the Chilean is, but Mourinho simply could not find it in him nor keep him fit enough to put games together.

Sánchez suffered the same fate as the rest of United’s attackers with being shackled to a regimented system that was not allowed to breathe. The former Arsenal striker is a fluid player that interchanges a lot with his other attackers and it is his movement that is one of his best characteristics and is why he can get into positions others cannot. Mourinho was not prepared to change his whole philosophy for that and so Sánchez rarely got the chance to express himself – just as his teammates did not.

Another hamstring injury has ruled Sánchez out since the beginning of December and he is only just returning to first-team training. Under new manager Solskjær, as seen with other forwards, Sánchez might just be in a position of strength heading into 2019 with a completely fresh coach who does not have an agenda.

The Chilean might be 30 but he can still add a lot to United’s attack. Providing he can maintain his fitness and remain injury free, Sánchez is a wonderful option to have either from the bench or to start alongside the Red Devils’ other vibrant, flexible forwards.

Under Mourinho there was a period in which Sánchez was played through the middle, just as he was on United’s pre-season tour to America. Even though he was not in the best of form, he looked threatening against Premier League defences and was in promising positions to strike. One of the main attributes in Sánchez’s locker is his ability to ghost in and out of dangerous areas on the pitch – something that many try and fail to achieve.

Whether Sánchez starts on the left, right or through the middle, under Solskjær’s guidance and permission, the Chilean will be allowed to rotate with his other teammates and interchange positions freely. As seen in his last full season at Arsenal, Sánchez reaps the rewards when given a free role and the freedom to move across the forward line – that is where he is so threatening.

In the Gunners’ 2016/17 season, Sánchez notched up 30 goals and 18 assists in 51 appearances. Nearly one goal contribution per-match and one of the main reasons why top flight clubs all over Europe were chasing the Chilean’s signature. Playing through the middle and occasionally off the left, he was surrounded by players in a flexible system that delivered service to him.

Now, under Solskjær, in his opening three games, it has been evident to see that the Norwegian plans to implement a similar style. The interim manager has said in depth at how Manchester United have to be on the front foot and attacking constantly, which will play into the hands of Sánchez.

It was a year to forget for Sánchez in 2018, but 2019 could be the year of his rebirth. Only time will tell.

What’s made Paul Pogba tick again?

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Paul Pogba is back! Most chances created against Bournemouth, tracking back to make tackles and blocks, breaking into the opponents’ box with the endeavour of club legend Bryan Robson and, with another brace, he’s scoring goals for fun.

So what exactly is going on?

Only a mere matter of weeks ago social media was awash with footage of he and Jose Mourinho arguing in training, the armband was unceremoniously removed and a seat on the bench was the best that life was going to get for United’s £90 million superstar. Continue reading

Can Manchester United still finish in a Champions League position?

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And the good times keep rolling at Manchester United under new boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer who after 3 games in charge has three wins. Not only that United are playing their best football since Sir Alex Ferguson retired and have scored 12 goals in those three victories. Having had their chances of a top four place and automatic qualification for the Champions League ruled out some time ago, is it now possible that the Red Devils under Solskjaer’s guiding hand can actually achieve it?

What has been remarkable is how United have closed the gap to Arsenal, just a few weeks back it stood at 9 points now it is just 3 after Arsenal were thumped 5-1 by Liverpool and have themselves been in poor form.

Of course Arsenal are in 5th place and if United want that Champions League spot they will have bigger fish to fry. It does seem very likely of course that the top 3 places will be taken by in any order- Manchester City, Liverpool and Tottenham. Currently Tottenham are in 3rd place and are 10 points ahead of United that doesn’t seem like changing anytime soon.

So the target is Chelsea in 4th place. United are 8 points shy of them, it seems like a points to make up, but it is just possible. United still have to play Chelsea at Old Trafford and it will only take a few points dropped from the Blues, even draws will count to start getting worried about United. The team have progressed so well under Solskjaer that it has been quite incredible.

The one worry that United will have is how long will the honeymoon period last? For now the players seem 100% behind their manager and clearly respect him, and he has warmed to them, everyone has seen the difference in the team since he took over. But one wonders if there will be a period between now and the end of the season when the matches become a little harder a little grittier when confidence wanes more and questions are asked. Don’t be fooled, the modern day football player is a sensitive one that only reacts to positive words and not criticism.

For now United are on top of the world and are playing so well with so much confidence and energy you feel that they could be playing any team in the world and would beat them. But catching Chelsea is very realistic and United only have one real major test in playing Tottenham before the Champions League restarts so anything is possible.

Cardiff 1-5 Manchester United: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men kick off in winning ways

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Following the departure of Jose Mourinho, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has taken over as the interim manager of Manchester United with the likes of Kieran McKenna, Michael Carrick and Mike Phelan as his coaches and assistant manager. Given with how the season has gone so far for the club, they will be looking to regain their confidence and footballing style to end the campaign on a high note.

The Cardiff fixture came at a good time, where the visitors were able to control and dominate the game whilst scoring a number of goals and picking up the much needed three points. Meanwhile, the hosts will surely be looking back at the poor defensive display they produced and will aim to improve on both sides of the pitch, especially if they want to finish above the relegation zone.

Here are the three valuable factors we learnt from Manchester United’s latest league game…

United can confidently score a number of goals

Before today, you would have to go back to Sir Alex Ferguson’s final match as the club’s manager in May 2013, in order to remember the last time the side have scored five goals in a league match. Between then and now, the likes of David Moyes, Louis Van Gaal and Jose Mourinho have failed to set their team up in an attacking mindset, which is the reason to why the goals have dried up.

When being managed by a defensive-minded manager or a coach that prefers to constantly counter-attack, the team spend less time in the opposition’s penalty box and it leads to only a couple of shots on target. However, the Saturday evening fixture away at the Cardiff City Stadium, evidently showed that the squad is filled with a number of attacking players, but they have to be provided with the ideal freedom to play in their own way which would follow on with the number of goals per game.

Jesse Lingard comes up with the goods in the final third

A lot of Manchester United supporters have began to question what Jesse Lingard offers to the side over the last couple of weeks, mainly due to the fact that he is comfortable in playing within a number of positions but has not started consistently in one role. For instance, he has been utilised as a right-winger, central attacking midfielder and as part of a three-man midfield so far this season.

On the other hand, the 26-year-old produced a relentless performance as he completed two goals and one assists for when his side needed him the most. Not only that, but he was one of the side’s best players of the evening if not the best, as he was constantly roaming around Cardiff’s half of the pitch whilst helping the team to progress the ball forward at a high tempo and at lightning pace.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer should not be judged anytime soon

The current focus is without a doubt on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, a former Manchester United player who is now living the dream of managing a football club that he had won the league with on seven occasions and also delivered the winning goal in the 1998-99 Champions League final. Since his arrival back at the club, he has instantly helped the squad to start playing towards their potential and with the qualities they have in midfield and attack.

Overall, it’s quite early to judge if he has had a positive or negative effect on the side and it would be ideal to review the matter once he has managed the team for seven matches. At the end of the day, the Old Trafford faithful will assume that a top four finish is out of cards and the chances of winning the Champions League is highly unlikely, so the aim from now till the end of the season is to revive the side’s attacking and thrilling football before the board and Ed Woodward chooses the club’s next permanent manager.