After a miserable first half of the season, every single one of Manchester United Football Club’s players, staff, and fans feel rejuvenated. The team has won ten games, tied one, and only lost one ; which was against Paris Saint-Germain in the first leg of their UEFA (Union of European Football Associations) Champions League Knockout Stage Round of 16 match, under new interim manager–temporary head coach–Ole Gunnar Solskjær. As a former Manchester United player himself, it is clear he seems to know what to do in order to improve his team.
It all started in August of 2018, when a rumour spread in England that there was a rift between star player Paul Pogba and manager Jose Mourinho. Paul Pogba, a player worth nearly a hundred million dollars, was placed on the bench week after week even though he was fit to play. After a very inconsistent first half of the season, Executive Vice-Chairman Ed Woodward had had enough of it, and he delivered the message on December 18 to Mourinho that he was sacked.
Many soccer fans around the world referred to it as “Mourinho’s third-season curse.” Time after time, Mourinho never could make his team do well on his third year in charge. At teams like Chelsea, Real Madrid, and Inter Milan, Mourinho consistently failed to defy his curse, and always ended up fired before his third year came to a close.
Former Real Madrid manager and legend Zinedine Zidane was the top candidate to be the next man to take over once rumours of Mourinho’s sacking started spinning around. Zidane’s last job was being Real Madrid’s manager. After a start that left Madridistas–Real Madrid’s fans–skeptical, however, the frenchman prevailed and proved both the critics and fans that he was the right man for the job. He won nine trophies in three years, including three UEFA Champions League trophies in three years.
Another candidate was Mauricio Pochettino, current manager of Tottenham Hotspurs. However, this was unlikely, since he recently sign a five-year contract with his club.
Less than twenty-four hours after Mourinho’s sacking, Manchester United accidentally leaked information that Ole Gunnar Solsjkær would be the manager for the rest of the 2018/2019 season. With a combination of inexperience and past failures as a manager, this leaked post left many fans wondering if Manchester United was joking or if Solsjkær would really be their next manager.
There could be no better time for Ole Gunnar Solsjkær to arrive. He had many opportunities to show whether or not he was the right man for the job. The English Premier League’s Festive Fixtures time of year was nearing, which meant that there would be 40 games across 14 days; note that there were only 20 teams, meaning that each team played four games in two weeks. Manchester United’s first game was up against Solsjkær’s former club, Cardiff City. Fans were both anxious and vehement.
Within the first three minutes, Manchester United scored. Marcus Rashford, a homegrown striker at the age of 21, scored off a stunning free kick. The first-choice striker under Mourinho, Romelu Lukaku, was away on a compassionate leave, therefore Solsjkær handed Rashford the starting spot; and he sure paid dividends for the Norwegian manager’s decision. The Red Devils eventually bagged a 5-1 win, with Marcus Rashford, Ander Herrera, and Anthony Martial all scoring goals. Jesse Lingard scored two that game. Victor Camarasa of Cardiff City scored off a penalty.
Feeling rejuvenated, Manchester United never stopped their winning ways after that match. Solsjkær made record-breaking history, being the first manager to win their first eight Premier League games at Manchester United. They defeated the likes of Huddersfield Town, Bournemouth Football Club, Newcastle United, Reading Football Club, Tottenham Hotspurs, Brighton Hove and Albion, Arsenal Football Club, and Leicester City.
“Yeah, they [Manchester United] have played much better than under Mourinho,” said Sam Kassel, a student in the XIsJ, who’s favorite team in the English Premier League is Manchester City, the arch-nemesis of United. “Although they are doing very well, they are not going to win the league because of what Mourinho did to them,” Manchester United did endure what was the beginning of a horror season, luckily they removed the cancer before the cancer could kill them. “They’re probably going to make the top four, and qualify for the Champions League next year,” this was something that seemed nearly impossible at the start of the season, since they sat at eighth place for most of the 2018/2019 season under Mourinho.
The only match that they did not win was against Burnley Football Club, which ended in a nail-biting tie. Burnley was up 2-0 for most of the game until Paul Pogba scored a penalty in the 87th minute. Central defender Victor Lindelof scored his first goal for Manchester United in the second minute of the four minutes of stoppage time. Stoppage time is for time allotted for any stoppages or injuries that wasted any minutes during the match. A specific amount of time is added after the 90 minutes of regulation time is up.
Although most fans were very enthusiastic for what was to come after Manchester United’s first victory under Ole Gunnar Solsjkær, some were still reluctant to say that he was the one, that he was not just another one-trick pony with beginner’s luck. After Sir Alex Ferguson’s 26-and-a-half-year reign as manager, the club founded it excruciatingly difficult to find a successor to the legendary Scot. David Moyes was the man hand-selected by Sir Alex Ferguson, and Moyes was dubbed “the Chosen One,” and had all the faith of the Manchester United fans. However, with less than a year in charge, Moyes was sacked by the club. As the defending champions, sitting at eight place was shameful and unacceptable, which was why Manchester United was left with no choice but to move on. Ryan Giggs, a star player who was getting near the age of retirement, agreed with the innovative job of a player-manager.
At times, but rarely, Giggs subbed himself on and joined in on the fun, after all he was a player. Giggs led his team to a 4-0 victory against Norwich, a start similar to that of Ole Gunnar Solsjkær. However, Giggs never became the regular manager and took the job of Assistant Manager under Louis van Gaal. Louis van Gaal was a renowned coach, he managed teams like Ajax Football Club, Barcelona Club de Futbol, AZ Alkmaar, Bayern Munich, and the Netherlands National Football Federation Team. With 20 major honors to his name, many fans were keen to see what good what come out of this move.
Rightly so, Louis van Gaal spent two and a half years at Manchester United. He had surely done much better than David Moyes, yet he still could not earn United valuable trophies. Qualifying to the UEFA Champions League twice, he did a sufficient job, but for Manchester United that was not enough.
“At Manchester United, we strive for perfection, and if we fail, we might just have to settle for excellence.” Sir Matt Busby, another legendary manager–before Sir Alex Ferguson–coined this phrase. He also was United’s manager for 26 years. This quote is painted on the eastern wall of Manchester United’s Academy Building Complex. If Sir Matt Busby’s quote truly resembles Man United’s mission, that is most likely the reason why Louis van Gaal decided to resign for the greater good of the club.
Then came Jose Mourinho. Mourinho was a world-class manager, one of the best in the business. After being sacked by Chelsea, in his third year in charge, Manchester United confirmed that Mourinho would take over. After a rather uncharacteristic start for Mourinho, he adapted to life in Manchester and earned them three major trophies in two and a half years. With the help of advice from Sir Alex Ferguson himself, Jose Mourinho looked to be the right man as heir to the throne. Many United fans thought that he would crush his third-season curse with Manchester United, however some still thought that the cycle would continue, and that soon their club would have to go looking for a new head coach.
Not only did Mourinho obtain a third-season curse, but he also had a kryptonite. Jürgen Klopp, a German manager who is known for being madly expressive, was the man who always sent Mourinho packing. He was the manager of German Bundesliga Club Borussia Dortmund from 2008-2015, and every time Mourinho was sacked, it came after Jürgen Klopp’s team defeated his own.
Dortmund 4-1 Real Madrid, Liverpool 3-1 Chelsea, and Liverpool 3-1 Manchester United.
The mind-boggling questions that all Man United fans have is: Is Ole Gunnar Solsjkær really the right man for the job? Solsjkær surely thinks he is. With the Red Devils’ “DNA” inside him, it is obvious that the players and Solsjkær share a special form of chemistry, which links the two together to create great results.
Solsjkær understands the players, and can show it too. To try and escape the typical cold and rainy weather of Manchester, Solsjkær and the club arranged a training camp in Dubai. Not only did Solsjkær coach them in Dubai, but he could play with them. He could demonstrate what he wants as a coach, and can emulate it in front of the players for them to see. This give the players a much clearer vision for what to do in games. It evidently shows that Solsjkær has some type of spark that brought Manchester United back to life.
Quicker playing, rapid passing, shots from both afar and near, the traditional Manchester United style of soccer is coming back, and credit to Ole Gunnar Solsjkær for that.
Sources: Manchester Evening News, DailyMail Online, and 90Min
Special Thanks to: Edward Lau, for the picture of Sir Matt Busby’s renowned quote in Manchester United Football Club’s Academy building complex.