It was the night in Paris, where United overturned a 2-0 deficit against PSG, that catalysed Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s appointment as the permanent coach of the club. Tempting as it might have been to rethink the decision after United’s FA Cup exit and the defeat at the Emirates, the club management’s faith in him remained unshakeable after the Paris night. There were three factors that worked for him.
First, United were back playing their brand of free-flowing football, after the stifling defensive predominance under Mourinho, austere systems under Van Gaal and stale tactics during the Moyesian era. Under Solskjaer, United regained fluency, brought wing-play into their game, and often found the right balance between attack and defence, the best trait of Alex Ferguson’s reign.
It was no coincidence that the trio of Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford and Romelu Lukaku all rose up under him. So did Paul Pogba dispelling the streak of petulance that had often marked his time with Mourinho, and Luke Shaw. All of them have paid due credit to Solskjaer for weeding out the dressing room toxicity. Another factor is the confidence he has invested on blooding academy players.
Players like Scott McTominay, Diogo Dalot and Tommy Chong have blossomed under him.
But as much as the net results and the style of play, his deep understanding of the United culture, it’s the goodwill he had generated as a player and as a caretaker that might have swung the managerial seat for the man they fondly call the baby-faced assassin.