It’s not every day a goalkeeper makes 11 saves in a game.
It’s not everyday you see such phenomenon occur. By all means, such feat should be called a phenomenon. Without it, the team facing them would have lost by a phenomenal score line (pun intended).
Solskjaer: The Man. Utd Hall-of-Famer
Life has started beautifully for a Norwegian in the city of Manchester. Solskjaer has barely been in charge for two months and he has already began breaking records.
He has appeared so many times in the news in recent days that his name has now become familiar. It has also become easier for non-natives like me to pronounce when I’m on radio (yes, I’m a sport analyst who appears on radio and is still T.V shy).
The reason is not far-fetched. It’s so obvious that it’s not worth repeating.
Okay, it’s too good a record that it’s worth repeating.
Six wins on the bounce puts Solskjaer firmly in the Manchester United Hall of Fame. Whatever happens after, he will forever be known as the first United manager to win six games in a row. This makes him better than legends like Sir Busby and Sir Alex Ferguson.
Better Than Ferguson?
Of course, I’m talking about his record start as a United manager.
To better Sir Alex’s record, he has to:
- Spend three decades as manager
- Win countless trophies (both with a star-studded squad and a not-so-star-studded one
- Be a professional at managing (or eliminating) ego(es)
- Be an expert with the Fergie Solskjaer Time
No two managers can be the same. Philosophies are and will continue to be different. Fergie did what he had to then to survive. Ole has found a few things working in his favor already, upon which he has thrived.
What is Working?
After going on such an enviable run of form despite being on loan from Norway, what has Ole gotten right?
A team ready to play
The rumors were rife, visibly true too. Jose Mourinho was playing a side that did not want to play for him. At least they didn’t look like they wanted to go all the way for the manager. Why would they? The manager was always criticizing, shutting stars like Pogba out in the cold and played negative football.
A squad of young players wants to attack. They want to create chances up front, not park the bus. They’d rather create their own circumstances than react to the one created by the opposition. Solskjaer is not the biggest name in football.
But he has found a group of lads that have been long starved.
And he has given them license to feed kill!
Old Boys Association
— Marcus Rashford (@MarcusRashford) January 7, 2019
Imagine Man. Utd players doing a #TBT (#throwbackthursday).
And Solskjaer goes down memory lane to talk about that UCL final to the players. The goals, Solksjaer 1999 memories, the mindset, jubilations and celebrations. Imagine the current crop of players listening to a first-hand account of that fateful night.
Do you think, in the long run, it would have an effect on the players and their mindset?
To an extent, it will!
In Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Michael Carrick and Mike Phelan, we have three men who live and breathe this club. They have instilled the United way back into the players and we’re now seeing the result of that. I’d be gutted to see any of them leave at the end of the season. #mufc pic.twitter.com/wZeEqYwEZy
— United Xtra (@utdxtra) January 13, 2019
Having one of its old boys in charge is one of the biggest things happening at United now. The fans backing an ex-player they loved is yet another thing that is working tremendously for Solskjaer.
We can mention Ole without mentioning Jose, right?
“Before the Norwegian came, the Portuguese was in charge.”
At least, that’s what the history books will say, eventually. And the biographers will most likely touch on how Jose’s reign ended on a sour note.
Fans, players and managers of the club had already begun to grow irritated with Mourinho and his antics. With each passing press conference, he became even more annoying. With each player-manager bust-up, more questions arose about the manager.
At this point, all the fans wanted was a manager whose name was not Jose Mourinho. Any other manager (including Pochettino, excluding Antonio Conte), would have been enjoying what Solskjaer is currently enjoying.
Ole was lucky, in part, to be at the receiving end of the call. That same call has now earned him a 100% run so far.
What is Not Working?
The Great Wall of Manchester ⛔️
David De Gea’s 11 saves against Spurs is the most of any keeper in a PL game this season. ✋
— Sky Sports Premier League (@SkySportsPL) January 13, 2019
A defense that allows the goalkeeper to make 11 saves in a game is a source of worry. Ole’s first three games saw Manchester United concede in all of those games. They have not conceded since their game against Bournemouth.
But against Spurs, De Gea having to make all those saves is a huge concern for Solskjaer. Going forward, they look fine, scoring so many goals in so many games. But defensively?
The balance is absent.
What must be done? Continue to rely on David De Gea’s goalkeeping heroics? Splash the cash on defenders? Have a goal to outscore the opponents, regardless of what’s happening at the back?
What do you think? You can leave me a comment, share your answers to these questions and join the conversation.
Author: Rotimi “Papi the Great” Daramola
Rotimi Daramola aka Papi the Great is the owner of ForTheGoal.
A freelance sports writer who focuses on football, Rotimi is also a freelance writer, a copywriter and a football analyst who regularly appears on radio and television to talk football. You can follow him on twitter @papi_thegreat to keep up with his writings, engage him and also find out about how you can secure his writing services.