REDS RULE: HOW HAVE UNITED PROGRESSED UNDER OLE GUNNAR SOLSKJAER IN JUST ONE YEAR?
Just past the Christmas period, now seems an appropriate time to judge Manchester United’s progress from last season, and under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer generally. Judging from the 2019/2020 season against this season, already United’s goals per match is better this season, at 2.06 goals per match against 1.74 goals per match last season. This may be down to the emergence of Bruno Fernandes after arriving in January a year ago, this season will be his first full season with the club. Furthermore, last season the shooting accuracy stood at 40% and this season stands only slightly better at 41%. However, United do have the rest of the season to correct this. One of the biggest surprises of this season is that United are now top of the table, after a 1-0 win against Burnley in a game dominated by VAR last night. This time last year Liverpool seemed to have already ran away with the title and won the league by a massive 18 points. This season, United are three points ahead of Liverpool with 36 to their 33, with the two teams coming head-to-head this coming weekend. The season seems too close to call, filled with uncertainty. One of the biggest differences this season is that United are capitalising in games that they would’ve lost or drawn last season. Games like Southampton away, coming from two goals down to win 3-2, the Reds rarely seem defeated. There’s a certain swagger the team carries, a never say die spirit. This has to be attributed to Solskjaer, the spirit of United teams he once played in seems to be seeping into the team he now manages. The dressing room has apparently lost the toxicity that was once apparent under Jose Mourinho, the group seems to gel better which in turn translates to better performances on the pitch. Even Paul Pogba is putting in standout performances and looks positive on the field, contrary to all the reports that have surrounded him and his state of mind throughout his time at United. Despite the progress in the table, defensively they have not been as impressive so far. In terms of goals conceded per match, this season they have conceded 1.50 goals per match, compared to last season where they only conceded 0.95 goals per match. However, correcting this shouldn’t be hard as Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelof are forming a strong partnership, as well as facing strong competition from Eric Bailly and Axel Tuanzebe. Competition within the squad is a good thing especially when United have struggled defensively since the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson. Things have been far from smooth sailing since Solskjaer’s arrival, even in recent times there was strong talk of the Norweigan getting the sack. Although those rumours have calmed since his potential successor, Mauricio Pochettino, has become manager of Paris Saint Germain and since the Reds picked up their form and stormed their way to the top of the table. However, progress seems to be a constant at United and Solskjaer is building the squad that he wants. Whilst the silverware cabinet has had no new additions under Solskjaer, the progress of the squad and style of play is the biggest indicator that United are slowly making their way back to where they should be.