The post Sir Alex Ferguson years have been more difficult than any United supporter even imagined. And with Liverpool closing in on the title, there are dark days ahead.
Perhaps finally though, Manchester United have re-established the club’s identity which has been lacking since 2013.
David Moyes had a thankless task replacing Ferguson, and there were ageing areas of the squad left behind which required improvement.
The dour Scot did not help himself, by going out of his way to do things differently, upsetting and bemusing the players he inherited. With just one incoming signing, Marouane Fellaini, it was a terrible mix.
Moyes did not last the season and it was the right decision to sack him, despite our continued search for success since.
Louis van Gaal wanted to have success his own way, but the Dutchman’s style of play was not cut out for the Premier League. He was a big disappointment.
Jose Mourinho came in with fresh ideas too, they just weren’t the right ones. He brought short-lived, brief success, but there was no substance to build a better United long-term, just attempts at quick fixes.
Little was expected from Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s temporary appointment, yet he showed enough to earn the job long-term. It truly has been a rollercoaster ride since then, and there are some positive signs for the future.
Creating an identity
After United’s home defeat to Manchester City back in April, The Sun reported how Solskjaer and Ed Woodward met and chose to change direction in terms of planning. United decided to focus on young, hungry, talented players, rather than Galacticos or superstars.
This route was always going to take time, yet after the latest Manchester derby, it is clear the plan is taking shape.
Manchester United’s identity had been lost and forgotten amid the Moyes, Van Gaal, and Mourinho eras.
There was a flicker during Ryan Giggs’ caretaker spell in 2014, and Solskjaer has replicated this, with the help of Ferguson’s former assistant Mike Phelan, and Michael Carrick on his coaching staff.
Youth is key to United’s vision for the future. Solskjaer’s United have one of the youngest average ages in the Premier League.
This inevitably means there will be some inconsistent results, but Solskjaer is sticking to the plan, and wins over Jose Mourinho’s Tottenham and Pep Guardiola’s City show his players are buying in.
The win at City was reminiscent of the United of old. It was clear to see the hunger and desire the team played with, and the speed, and ferocity of the attack. The teamwork and admiration the players have for each other was clear at the final whistle.
The groundwork for success
Nobody knows if Solskjaer is the man to lead United back to the promised land of multiple league titles and Champions League wins. Most would suggest he is not.
It is clear though that he appears to be steering United in the right direction, and if he does one day move aside, he will leave groundwork and a legacy for the next manager to work with.
He is moving aside players who don’t want to be at United, like Lukaku, Sanchez etc, and has been keen to give chances to young players like Mason Greenwood and Brandon Williams.
Solskjaer is improving players like Marcus Rashford and Scott McTominay, and the 14 academy players who travelled to Astana at the end of last month was a real statement from the Norwegian that he is building for United’s future, even if he is not the one to lead the club forward.
The recent wins give United fresh hope that Solskjaer can still be the right man, when many were beginning to fear it could all end abruptly.
His pre match comments ahead of the derby about United being a bigger club than City were defiant, and such a far fry from David Moyes who infamously and disastrously said we should try to be like them.
Moyes just didn’t get it. Solskjaer does. Whatever happens next, United have got their identity back.
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