Ole Gunnar Solskjaer celebrates a year in charge of Manchester United today.

He was a left-field interim appointment handed the full-time job too hastily by Ed Woodward and has had no shortage of challenges during his first 12 months in charge.

But as the Norwegian embarks on his second year at the helm, we’ve picked out five reasons for United optimism.

(Tom Purslow/Man Utd via Getty Images)

He’s clearing out the deadwood

Solskjaer immediately set about purging his squad of any players who do not have the desire and energy to wear the red shirt.

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That’s where having ‘United DNA’ helps Solskjaer, and he instantly shares the fans’ concerns that Marouane Fellaini was not a suitable player for the club.

Matteo Darmian, Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez have followed as Solskjaer has been ruthless, even knowing it would leave him with a thing, youthful squad in the short term.

There will likely be more departures to come as Solskjaer continues a cull which is long overdue.

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Top four is back on the cards

United are within four points and two places of fourth-placed Chelsea going into the weekend.

The Blues face Tottenham, the team directly below them, this weekend and a United win at Watford would ramp up the pressure on both.

A hectic Christmas period could shape the top four race and if United kick on, they’ve got every chance of returning to Europe’s premier competition next season.

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He’s trying to build around pace

Solskjaer’s aim since day one has been to raise the tempo of United’s play, which was so stale under each of his three predecessors.

That resulted in a spate of injuries last season, and has not always been possible against deep defences.

But it has also produced eye-catching results against top sides and when it clicks, it’s clear to see Solskjaer’s blueprint.

That counter-attacking style is back in place. The next step is to improve against the so-called lesser lights, but as long as the emphasis remains on intensity and tempo, United may well get there.

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His signings have been a hit

Woodward has not come through at all with the overhauls promised on the transfer side, but Solskjaer has got good business done regardless.

There’s been a clear move away from ageing, expensive talent accumulated without prior planning.

Instead, the focus is on younger, British talents who are capable of playing at high pace.

Harry Maguire, Daniel James and Aaron Wan-Bissaka have all improved United in positions where they’ve struggled long-term.

A director of football would help Solskjaer get more business done and modernise United’s approach to the market, but he’s not doing too badly in the meantime.

(John Peters/Manchester United via Getty Images)

He’s tied down top talent

David de Gea, Marcus Rashford, Luke Shaw and Anthony Martial have all signed new deals in the year Solskjaer has been in charge.

Would any of them have extended under Mourinho? It’s genuinely doubtful. And just as important as recruiting the right players is keeping hold of the top talent United already have.

There may have been fears that players wouldn’t want to play under Solskjaer – who lacks the big-name reputation of a Mourinho or a van Gaal – but he has clearly made an impression on United’s best players.

Here’s hoping that this time next year, a United squad with further fat trimmed and replaced by hungry talent has won a trophy under Solskjaer and the gap to the top of the Premier League is far less than it is now…

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