Manchester United maintained their unbeaten record under caretaker manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer with a battling 1-0 win over Leicester City at the King Power Stadium yesterday.
Marcus Rashford’s early goal was enough to secure all three points against the Foxes but it was not United’s best display, as they were forced to defend in numbers for much of the second half.
But they got the job done, securing another clean sheet, which were in short supply under Jose Mourinho; which was surprising and frustrating because of the Portuguese’s reputation for defensive solidity and the dour nature of the football his United were playing.
In fact, United have kept away clean sheets in their last three league matches under Solskjaer – with the penalty Victor Camarasa netted for Cardiff in the Norwegian’s first match in charge the only Premier League away goal United have conceded during his reign.
United only had two league clean sheets to their name full-stop under Mourinho by the time he was sacked, which underlines the scale of the improvement Solskjaer has overseen.
So while Solskjaer is getting credit for transforming United’s attack – and there is no doubt he has liberated the talented attackers at his disposal – he also deserves praise for the sterling work he has done with a defence that was leaky under his predecessor.
Part of the improvement comes from an attack which eases the pressure on its defence by driving opponents back, scoring goals to give them something to defend and counter attacking with intent.
But Solskjaer has also restored the basic principles of organisation and work-rate, as well as continuing the defensive development of Victor Lindelof at the heart of the back four.
Add to that the fact that David de Gea is back to his very best – as underlined by his display against Tottenham – and it is easy to see where Solskjaer’s success has come from.
Tough tests are to come in the shape of PSG, Chelsea and Liverpool, but United’s defensive improvement under Solskjaer creates justifiable cause for optimism.