Fred’s pressing and Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s crossing against Chelsea demonstrated the key quality that will help Ole Gunnar Solskjaer stay in his job at Manchester United. Unlike his predecessors. The manager is quickly developing a track record of improving players.

It’s become a regular quip for Old Trafford regulars, that players enter the Carrington doors and quickly slip into decline. But for all the bad memories in this regard under Jose Mourinho and Louis van Gaal, Solskjaer is reversing it.

Wan-Bissaka has changed his game since start of the season

Wan-Bissaka’s assist for Anthony Martial just moments before half-time allowed United to take the lead. It’s the English full-back’s second assist in his last seven games. Some Premier League full-backs would make a mockery of such a statistic.

Aaron Wan-Bissaka during the Premier League match between Chelsea FC and Manchester United at Stamford Bridge on February 17, 2020 in London, United Kingdom.
(Photo by MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

But compared to the three assists in 58 games before that, it’s an improvement. Wan-Bissaka’s progress as an attacking force has been gradual and fans have had to be patient. They’ve come to expect nothing from their £50m signing. That’s changing.

Coaches and player should get credit for progress

It’s a credit to Wan-Bissaka, who has been working hard to develop that side of his game. It’d be wrong to forget that he only became a right-back in his late teens and is now only 22. But it’s also worth noting the role of Solskjaer and his coaching staff.

They’ve done what a manager, or a coach, should do: noted a weakness and focused on improving it.

It’s not the sign of managerial genius and really it should be the basic expectation of a United boss, but at least Solskjaer is doing it.

 

Fred’s career revitalised under Solskjaer’s management

Fred is a further example, and perhaps an even better one. He was a non-starter under Jose Mourinho, the manager who appeared to sign him simply because he didn’t think he’d get anything else out of Ed Woodward.

Solskjaer has revived his career. Ander Herrera and Marouane Fellaini have left, allowing Fred to be the main man and have a consistent starting role. Paul Pogba’s absence has helped too.

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 17: Mateo Kovacic of Chelsea FC and Fred of Manchester United in action during the Premier League match between Chelsea FC and Manchester United at Stamford Bridge on February 17, 2020 in London, United Kingdom.
(Photo by Chloe Knott – Danehouse/Getty Images)

At the Bridge, Fred put in another fine performance – just like at Anfield, the Etihad and many other places this season. He demands possession and recycles it well.

He’s begun driving forward on the ball a lot more than he used to and his role in United’s pressing game is influential. From a midfield which has, for far too long, been reactive and passive, Fred offers some aggression, even if it’s not in the ‘charge a player and scythe him down’ style.

Williams offers more evidence

Brandon Williams now has more Premier League minutes under his belt than Phil Foden has despite only coming into the side this season. The use of him alongside Luke Shaw has allowed him to make errors, improve and learn from another left-back. Solskjaer deserves some praise for that.

To reiterate, this is not a quality that is rare in a manager. Part of the job is to improve the players at your disposal but the win against Chelsea, a third since Solskjaer took over, was a perfect moment to appreciate that Solskjaer does have this quality. And after the dreary days of Mourinho and van Gaal, that’s worth something.

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