Manchester United’s win over City at the weekend felt like more than just three points.
For Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, it was the culmination of a year of planning and hard work to get United back on track.
To go back to find the catalyst for this victory, you really have to go back to the defeat a year ago to City at Old Trafford in the Premier League.
United were well beaten by City 2-0 at Old Trafford in April 2019 and it did not feel like a surprise.
The initial feelgood factor of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s appointment had subsided and serious weaknesses in the team were being shown up.
This loss came on the back of defeats to Arsenal, Wolves, Everton and Barcelona.
Bernardo Silva and Leroy Sane scored the goals against a United side which started Matteo Darmian as part of a back three, and Andreas Pereira and Jesse Lingard in midfield.
After the game
One version of events after the game was reported by The Sun. It claimed Solskjaer and chief executive Ed Woodward ripped up previous transfer plans and decided on a new agenda.
With Mike Phelan in attendance too, Solskjaer convinced Woodward to scrap plans to target superstars, and focus on signing young, hungry talent instead with the right attitudes.
This was the way United acted in the summer, buying Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Dan James, and Harry Maguire, who has since become the club captain.
The cherry on the cake appears to be the acquisition of Bruno Fernandes in January, a hungry, talented player who the whole of Europe is probably regretting not taking a chance on right now.
All four players started in United’s 2-0 win over City, with Anthony Martial and Scott McTominay scoring the goals.
It’s coming together
United are still down in fifth place. The rebuild is far from done, but it is clear to see progress is being made.
Lingard and Pereira were not even on the bench on Sunday, while unwanted players like Darmian have been shipped out.
United have conceded only two goals in the last 10 matches, and there is now competition across the whole squad, from striker right through to full-back and defence.
Players have improved too. Luke Shaw is rejuvenated and Fred is showing why his price tag might one day look like being a bargain.
There is more to come too, when the next phase of the club’s transfer plan is put into action next summer.
United will look at buying more high quality like Fernandes, but they have to possess the right attitude. Talent alone is not enough.
This win over City was no fluke. You don’t beat Pep Guardiola’s side three times out of four this season with luck.
It’s been a long arduous season at points. There have been some really low moments. But it feels finally like we are back on track. This win underlined weeks of progress, and comparing it to a year ago emphasises the steps forward.
United’s plan is coming together. It’s still at the early stages, but after a year, it’s clear there is progress, and unlike last season, we are not sitting here hoping the season would finish up already.
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