As Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had just beaten Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City for the second time this season, the two managers’ comments on Manchester United were telling.

After last night’s derby, Guardiola was quick to praise United’s style of play, management team and individual players. Solskjaer hailed his side’s attitude and character and how it has improved since he took over.

Both managers have beaten each other since and Solskjaer, perhaps more than anyone else, has exposed the weaknesses in Guardiola’s City side. The same is true vice versa.

Guardiola: I like United under Solskjaer

Though the FA Cup could throw up a fifth encounter between United and City, Solskjaer has come out on top so far with one game left in the league in March.

Guardiola told reporters, published online by Talksport among others, after Wednesday night’s game that United’s squad is “really good.”

WAYNE ROONEY TO EVERTON IS A JOKE.

“I like the way they play a lot. At Old Trafford, we played really well [in the first leg of the EFL Cup semi-final], but we lost here. The quality of the players up front [for United] is incredible,” Guardiola said.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - APRIL 24: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer manager of Manchester United and Pep Guardiola the head coach / manager of Manchester City  during the Premier League match between Manchester United and Manchester City at Old Trafford on April 24, 2019 in Manchester, United Kingdom.
(Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

“I have the feeling they are trying to do what the manager wants. I think it works.”

Guardiola’s words tie into those of many fans and Solskjaer himself. The Norwegian is trying to change two things at United: the attitude and the style of play.

Solskjaer facing same challenges as Guardiola and Klopp

To change the style of play is difficult as Jurgen Klopp found at Liverpool and Guardiola did at City. It felt like Guardiola recognised that challenge.

“Maybe they are not consistent,” Guardiola continued. “Maybe at home, they struggle against the teams who defend well.”

It’s a subject that’s come up a lot in Solskjaer’s press conferences this season. Reports ask each week why Solskjaer’s United side are so inconsistent. After the City game, he responded once more.

“I’ve spoken about this so many times. We know that it’s going to be inconsistent while we’re building. But it shows how good we can be,” Solskjaer explained.

“Everyone who is watching us can see what we’re trying to do.”

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - JANUARY 30: (EXCLUSIVE COVERAGE) Bruno Fernandes of Manchester United poses with Manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer after signing for the club at Aon Training Complex on January 30, 2020 in Manchester, England.
(Photo by Manchester United/Manchester United via Getty Images)

Some remain unconvinced by Solskjaer

That’s not quite true. There are plenty who regularly watch United who are unsure about what Solskjaer wants from his team apart from a counter-attacking outfit. But in the away win at City, United were very focused on playing out from the back to create chances. It led to a couple of mistakes. Guardiola and Solskjaer both referenced it.

“Once in a while you’re going to make. mistakes,” admitted Solskjaer. “But if you’re going to come here and just defend, you’ve got no chance.”

“Yes, we created one or two dangerous moments [for ourselves] with the way we tried to play out. But we want to boys to express themselves.”

Guardiola praised Lindelof and described Maguire as as “one of the best defenders in the world.”

“I think in time, they will come back to what [Manchester] United was for many, many years.”

Solskjaer’s words being echoed by Guardiola

The point is that Solskjaer’s words are being echoed by Guardiola, the club’s rival manager but one who’s highly respected and rightly so.

Manchester United's Norwegian manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer applauds the fans following the English League Cup semi-final second leg football match between Manchester City and Manchester United at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, north west England, on January 29, 2020. - Manchester City booked their place in a third successive League Cup final, but made hard work of disposing of Manchester United 3-2 on aggregate after losing the second leg of their semi-final 1-0 at home on Wednesday. (Photo by Oli SCARFF / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or 'live' services. Online in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No video emulation. Social media in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No use in betting publications, games or single club/league/player publications. /
(Photo by OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty Images)

“I want to talk about the players and the attitude that they’ve shown. They’ve come here twice in six weeks and beat Man City. I’m so proud of how far they’ve come,” Solskjaer said.

What’s all of this to say? Solskjaer is making progress. He’s brought in four good players now, with the recent signing of Bruno Fernandes. All of those additions fit into what he’s trying to build. There have been mistakes, of course, and hard luck with injuries, too.

The words of Guardiola and Solskjaer himself show us what is being done at United, all in spite of the inherently mismanaged top level at the club.

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