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Manchester United are finally learning from Van Gaal and Mourinhos mistakes – Manchester Evening News

Manchester United are finally learning from Van Gaal and Mourinhos mistakes – Manchester Evening News

It has been too easy for Manchester United to brush off valid questions about their own inconsistency of late.

Fans, journalists and pundits are within their rights to expect more of United. The majority of the club’s adult supporters these days grew up on a diet of relentless success under Sir Alex Ferguson and even the older ones remember greats like George Best, Bobby Charlton and Bryan Robson. The club’s history is also its expectation and you cannot have one without the other.

Ferguson understood that in the wake of the Busby era, even though there had been a significant fallow period inbetween. One of the reasons United have kept faith with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is because he understands it, too.

Yet fans had become exasperated with the way Solskjaer would sometimes shrug and smile after a defeat. They want to see steam coming out of the Norwegian’s ears after a defeat. They want to see him channel Ferguson rather than David Moyes, whose annoying habit of claiming “we played quite well” after a dismal defeat did nothing to placate expectant supporters. Solskjaer’s image is that he’s too nice, too respectful.

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In that regard, a major part of his reaction to Everton’s pressure-lifting win at Everton will have pleased United fans.

His furious rant at the Premier League for the way the fixtures had been scheduled left the interviewer lost for words. Gary Lineker on Match of the Day claimed it was a side to Solskjaer he has never seen before.

“We were set up to fail,” Solskjaer told the TV cameras after the victory.

“I said to you before, I want to talk about the kick-off time. They set up the boys to fail. We’ve got Luke Shaw injured today because we’ve been to Turkey, we’ve played loads of games already this season, we’ve been to Turkey on Wednesday night, back in Thursday morning and we’re playing Saturday in a lunchtime kick-off, it’s an absolute shambles.”

He went on to say “I’ve had enough” of the scheduling. It was peak Fergie. And what’s more, it came after a win, a game in which his side had played well and deserved their plaudits.

United captain Harry Maguire also created a sense of siege mentality when asked for his reaction at Goodison Park, though his message was aimed squarely at the media, rather than the fixture schedulers.

“People don’t want us to do well,” he claimed. “Why? Probably because of the success we’ve had in the past. Because we are the biggest club in the world.”

It is quite obvious that both sentiments from Solskjaer and Maguire are positive signs for United and their changing mentality.

Because for far too long in the post-Ferguson era, United have been a good team with good players, but a soft touch. The aura that surrounded legendary former players like Roy Keane, Rio Ferdinand and Wayne Rooney has been lost for a long time. Teams started to come to Old Trafford thinking there was nothing to be frightened of anymore. That has only been magnified in recent Covid-19 times when the absence of fans inside the Theatre of Dreams has only emboldened teams further.

It is too soon to say the bite is coming back to Manchester United. But it’s something that neither Louis van Gaal nor Jose Mourinho, managers with more ‘ruthless’ reputations than Solskjaer, managed to instill.

Solskjaer is now confident enough to leave players out if he feels they don’t fit his system, hence Paul Pogba benched for Fred and Scott McTominay. He is happy to use big summer signing Edinson Cavani in the substitute role that suits him. He is even ignoring the clamour, rightly or wrongly, to play Donny van de Beek more regularly. He has backed Maguire in the face of media flak, he has channeled his fighting spirit into players like Bruno Fernandes.

Van Gaal and Mourinho’s decision-making often became muddled at United, especially where new signings were concerned. And their press conferences were often cause for derision. Solskjaer appears to be learning from his predecessors’ mistakes, and is keeping himself in a job as a result.

He is becoming his own man as United manager, while at the same time following those classic Ferguson traits.

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