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Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is unleashing Manchester United’s mad dogs – Ciaran Kelly

Forget the goals or the assists. The sight of Paul Pogba leading United’s press in the opening stages against Brighton highlights the remarkable impact Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has made in little more than a month.

Jose Mourinho once noted how ‘we don’t have many mad dogs that bite the ball and press all the time’ yet here was Pogba, encouraged by Mike Phelan on the touchline, charging Brighton’s midfielders down.

Pogba has bought into Solskjaer‘s vision and has stepped up as United’s talisman again after starting just two of Mourinho‘s final six games at the club. And it is not just the World Cup winner who has looked reborn in recent weeks.

Whether it is Mourinho favourites like Nemanja Matic and Ander Herrera or big-money signings like Victor Lindelof and Romelu Lukaku, Solskjaer‘s message has quickly got through.

Growing in belief with each win, the players were buoyed by seeing all that tactical work in Dubai pay off against Spurs and they are responding to Solskjaer‘s instructions.

It all goes back to that first day at Carrington. “This is Manchester United and you have to show that you are Manchester United players,” Solskjaer said. The emphasis in those team meetings was on working harder, playing on the front foot, enjoying football again.

Whoever is in the dugout next season, they will find a group of players playing to their potential again and a squad desperate to return United to the top.

‘Football heritage’ as Mourinho put it. Last year, the 55-year-old predicted his successor would inherit players with ‘a different mentality, quality, background, with a different status, know-how’.

Yet there were fundamental issues with United’s mentality under Mourinho. How they could turn it on in one second-half spell against Manchester City yet lose at home to West Brom eight days later. You just do not associate that unpredictability with Mourinho‘s best teams.

 

The way United were going under Mourinho, there was no way they were going to record seven wins from seven against Cardiff, Huddersfield, Bournemouth, Newcastle, Reading, Spurs and Brighton. But that is what Solskjaer has done.

Solskjaer has reduced the 11-point gap on the top four to just three and there is a buzz around Old Trafford on match day again – whoever the opposition.

Clearly, that is something to work with and there is talent in this squad. A lot was made about Mourinho‘s supposed lack of backing in his final year in charge but just look at United’s bench when everyone is fit. Juan Mata, Alexis Sanchez and Lukaku are all capable of changing games on their day.

Tweaks will be made in the summer, but there are mad dogs already in this squad that any manager would be delighted to work with. As Solskjaer has quickly proved.

 



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