It’s been little more than three weeks since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was unveiled as United’s interim manager, but the Norwegian has already left a lasting legacy.
Solskjaer’s man management style has changed the mood inside the dressing room and the club as a whole; the gap between the academy and the first team has been bridged; the fans have re-connected with the team; and the players are playing the way United should.
That is before you even address the results – five victories, 16 goals scored and just three conceded – and United are finally dominating games they are expected to win again after their previous struggles under Jose Mourinho.
Now, the real tests await. United play Spurs, Arsenal, PSG and Liverpool in the next month and Solskjaer’s decision to take the team to Dubai for some warm-weather training was very much with those games in mind.
“We need to use this week well to work towards the Tottenham game but also towards Paris Saint-Germain and Liverpool in February,” Scott McTominay told MUTV.
“You just don’t make it for the Tottenham game, we prepare for this one but we also prepare for when we play the bigger and better teams.”
Solskjaer wants his players to have the legs to continue to play his popular pressing game and the 45-year-old is not about to make any radical changes to his team’s style of play.
United have had plenty of possession and played with freedom against Cardiff, Huddersfield, Bournemouth, Newcastle and Reading. While Spurs will certainly pose problems, Solskjaer wants his players to think about how they can hurt Mauricio Pochettino’s side – not the other way around.
This will be the first time United go into a game as underdogs under Solskjaer and, tactically, it is another intriguing test after Mike Phelan predicted it would be a ‘great football match’.
Clearly, Solskjaer is not about to set his side up to play for a draw but he will have to strike that delicate balance between not being naive and picked off while, also, moving away from Mourinho’s reactive approach in big games.
United have had six days to prepare for this game and that time in Dubai will have given Solskjaer the first real opportunity to put his stamp on this team on the training pitch. To stop sessions at will in the 28C heat.
Solskjaer will also have six days, at least, to prepare United for their trip to Arsenal in the FA Cup later this month and those two games could have a big say on his long-term job prospects.
Mauricio Pochettino remains United’s No.1 target but Solskjaer could yet give Ed Woodward a viable alternative if he maintains his impressive start and the Argentine stays put.
Beat Spurs and Arsenal and United are still in the race for the top four, into the last 16 of the FA Cup and in red-hot form ahead of that huge Champions League tie against PSG next month.
That is quite a prospect.