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Manchester United have returned to winning ways after re-embracing their attacking ‘heritage’ following Jose Mourinho’s sacking earlier in December. 

Even before United were blessed with the inimitable mind of Sir Alex Ferguson, the Red Devils were always famed for their free-flowing football, flamboyant players and never-say-die spirit.

Since the great Scot departed the Old Trafford dugout, however, succeeding managers have attempted to impress their own methods seemingly at conflict with the club’s. During the five seasons since Ferguson left, United have failed to recapture the Premier League title and have only finished in the top four twice.

One of the problems is that the club abandoned the tried-and-tested methods that had made them so successful over the last two decades. No one subverted United’s traditions more than Mourinho who would probably suck the colour from a rainbow if he thought it would give him three points.

During the Portuguese’s tenure, United adopted a plodding and overly cautious approach; appropriate for a lower-league side attempting to cut down a giant in the FA Cup, but ludicrous for a side with United’s talents.

Solskjaer recognised that immediately. After his first game in charge, in which United thrashed Cardiff 5-1, Solskjaer told reporters: “Football is easy if you’ve got good players.”

But the Norwegian not only recognises he has good players, but he also recognises their strengths.

So, here are six things United’s players are doing differently since Solskjaer arrived.

1. Pogback

The imperious Frenchman made his name with Juventus where he predominantly played on the left side of the Old Lady’s midfield and would routinely roam inside to devastating effect.

Despite Pogba’s obvious qualities and where they’re best used, Mourinho, who very publicly fell out with the World Cup winner at the start of United’s 2018/19 campaign, didn’t seem to know where to use the Frenchman.

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He played him in the centre, on the right side of the midfield and even as an emergency deep-midfielder-cum-centre-back on a few occasions. Unsurprisingly, Mourinho never really got the best out of him.

Under Solskjaer, Pogba is a new man (or the old one), scoring the most goals, providing the most assists, taking most shots, producing the most shots on target, having the most touches and creating the most chances.

United’s No.6 has been involved in a goal every 45 minutes since Solskjaer took charge, compared to every 189.3 minutes under Mourinho. Pogba has averaged four shots per game – 1.1 more than under Mourinho –  and he’s also averaging 95 passes in each of his last two games, 37.1 more than when he was labouring under the Portuguese’s playbook.

In three league games under Solskjaer, Pogba has won the ball in the attacking third on four occasions. Under 14 with Mourinho at the start of this season, this figure is just one greater (5).

Victor Lindelof is not surprised by Pogba’s return to form: “I said it many times he’s an amazing footballer and in the last few games he’s really showed his qualities,” Lindelof told the Manchester Evening News.

“He has a bit of a free position on the left to find the good spaces so I think he’s enjoying that position and as you can see he’s doing great.”

The Frenchman has scored multiple goals in his last two games, a brace against Huddersfield and Bournemouth. Should Pogba repeat the feat, he would become only the second Man Utd player to do so in three consecutive Premier League games after a certain Cristiano Ronaldo.

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2. ‘Attack! Attack! Attack!’

One of the problems United had under Mourinho was they seemed to abandon the relentless attacking approach that had delivered numerous titles before. The Red Devils have now reverted to type under the Norwegian and the “attack, attack, attack” chant that was born out of Mourinho has been realised by his successor.

This is pleasing the fans as well as United’s players and none other than Luke Shaw who’s been completely unleashed on the left flank since Solskjaer took over. “I think you can see from the outside how much he has changed things in such a short space of time,” Shaw told Sky Sports.

“He is just a really positive manager, he knows what the club needs and also what the fans want in the way we are playing.

“He’s bringing that attacking, quick play back to Old Trafford. I’m sure the fans are going to appreciate that as much as we [the players] do.”

Ironically, Shaw was one of the better performers and most involved under Mourinho. Even then, his 81.95 touches per 90 minutes have increased to 102.67.

Despite the much smaller sample size, the greater share of possession and intent to dominate with the ball is clear from even Shaw’s involvement.

3. Goals galore

Playing more attacking football can be a risk, but the rewards have been evident under the Baby-Faced Assassin. Since Solskjaer took the reins United have scored 12 goals in three games – almost a third of their total for the season – which is the same number of goals the club scored in Mourinho’s last seven games in the Premier League.

In the Norweigan’s first game against Cardiff –  a return to the first club he managed in the Premier League – United hit the back of the net five times for the first time in the Premier League since Sir Alex Ferguson’s final game in charge. They have since scored seven more in two home games against Huddersfield and Bournemouth.

Should Solskjaer’s side score three against Newcastle, he would become the first manager to see his team score more than two goals in his first four league games in charge.

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A win by any score would see Sir Matt Busby’s record from 1946 equalled; no other Man Utd manager has won each of their first four games.

4. Square pegs in square holes

It’s not just United’s adjusted style that’s improving their fortunes of late. Unlike Mourinho, Solskjaer is deploying his players in their best positions.

In midfield, Pogba is back on his favoured left-side of midfield whilst Herrera is shuttling up and down the right. Up front, Anthony Martial has been given license to roam from a starting position on the left and Marcus Rashford has been given the opportunity, he so richly deserves, to play as a centre-forward.

Over United’s last three games Rashford has scored twice and created another for Pogba against Bournemouth after a run that rivalled the spectacular foray from Heung-Min Son against Chelsea. The 20-year-old England international did not necessarily suffer at all times under Mourinho, but the Mancunian has really come alive in United’s last three fixtures.

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Rashford is averaging double the amount of touches in the opposition box under his new manager. Often forced wide and deep due to Mourinho’s tactics, his 4.34 touches in the penalty area have ballooned to 8.66 since being deployed as the primary forward, more than any other teammate to play at least 10 minutes.

The No.10 also scored twice in Solskjaer’s first three games; 40% of his league total for the season (5).

5. Even their centre-backs are going forward

Under Mourinho, it seemed United’s centre-backs were forbidden from venturing beyond the centre circle and they rarely contributed forward passes – perhaps because he publicly admitted he did not feel they could.

It has been noticeable since the Cardiff match that United’s central defenders’ first instinct is now to go forward. This trait has been particularly noticeable in Victor Lindelof who has been very effective at disrupting his opponents’ shape when surging forward with the ball.

Defenders are also going up the pitch for corners under Solskjaer’s instructions.

Following United’s 3-1 victory over Huddersfield on Boxing Day, Solskjaer said: “I’ve always thought that centre-backs should come up at corner kicks, and he’s [Lindelof] been staying at the back.

“Just before this game [against Huddersfield] we’d said [that], because we lacked a little bit of height, so Victor, he goes up, gets ahead of his man and Nemanja [Matic] scores.

6. Mr Nice Guy

Time and time again Mourinho would throw his players under the bus after a poor showing. He’s also had the audacity to single out individuals for criticism which drew consternation from United’s former players, including Paul Scholes and Rio Ferdinand, who agreed that his comments “are wrong for a football manager” to make.

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It’s early days yet, but Solskjaer has brought an air of positivity that was sorely lacking during the last days of Mourinho’s tenure with the Red Devils. Instead of criticising players, the Norwegian has been encouraging them in the press and gives them all the credit after winning matches.

“I think you put it the wrong way, I cannot do anything for their performances on the pitch,” Solskjaer responded when asked what he’s done to change United’s fortunes (via the Guardian).

“Paul has done it, my chats with Anthony, Rom, Alexis, I’m here to give them on the path and it’s up to them to do it on the pitch.

“I don’t agree that I’ve done that [improved his game] with Paul. It’s up to them when they get a chance that’s the name of the game as a footballer, you’ve got to do it yourself, I gave some guidelines of course on expression, freedom of expression but that’s how I’ve always been as a manager you can’t tell what the players to do in this position.

“They are here for a reason it’s up to them to use their imagination and creativity just enjoy playing for this club, that’s the best time of your life, but it’s not a bad time to be manager for a while.”

It remains to be seen if the caretaker manager’s positivity will endure when the results are less positive, but the freedom he has given his players and the positive reinforcement of their actions on the pitch is a stark contrast to the previous regime.

The post How six Man Utd changes could see Solskjaer & Pogba match records v Newcastle appeared first on Squawka News.

Source : Hitng.info
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