Never thought I’d ever admit it, but after watching Tottenham fail (agonizingly) to beat David De Gea, I was pleased to see a Man United side that played like the one I hated…and secretly admired.
Check this: Pogba holds up the ball in the Man United half, Rashford makes a run towards the Spurs goal, Pogba pings the most exquisite over-the-top through ball for the young striker, who coolly drives it low…and beyond Loris…into the net.
How many times did we see that happen under Ferguson? Paul Pogba pulled of a Paul Scholes (see what I did there?) and fed a striker who finished with aplomb. United’s history is littered with top strikers; Andy Cole, Dwight York, Mark Hughes, Solkjaer (yea him), Nistlerooy, Rooney (yes…him too), Van Persie, Berbatov and so on. The goal was a common feature under Ferguson…and it was refreshing to see it back on show on Sunday.
6 straight wins. SIX. I think that’s a record because while Man United’s last 3 managers are all Champions League winners, none of them won all their first 6 games as Man United managers. The ‘Babyface Assassin’ is proving to be just as lethal on the bench as he was off it. The Red Devils have found their fire, and it’s a beauty to watch.
Hiring a new manager offers players the chance to come clean about their short-comings under the previous manager and also the opportunity for fringe players to push for starting roles (because now it’s realistic to earn that). A new manager will give everyone a chance to prove that they deserve to be at the club and that the last manager was wrong for assuming that they didn’t want to win.
Pogba, Martial, and Rashford have been the main beneficiaries. All of them are scoring goals now. It wasn’t the same under Mourinho, whose tactics made Lukaku so isolated that I’m sure he felt like he had no friends at the club. Martial and Pogba would have partied all night once they heard the Portuguese gaffer was gone while Rashford was always earmarked to lead the attack…at some point.
Watching Man United since Ferguson left has been slightly painful…because we enjoyed the comebacks and the fearlessness that used to be a key part of their gameplay. Once the old Scot left, it all went flat. I spent a year laughing at the team every time they got on the pitch. After a while, I started to feel (a bit) bad.
We don’t need to go over the mess created by Moyes, Van Gaal and Mourinho but it feels right that the man fixing it is a Fergie student, and one who served under him once his playing career was over. Solkjaer took lessons from Old Trafford and became a champion in Norway. With his return to Manchester, he could be to Man United what Zidane was to Real Madrid. The speedy football is back, the fearless play has returned and the unity required to pull points on board is seeping back into the club.
For the moment, Man United are not really playing for much so it remains to be seen how they react once they start to come under pressure to actually be successful this season. The result against Spurs will have everyone on notice so they have a target on their backs now. They may not make the Champions League spots this season, but the football that made the club famous is back…and I’m not the only one who has missed it.