It would be wrong to fully credit Ole Gunnar Solskjaer for bringing the late comeback back to Old Trafford. Even under Jose Mourinho Manchester United occasionally showed that never say die attitude. Last season they turned 2-0 halftime deficits into 3-2 wins away to Crystal Palace and Manchester City. They did the same this October against Newcastle, scored two late goals to beat Juventus, and got an injury time winner vs Young Boys to save their Champions League campaign.
But man, this resilience is different. Everything about this team is different.
We could sit here all day talking about everything that OGS has done in his two plus months at Old Trafford but one thing rings out more important than anything.
He’s made Manchester United a team again.
Under Mourinho, the players played under a cloud of fear. There was always the belief that if you made a mistake you were going to be dropped. The team itself seemed divided. From the outside looking in it looked like there were separate factions in the dressing room, which went beyond those being in favor of Mourinho and those that were in favor of Paul Pogba.
It translated onto the field too. Many times the team looked like they had never even played with each other.
The atmosphere is completely different now. It’s not just their love of the manager, signing his name in the dressing room at the Parc de Prince. It’s their love of each other.
After the match videos of injured players Nemanja Matic, Jesse Lingard, and Anthony Martial watching Rashford’s penalty and celebrating. These were players watching on TV just like you and me, powerless to help and hoping that their teammates could help them continue their dreams of playing in the Champions League, celebrating just like you and me. Their love for each other was evident.
What’s starting to epitomize this United team is their next man up mentality. Every week it seems their getting another injury. Their star Paul Pogba suspended. Yet there was always a belief, or rather, a faith that someone would just step in and pick them up.
That faith is thanks to Solskjaer’s impeccable man management. The first half of the season was characterized by Mourinho constantly bemoaning his players, complaining about what he doesn’t have rather than focusing on what he has.
“Why doesn’t Fred play? Because he doesn’t defend. When he starts defending he’ll start playing.”
“You want me to play Martial but I can’t play him out wide because he doesn’t defend.”
That’s just an example of what you heard under Mourinho. It was always about what players couldn’t do. If the manager is constantly putting them down how can you expect them to have faith in themselves when they finally do get a chance?
Since taking over Solskjaer hasn’t said a negative word about anyone. Even when players weren’t playing he spoke glowingly about their ability. Since his arrival he’s spoke glowingly about Fred. He’s talked about how Andreas is going to be a great player.
He’s shown his ruthlessness too. He handed Scott McTominay a new contract and then immediately dropped him to the U23s. Both Fred and Andreas have been left out of multiple matchday squads. But never a bad word from the manager. Instead he spoke of their quality and how they were waiting for their chance to show it to everyone.
Ole’s handling of the team did exactly that. Everyone knew their place. They knew their role. They knew that eventually they would get a chance and when they did, they’d be ready.
That’s why there was belief in the United camp. They knew they had a tall task in front of them. They knew the deck was stacked against them. But they also knew that even having a sliver of a chance was enough. They never lost their faith.
This team loves each other. They believe in each other. That much is evident. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has restored those attributes within them.
And when a team has that faith, belief, and love for each other, there’s not telling how far they can go.