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Manchester United..... Whatever Next?
Six points, eight goals in a week, five goals in one game and your out of reach neighbours drop six points in the same timeframe, business as usual in Manchester right?
It may be early days but talk of Mauricio Pochettino to Manchester United has subsided, at least for now.
They came in their thousands as they always do but as of Boxing Day 2018 their orchestra has a new conductor and those musicians of the grand theatre seem to be enjoying every tune he's asking them to play. Old Trafford is singing, there are no further questions for Ed Woodward and hoards of people dressed in red seem to be smiling, well I suppose it is Christmas after all.
Make no mistake there is a long way to go and Cardiff or Huddersfield were never really going to be the sternest of tests for the biggest football club on the planet but something may just be happening over on the red side of Manchester.
Speed, urgency, risk, expression, freedom, creativity and entertainment all quite possibly labels not associated with Manchester United of late were all in evidence as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer made his home debut in the United managerial hot seat.
From top to bottom and left to right it appears Manchester United have undergone considerable change in the space of seven days. The centre backs played with authority, wing backs pushed on, midfield players created and threatened, while forwards looked goal hungry throughout.
Paul Pogba much maligned of late looked like a new man, he showed skill in tight areas, played 60 yard passes forward onto a sixpence, protected the ball as though his life depended on it, threaded cute reverse passes between opponents, scored two very fine goals but most of all was mobbed and congratulated by all the other nine outfield players after his second goal. This is a World Cup winner playing in The Theatre of Dreams and enjoying himself to boot.
Phil Jones looked like the player Sir Alex Ferguson paid good money for back in the day, Juan Mata showed the industry, intelligence and guile of a man who's won The Champions League, World Cup, and European Championships so just what is it that is making these parts look whole again.
Much has been said about the culture of Manchester United, the post Ferguson fall out and what was appearing to be a painful descent into the abyss. But maybe, just maybe Ed Woodward has finally pulled a master stroke and the halcyon days returning are an actual possibility through the recent appointment of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Mike Phelan. Solskjaer learnt his trade at Manchester United as a world class striker and was latterly a trusted member of Sir Alex's coaching staff while Phelan has the club in his veins. Phelan has unceremoniously filled roles such as player, reserve coach, first team coach, assistant manager and now interim assistant manager over a cumulative twenty years of service to the football club. It could well be that in his choice of Ferguson's closest and most trusted lieutenant as his assistant, that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has made his best decision in his short time as chief of footballing performance at Manchester United Football Club.
The club has always been rooted in professionalism and youth and for the first time in many a moon this appears evident both on the pitch (Rashford, Lingard, Gomes,) and in the dug out (Carrick, McKenna, Solskjaer and Phelan), and supported in the academy (Butt). Whisper it but do Manchester United have the green shoots of a future at their very fingertips?
Let's not get too carried away, Huddersfield and Cardiff albeit efficiently dealt with did not provide the tests that will come from Madrid, Juventus, Liverpool, Barcelona, Bayern and PSG. However for an institution that has long prided itself on patience, long term planning, trust, professionalism and giving youth a chance a skeleton framework may well have accidentally emerged.
Who knows, with a director of football, a few more new faces both on the pitch and in the think tanks behind the team, those distant American owners may possibly sit back once again to relax and watch their garden grow.test