Gary Neville believes the Manchester United job will be Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s if he is able to guide them to victory over eternal rivals Liverpool.
The 45-year-old Norwegian manager, who enjoyed an illustrious 11-year playing career at Old Trafford, took charge of the Red Devils in December following their poor start under former boss Jose Mourinho.
Solskjaer’s impact. Five things to know….
- Solskjaer became United’s interim coach following their 3-1 defeat to Liverpool in December.
- He’s since gone on to oversee 13 matches with United winning 11 of those outings and losing just once.
- If the Premier League started with his appointment then United would be top (on 25 points from 27 available) and four points clear of Manchester City.
- His only defeat was a 0-2 loss at home to Paris Saint-Germain in their Champions League round-of-16 first leg meeting.
- Under him the Red Devils have registered 30 goals and conceded nine times.
Under his leadership United have turned their season around. On arrival the 13-time Premier League champions sat in sixth place having claimed 26 points from their opening 17 league matches.
It left them 11 points behind fourth place Chelsea and saw Mourinho’s tenure come to an end. Across their following nine Premier League matches Solskjaer claimed eight wins, bettering Mourinho’s win tally (seven) despite managing eight games fewer than his predecessor.
This means if the league started from Solskjaer’s appointment then United (on 25 points from 27 available) would be leading from current top side Manchester City with the gap being four points.
His seamless adaptation coupled with impressive FA Cup away wins at Arsenal and Chelsea has led to many calling for the powers that be at Old Trafford to give him the job permanently with ex-teammate Neville feeling if he can add Liverpool to the list of his defeated foes then it’s his.
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“Two or three months ago he would have been hopeful of getting the job, but if he beats Liverpool on Sunday then I can’t see any way he wouldn’t get it,” he told Sky Sports.
“It shouldn’t be defined by one game but to beat Chelsea, Tottenham, Arsenal and then Liverpool it would almost make it impossible for him not to get the job.
“It is an incredible body of results and would make it a lot more difficult to withhold it from him if he keeps beating team after team.”
Back to the future
Solskjaer’s history at the club has certainly played a significant factor. Since joining in 1996 from Molde he’d go on to play 366 times for United registering 126 goals with the most signatficant coming deep into stoppage time in the 1999 Champions League final against Bayern Munich.
Much of United’s playing style under him, quick and direct football with plenty of movement, evokes memories of the Sir Alex Ferguson days. It’s seen them score frequently with goals coming from midfield as well as across the front line.
Paul Pogba, the club’s most expensive acquisition, is a player transformed. During the final months of Mourinho’s reign he looked like he wanted to be anywhere else but here. Not the case since Solskjaer’s appointment. The 25-year-old French world cup winner is playing some of his best football having bagged nine goals and six assists in 12 outings.
Eric Cantona, who played alongside the Norwegian before hanging up his boots in 1997, sees parallels with Barcelona.
“Not all players can become managers, but some of them can, and for me it’s important that at a club like Manchester United you have somebody who has the soul of the club, who understands the club from inside. So today, seeing United, I am so happy,” he said.
“It’s important that the manager understands the club, who has the soul of the club. It’s why I said before about Guardiola in Barcelona, he was a player when Cruyff was the manager. He then became the manager of Barcelona with the soul of the club, and the soul of Johan Cruyff.
“You can have a manager that comes from somewhere else, but they need to understand the club from outside – to have the soul of the club. They need to play creative football and enjoy football. Work hard, but enjoy it.
“If the players and the manager enjoy the game, then the fans will enjoy the game. You can win games, but not enjoy it, and I don’t think that’s for Manchester United. I don’t know the agreement he has with the club, but for me as a fan – because now I am a United fan – it’s a great feeling to feel the soul of the club, finally. We lost that since Ferguson retired. And now, it’s a great feeling.”