While it would be premature to say Manchester United are ‘back’, it is increasingly tempting to believe it after the emphatic nature of tonight’s 3-0 win over Aston Villa.
Man Utd look like, well, Man Utd again under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who has been rewarded for some risky decisions in the transfer market that have totally reshaped this team.
MORE: Video: Paul Pogba makes it 3-0 to Manchester United thanks to some questionable defending by Jack Grealish
Eyebrows will have been raised all the way as Solskjaer spent big on Harry Maguire and Bruno Fernandes, but the latter in particular has had an Eric Cantona-esque influence at Old Trafford in a short space of time, seeming to galvanise everyone around him with his class and his confidence on the ball. There are all too many cliches about players who ‘make things happen’, but the Portugal international really is one of those. What might have been an ill-judged, over-priced acquisition from Portuguese football now actually looks a hell of a bargain at just £47million (fee via BBC Sport).
Solskjaer also deserves immense credit for sticking to his guns on Romelu Lukaku. The Belgian is clearly a quality player, as he’s shown since moving from United to Inter Milan last summer, and whether or not he really fitted properly at United, few would have argued that a big-money replacement was needed when he left.
Step forward, Mason Greenwood. The 18-year-old scored twice against Bournemouth in MUFC’s last game, but he scored perhaps his best goal yet at Villa Park tonight with a powerful effort from outside the box in the first half.
To see a player this genuinely two-footed is pretty rare, to see an 18-year-old who can hit them with either foot with such confidence from outside the box is the sign of a generational talent in the making.
Credit must go to Anthony Martial in the build-up on this goal too, with the Frenchman so often in and out of the team and flat-out mistrusted by Jose Mourinho to work hard enough for the team. Solskjaer, however, without needing to resort to Mourinho’s mind games and digs, has coaxed that out of him – something even many of the most optimistic Man Utd fans probably thought impossible not that long ago.
Paul Pogba later got in on the act to make it 3-0 in the second half, striking home a delightful effort from outside the box. This comes as the Manchester Evening News claim Solskjaer is now confident of tying the Frenchman down to a new contract – undoing huge amounts of damage that was done to the player during Mourinho’s time at Old Trafford. Once dubbed a ‘virus’ by the Portuguese tactician, Pogba now looks happy again and is becoming the heartbeat of this side in the way that he has for Juventus and France in the past.
Of course, there must be a word on VAR in all this, with United’s opener coming in farcical style – a very generous penalty that some might also say shows that the Man Utd of old are back!
That doesn’t take away from a deserved win, though, and a record-breaking one at that, with United becoming the first team in Premier League history to win four games in a row by a margin of three goals.
“Football is easy if you’ve got good players,” Solskjaer said after his first match in charge against Cardiff back in 2018. There have been ups and downs since then, but with those simple words the Norwegian showed the desire to return to the Man Utd way. With the team now more in his own image after the necessary changes in the transfer market and promotion of youngsters like Greenwood, those words ring truer than ever.