How Solskjaer turned Man Utd around from "toxic, sinking" defeat to Burnley

Football has a curious manner of throwing up little coincidences.

On January 22 2020 Manchester United were booed off the pitch at a half-empty Old Trafford after slumping to a 2-0 defeat to Burnley which left them 30 points behind league leaders Liverpool.

On Tuesday, just under a year later, the same opponents will offer United the opportunity to go ahead of their bitter rivals and top the Premier League for the first time since September 2017.

It's fair to say a lot has changed in 12 months.

Dolly Parton once said "If you want the rainbow, you have to put up with the rain."

But on that fateful January night it looked like there would be no light at the end of the tunnel for United as goals from Chris Wood and Jay Rodriguez saw them fall to the limpest of all limp defeats amid foggy, drizzly conditions.

The result came just days after a loss to Liverpool, and patience in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer looked to be at an all-time low.

Former midfielder Darren Fletcher called the atmosphere inside Old Trafford "toxic" and said the youngsters were "sinking" under the pressure, while Rio Ferdinand labelled the result and performance "an embarrassment".

It looked only a matter of time before Solskjaer would be replaced, with Mauricio Pochettino waiting in the wings.

Yet a year on, here we are.

So, what has changed?

The obvious answer which cannot be disputed comes in the form of a Portuguese attacking midfielder.

Bruno Fernandes arrived just eight days after the Burnley loss, and has been an utter revelation ever since.

It is not just his outrageous stats on the pitch that have caught the eye, but his leadership skills and influence on the less experienced members of the team too.

He has popped up time and time again to contribute when United need him most, and only a fool would suggest the Red Devils would have been anywhere near where they are now without him.

But it is not only Fernandes who has helped turn things around.

Solskjaer appears to have finally settled on a preferred centre-back partnership of Harry Maguire and Eric Bailly after chopping and changing a number of times in the past.

And that duo have shone in recent weeks, exuding calm to the rest of the team and seemingly gaining a strong understanding with each other.

Solskjaer himself must also taking credit for never losing faith in his abilities despite the near constant doubting of him by some quarters.

His resilient, never-say-die attitude has often manifested itself on the pitch, with United coming from behind a number of times to win games late on.

He has also made a number of shrewd signings other than Fernandes, with Edinson Cavani surprising some with his impact so far after the decision to snap him up was questioned.

Above all United look like a team who are enjoying their football again, and they are certainly one of the most entertaining sides to watch this season.

Of course, there have been ups and downs in the last year, and they still appear to be a streaky team who can easily go unbeaten for a number of games before then going on a bad run.

But in this most unpredictable of Premier League seasons, that might just prove to be enough.

If you had asked anyone leaving Old Trafford after the Burnley game last year whether they believed their side would be in with a shout of a first title since 2013 this season they would have laughed in your face.

Yet with a victory on Tuesday night and a win over Liverpool at the weekend some may just start to believe it could happen.

Football… Bloody hell.

Source: Read Full Article