Who would have thought that Jose Mourinho would have left a legacy in Old Trafford?
If Manchester United doesn’t venture into the Theater of Dreams with exciting football, there are baby steps for improvement under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer with one goal awarded in four games prior to the Premier League clash against Watford.
Solskjaer will point out summer buys Harry Maguire and Aaron Wan-Bissaka as factors, but equally important is the protective role played by Mourinho signings Nemanja Matic and Fred for them.
Nemanja Matic has recently been an integral part of the improvement of Manchester United
Fred made another signature before Ole Gunnar Solskjaer arrived who did well
Matic, 31, is an integral part of United’s improvement, although he is now facing additional competition from fit-again Scott McTominay.
The towering midfielder is a rare Premier League title winner in the callow squadron of Solskjaer, but was made scapegoat due to the poor early season form of United and then missed two months of injury.
Since his return in December, United has kept eight clean sheets in the 14 games the Serbian has played. He started with eight of the last nine and misses the other due to suspension. In the last year of his contract, he does everything he can to get United to make a new offer.
“That’s football,” Matic reflects on his chaotic campaign. “I knew that things can change in football and now I am fit, happy, playing. It’s the same for players of every age, believe you get a chance and when it comes, take it.
Jose Mourinho has left a lasting legacy in Manchester United with his signing sessions
“It is much easier if you always play. You get more confidence. Playing once a month is hard.
“We are all part of clean sheets, but especially those at the back, me as a defensive midfielder. We have made progress and I am proud of that. We talk to each other. We communicate. Everyone is trying to be involved.
“I’m glad Scott is back. There is always room in the team for good players. I’m not worried. He is the kind of player that I like to train with them. As a person he is very good. “
It is ironic that Solskjaer arrived in Old Trafford with a mission to restore United’s attacking football with young players. But they are more traditional qualities that have led to the recent momentum of United, symbolized by a devotee from Mourinho such as Matic.
Monday’s win over Chelsea renewed hope for a finish in the top four. Thursday’s draw in Bruges puts them in a strong position to get ahead in the Europa League.
Solskjaer has embraced the importance of leadership. Maguire has responded well as captain. The signing of Bruno Fernandes in January has impressed his vocal skills as much as his technical skills.
These are themes that Mourinho also emphasized, but in a surly manner. Solskjaer says similar things, but with a smile.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer sees the benefits of the signatures during the reign of Mourinho
“I didn’t expect Harry to be captain so soon, but he has everything a leader should have. It was normal for him to take on the role, “the manager of United explained.
“We have had Gary Neville, Roy Keane, Eric Cantona and Ryan Giggs as United’s captains. Harry is his own husband. United is, if not the largest, one of the two or three largest clubs in the world and he is the front man.
“You must have thick skin. You may not sulk or feel sorry for yourself. We have a few men and a few boys in our team. He has an example for everyone. Turn off games, play time and time again. “
“He organizes paintball, he organizes a penalty system, he controls everything.”
In midfield, the expressive Fernandes was drawn for both his creativity and his personality.
“Another conductor,” is how Solskjaer describes him. “He reminds me of Scholesy (Paul Scholes) as a player, but is a different type of person outside the field. He walked around on the bank in Bruges, talked to the starters, helped them, gave them instructions.
“I am very impressed and in the 10 minutes that he played at the end, you saw that there was a difference in our team.”
Watford are ideal opponents this afternoon to measure United’s progress. Two months ago she capitulated 2-0 on Vicarage Road, with goalkeeper David de Gea making a mistake.
The next away match, at Burnley, Matic was selected for his first three-month Premier League match and things have been tightened since, despite United missing their two biggest names, Marcus Rashford and Paul Pogba.
Odion Ighalo, the most surprising transfer in January, was able to cope with his previous club Sunday. He probably starts again on the bench with in-form Anthony Martial looking for his 14-goal count.