Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side head to Anfield on Sunday at the top of the Premier League, three points ahead of the team that so mercilessly went wild for the title last season.
It has been a remarkable transformation from just a few months ago when speculation was rampant that Solskjaer could be sacked if he did not pull off a result against Everton.
But he did pull off a result, with United winning at Goodison Park – and they have been unbeaten in the top flight ever since, having won eight and drawn in two of their last 10 games.
And just as the pressure came on Solskjaer after a humiliating loss to Istanbul Basaksehir, credit goes to the manager now that his side are on top in January for the first time since Sir Alex Ferguson’s last triumphant season.
In July, Solskjaer spoke about what he expected from the United dressing room.
“I don’t want a culture of blame here,” he told The High Performance podcast. “I think they’re all deep now, it depends on them. ”
The manager went on to show that he learned from his former mentor Ferguson, who was famous for getting rid of players when he perceived they no longer had a positive influence on the team.
Asked how he could eradicate the ‘culture of blame’, Solskjaer replied: ‘Quietly – because they gradually end up not playing and being out of the club.
“I’m not a ranter or a raver saying ‘If you don’t change that… I’m quietly ticking behind my ear and saying, okay let’s take a look at the next game, if he does the same. is wrong again or if he blames others again… and in the end, you gradually wean them off.
Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez were dumped under Solskjaer’s surveillance.
And Paul Pogba could have easily joined them, with talks about the midfielder’s future having been a constant distraction since before the current manager took over.
But Solskjaer’s recent handling of the World Cup winner was a fine example of the manager reaping the rewards of trust in his players.
After super agent Mino Raiola said his client was unhappy and wanted to leave, Solskjaer responded by putting Pogba on his team.
And the 27-year-old stepped up, with his winning performance against Burnley to put United at the top of the pile, the latest in a series of positive performances.
Pogba is not the only one to benefit from Solskjaer’s approach, however. Witness Luke Shaw returns to form in response to the arrival of Alex Telles.
Marcus Rashford is another who has thrived, and United play as a team again, with a collective will to win that drives them to result after result.
Solskjaer and his players have had a lot of doubts over the past two seasons – but they are starting to prove them wrong.
The admission of Red Devils legend Gary Neville after Burnley’s game perfectly summed up how United are currently confusing their critics.
“I never would have imagined it and you have to give the players credit,” Neville said.
“I’ve been critical along with a lot of other people over the last year or two, three or four, as the postings have been way below the level expected by the club.
“But they’re doing some really good things right now. ”
Neville is hoping his former club will continue to do “good things” at Anfield on Sunday. The race for the title is well underway.
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