By Brian Bariyo Tumuramye
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is not the type of person given to public self-congratulation. The Manchester United manager really does prefer it to be ‘not about him’.
But as he enjoyed the “couple of glasses of red” he promised himself in celebration of a phenomenal week, which began with headlines that he feared for his job if results against Spurs and Manchester City did not go his way, and when they ended with victories in both games, the Norwegian could only reflect on a job well done.
It would be wrong to say Solskjaer has saved himself from joining Marco Silva, Quique Sanchez Flores, Unai Emery and Mauricio Pochettino among the recent managerial fall-guys. That was not a prospect.
The man himself dismissed the headlines about fearing for his job as lies. And inside Old Trafford, among the people who count, the feeling is that Manchester United are in the process of a rebuild.
And they feel the trajectory is upwards, even as they acknowledge there will be difficult days – like those already experienced this season at Bournemouth and Newcastle.
But they are certain they share the same vision as their manager, which has not always been the case since Sir Alex Ferguson retired in 2013. And they are committed to giving Solskjaer the time he needs to bring it to fruition.
“I have seen the improvement since I came,” he said. “We have had to reshape the squad, change the culture, change the way we want to play. You can call it counter-attacking but that sounds negative. For me it is quick, attacking, flowing football with the right intent.
“There is no intention to take it back to the keeper. We have players with pace, quality and skill. I wouldn’t want James, Lingard, Martial and Rashford running at me.”
Up in the directors’ box, Solskjaer’s mentor, Sir Alex Ferguson, certainly enjoyed the 2-1 win at Manchester City, Seated alongside him was former chief executive David Gill, and the pair are a reminder of the club’s halcyon days
It is those days the man whose goal won the 1999 Champions League final is trying to rediscover.
No-one knows if he will achieve it. But the United fans who pay to watch their team play will back him to the hilt in the hope he does.
At about the hour mark the 3,000 populating a corner of the Etihad’s South Stand delivered an audible “Ole, Ole, Ole, Ole”. This was followed by “Who put the ball in the German net?” in honour of that never-to-be-forgotten moment against Bayern Munich at the Nou Camp.
Those same songs are heard at every United game, including at Cardiff nearly 12 months ago, five days after executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward made the call to Solskjaer and asked him to put a smile back on the club’s face as they slipped down the Premier League under Jose Mourinho.
He didn’t envisage then that Solskjaer would get the job permanently. It was over the time that followed it became apparent the Norwegian shared the same wider vision as he did.
That vision involves a commitment to attacking football. In his latter years, Ferguson did use the counter-attack with increasing regularity, so Solskjaer is not reinventing history with his post-match comments. It also involves the use of home-grown players.