It’s finally over!
The self-titled ‘Special One’ is out the door and the sense of relief is palpable. We’ve made our worst Premier League start to a season since 1990 – 19 points off arch rivals Liverpool after just 17 games – and even our ill-judged experiment with David Moyes in the dugout is now looking favourable compared to the turgid displays that we’ve just sat through over the past two and a half years. In fact, we actually accumulated more points under the Scot after 17 games in 2013/14, with a much better goal difference to boot. Meanwhile, the 29 goals we’ve shipped this term is more than not just the entirety of last campaign, but actually worse than Huddersfield this term – despite the Terriers being second from bottom with just two wins all season!
The debacle at Anfield was emblematic of the turnaround in fortunes at the two clubs. Indeed, the 3-1 scoreline didn’t tell the whole picture, with Jurgen Klopp’s outfit winning the shot count 36-6 (11-2 on target), while Jesse Lingard’s consolation came after an Alisson howler. Yes, Shaqiri’s two efforts may both have taken deflections, but David De Gea was already being peppered by that stage and one or two were bound to fly in at the Kop end eventually. Liverpool commanded 65% of possession, while the second half alone saw a shot count of 21-3.
That this was a changing of the guard can be demonstrated by the fact that this was Liverpool’s first win over us since September 2013, while it was also a first victory for Klopp over Mourinho in the Premier League at the sixth time of asking.
It was always a terrible approach to just pile bodies behind the ball and hope to snatch a goal on the break down the other end.. Could you imagine Klopp setting his team out in that manner? Of course, the answer is “no”. We went for the route one option far too often and looked scared of the ball under the lightest of pressure, let alone when faced with flat out swagger.
Solskjaer can “attack, attack, attack”
While it’s nice to think a United legend can just waltz in and save the crockery, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has a monumental task on his hands and his time in charge of Cardiff leaves us a little apprehensive of his managerial qualities. However, whereas containment was always the order of the day in big games under Mourinho, we’re closer to the bottom of the table than the leaders now and with nothing to lose, a swashbuckling approach is the only possible way we’re going to end up snatching an unlikely fourth place.
In theory, his first two assignments should prove relatively straight forwards, but with a large in-tray to take care of, we’d recommend sticking to the goals markets against Cardiff. We’ve been porous in defence, despite having one of the best in the business between the sticks, as 14 of our 17 matches have seen both teams find the net, while the same number have seen over 2.5 goals. Solskjaer can’t amend that straight away – even if he turns out to be a genius – and given the Bluebirds have scored in seven of their last nine, while they’ve won four of their last five at home, we’d expect a right ding-dong full of goals.