Five goals! Not one or two or even three or four, but five! If Ole Gunnar Solskjaer wanted his players to silence anyone who questioned the wisdom in handing the biggest job in football to a man whose sole Premier League experience was getting Cardiff City relegated, then they certainly delivered.
Yes it’s Cardiff – who must really love the sight of Ole in either dugout – but it’s an emphatic win featuring more goals than United have managed in the league since Sir Alex retired. Not only did United put five past a relatively hapless Cardiff side, they did it with an attacking flair that’s been missing for much of the season, people will point to the recent 4-1 win over Fulham as proof we’ve seen this before recently, but even that game didn’t quite have the excellent penetrative flair of this one. The shackles have been taken off and whatever the reason, long may it continue.
So what did Saturday’s goal fest tell us other than Ole is now even more beloved than he was a week ago?
1. Paul Pobga is back. Regardless of whether you’re Pogba FC or whatever moniker has been attributed to his fanbase nowadays, you can’t help but have admired the way the French midfielder tore apart a Cardiff side that will do well to be playing Premier League football next season. With his defensive obligations at a minimum, Pogba was in his full pomp with some excellent passes, including a perfectly weighted one for Jesse Lingard’s second and was a tad unfortunate not to get on the scoresheet with a fine speculative effort. Yes he still boils more urine than a Raheem Sterling bathroom selfie, but if United can see more of this Pogba then there could still be life left in United’s season.
2. Jesse Lingard is back to his best. After a slow start to the season, hampered by injuries, Lingard has been one of United’s shining lights over the past few weeks, even emerging from the Anfield debacle relatively unscathed after grabbing the Reds’ only goal. A brace on Saturday and an energetic, slick, display cemented Warrington’s finest reputation as being someone who’s earned the right to represent his club with the same regularity he represents his country.
You are my Solskjaer
3. Ed Woodward has pulled off a masterstroke. No matter what you think of United’s ‘Executive Vice-Chairman’ – personally I wish he’d do one and leave the football side of things to people who actually understand the game – appointing Solskjaer and Saturday’s win has already shifted the focus away from Ed’s incompetence. There’s even talk of United not spending any money in January, now there’s a great big Glazernomics shaped surprise. As long as United keep winning this side of the end of the transfer window, no doubt Darth Woodward will keep the Emperor happy by not spending any money improving the squad, which would obviously be better served getting the Glazers a diamond encrusted Death Star.
4. Nemanja Matic isn’t finished yet. He’s 28, no he’s not he’s 29, not until he actually turns 29 he isn’t. So began one of the most ridiculous yet entertaining arguments in Twitter history and to be fair to our Serbian midfielder things haven’t got any less cantankerous since, when it comes to his time at Old Trafford. Matic has become the poster boy for the anti-Jose Mourinho brigade and now the Angry One has departed, even more attention falls on the midfielder’s shoulders. Despite the pre-match protests at Matic’s inclusion he was excellent against Cardiff doing exactly the job he was bought for, allowing his colleagues to get forward while he nullified the hosts attacks.
5. Attack, attack, attack. It’s no secret Mourinho’s pragmatic approach had left many players and even fans feeling stifled and whether or not you agree with his sacking, the shift in tactics was undeniable. Yes, it’s only Cardiff, a mantra that’s fast becoming obligatory before any comment on Saturday’s game, but seeing the players, especially the full backs bombing forward was a timely reminder of what’s been missing not just since Mourinho was appointed but right back to the departure of Sir Alex.
If United are to achieve the seemingly impossible task of catching the top four, then it won’t be down to just beating fodder like Cardiff, but if the team approaches every game with the same gusto we saw in Wales, then at the very least the fans will be entertained along the way. After five years of relative tedium on the pitch it’s good to see Solskjaer begin his reign with something more ‘the United way’ – only time will tell if it remains constant. Starting on Boxing Day when the Reds’ host Huddersfield.