Because morale was at such a low ebb towards the end of Jose Mourinho’s tenure at Manchester United, the club sought a coach who could come in and immediately lift spirits.
A day after sacking Mourinho, United announced the appointment of club legend Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who was hired on an initial caretaker basis.
It was a move that worked, in the short term at least, to absolute perfection. Solskjaer instantly united the squad and the fans. More importantly, he was also getting results.
Solskjaer enjoyed a remarkable start to his United tenure following his appointment on December 19, 2018, winning his first eight matches in charge.
The Red Devils suffered just one defeat in Solskjaer’s first 17 games and enjoyed one of the greatest nights of the post-Sir Alex Ferguson era during that run: *that* epic victory away at Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League.
Solskjaer was handed a three-year contract shortly afterwards and, well, this is where things began to take a turn for the worse.
United were poor towards the end of last season, eventually finishing sixth in the Premier League table, and have struggled for consistency for the majority of the current campaign.
But in recent weeks - since suffering a 2-0 defeat at home to Burnley on January 22 - United have looked so much better and are currently on a 10-match unbeaten run in all competitions.
The arrival of Bruno Fernandes has given everyone at Old Trafford a lift and suddenly a top-four finish feels like a real possibility for the Premier League giants.
Furthermore, Solskjaer’s side are the current favourites to win the Europa League. They also have a chance of winning the FA Cup.
Solskjaer now has the backing of most United fans following the recent turnaround. More importantly, he has the complete support of the club’s hierarchy, including executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward.
United are currently fifth, as things stand, but how does the overall Premier League table look since Solskjaer’s appointment back in December 2018?
The Sun have crunched the numbers and published the table - and it clearly shows that United are heading in the right direction under their current manager.
Here’s the Premier League table since December 21, 2018:
23. Huddersfield | Played: 21, GD: -36, Points: 6
22. Fulham | Played: 21, GD: -21, Points: 17
21. Cardiff City | Played: 21, GD: -19, Points: 20
20. Norwich City | Played: 29, GD: -27, Points: 21
19. Aston Villa | Played: 28, GD: -22, Points: 25
18. Sheffield United | Played: 28, GD: 5, Points: 43
17. Brighton | Played: 50, GD: -29, Points: 44
16. Bournemouth | Played: 50, GD: -29 Points: 49
15. Watford | Played: 50, GD: -22, Points: 53
14. West Ham | Played: 50, GD: -18, Points: 55
13. Southampton | Played: 50, GD: -21, Points: 61
12. Newcastle | Played: 50, GD: -14, Points: 64
11. Burnley | Played: 50, GD: -11, Points: 67
10. Everton | Played: 50, GD: -3, Points: 67
9. Crystal Palace | Played: 50, GD: 1, Points: 73
8. Tottenham | Played: 50, GD: 20, Points: 73
7. Wolves | Played: 50, GD: 8, Points: 75
6. Arsenal | Played: 49, GD: 12, Points: 76
5. Chelsea | Played: 50, GD: 15, Points: 83
4. Leicester City | Played: 50, GD: 33, Points: 83
3. Manchester United | Played: 50, GD: 25, Points: 85
2. Manchester City | Played: 49, GD: 71, Points: 111
1. Liverpool | Played: 50, GD: 82, Points: 134
Okay, so United are miles behind Liverpool and City in terms of points amassed, but that’s hardly a shock.
To be in third place above the likes of Leicester City and Chelsea is still some achievement from Solskjaer.
United’s record from those 50 matches is 24 wins, 13 draws and 13 defeats, scoring 80 goals and conceding 55.
The Norwegian coach hasn’t been praised for the job he’s done too often this season, but this table suggests that some of the criticism he’s received has probably been unfair.
Of course, United are a club that is expected - and, indeed, expects - to be seriously challenging for the Premier League title every season.
They’re not at that stage just yet - but it might not be too much longer before they are, and fans may now feel that the club are making the right decision by sticking with Solskjaer.
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