United’s caretaker manager has now won two games from two in the Premier League, scoring eight goals and conceding two.
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Solskjaer’s side did give up some big chances to Huddersfield at Old Trafford on Boxing Day, but United were in second gear for most of the game and two moments of quality from Pogba in the second half (plus a world-class save from David De Gea) swung the game in their favor.
“Dave’s [de Gea] save was the defining moment, one of the best saves I’ve seen. I could see it going top corner and he stretches his second arm out,” Solskjaer said. “Paul [Pogba] knows he can score more goals and create chances. He had a few assists last week. He’s happy now… I was very pleased for him and the whole team. He loves football and has a big smile. That’s the Paul I have known since he was in the reserves and youth team. He’s always been a happy boy, a big smile on his face and when you score two you’re happy. It’s a response and Paul loves playing for this club. He’s a Manchester United boy through and through and knows what it means to play for the club.”
That last line will be music to the ears of United’s fans.
We all know the quality Pogba has in his locker, but it was clear he had clashed with Jose Mourinho ever since they both arrived at Old Trafford in the summer of 2016 and United’s former manager had failed to get the best out of the central midfielder.
As a teenager Pogba played for Solskjaer when he was the reserve team coach of United, and it appears the Norwegian is getting the best out of him once again. His two goals were superb finishes, and the second a wonderful effort into the bottom corner from over 25 yards out.
Discussing his return to Old Trafford (this time as manager) with the BBC after the game, Solskjaer lauded the incredible ovation he received. It left him feeling emotional as one of the most legendary goalscorers in United’s history hailed the fans.
“I’ve not got used to it yet. It’s humbling knowing I’m leading this team out. Let’s see if I get used to it. I captained a couple of games but this was very different,” Solskjaer said. “They are the best fans in the world. I had such a great relationship with them. It was probably more emotional for my family in my box as I was focussed on the game. I was surprisingly calm all day. The lads have helped me settle in really quickly.”
Next up for United is a home game against Bournemouth on Sunday and then a trip to Newcastle on Jan. 2. They are edging their way back into the conversation for a top four finish, and although they have beaten two struggling teams, the way they’ve beaten them points towards better times ahead between now and May when Solskjaer’s caretaker role ends.
The way United are attacking and playing without any fear, who says Solskjaer isn’t the right man to lead them back in the top four this season and then even more beyond that?
For now, nobody at Old Trafford is getting too ahead of themselves. They are just happy, like Pogba, to be able to express themselves and win games.
“It was important to win at our stadium, to bring a smile on the face of our supporters,” Nemanja Matic, who scored the first goal, added. “We made some mistakes. We need to see what we can do better. It’s a completely different atmosphere when you win games. This club doesn’t accept drawing or losing a game. This is the way we have to try to win the next one.”
With Solskjaer in charge and Mourinho gone, United have plenty of momentum and have already pushed their way back into the top four picture.
“Not a bad front three to come in and knock on the door. It will be great to get them back. Maybe we’ll change the front three,” Solskjaer said.