Gordon Strachan believes the work Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has done at Manchester United means Jose Mourinho needs to re-evaluate his managerial approach.
The 46-year-old Norwegian tactician succeeded Mourinho last December, after starting the season poorly, and has since turned United’s fortunes around.
Solskjaer at Old Trafford: five key things to know…
- Matches: 19
- Wins-Draws-Losses: 14-2-3
- Goals (conceded): 40 (17)
- Most used player (appearances): Marcus Rashford (18)
- If this season’s Premier League began with Solskjaer’s appointment then United would be top (32 points from 13 played) – a point ahead of Liverpool.
Mourinho entered this season, his third at Old Trafford, looking to build on last season’s runners-up finish, but after a promising start the Red Devils began to lose their way.
He’d ultimately last for 17 league matches, in which United won seven times, the final straw being a humbling 3-1 loss at traditional rivals Liverpool.
That defeat coupled with a perceived falling out with some members of his squad forced the powers that be to dismiss the decorated Portuguese coach and replace him with club legend and former reserve team boss Solskjaer.
He’s since injected newfound optimism in the 20-time English champions, who spectacularly reached the Champions League quarter-finals at Paris Saint-Germain’s expense, and ex-Red Devils player Strachan believes Solskjaer has made Mourinho feel somewhat antiquated but he can, of course, turn it around.
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“We all agree that, over the last 15 years, Mourinho has been one of the best tacticians in football and I thought it would be hard for Ole to replace someone like Jose and the presence he has got,” he said.
“I did not believe any manager could, actually. I didn’t think the kind of negativity coming from Jose could get to a group of players the way it did. I thought it needed more to rectify than man-management. I don’t know Ole that well but I couldn’t see him and his group being as good as Mourinho tactically.
“So what he has brought in shows you there’s more to football. For all the seminars you get in sport psychology, all the systems, all the ‘Players have to drink x-amount of water, they have to be sleeping by such a time, they need two grams of rice’ – and the rest of it – it basically comes down to man-management.
“It just reaffirms that good people can change football clubs with drive.The attitude of the players has just changed completely, which is why Mourinho has to go away now and re-evaluate what he was up to at United.”
Big weeks ahead
United are likely to suffer another trophyless season after being dumped out of the FA Cup, their only realistic chance of silverware, by Wolves (2-1) just before this recent international break.
There’s an outside chance of winning a fourth European Cup but Barcelona, the favourites to lift the Champions League title in June, stand in their way. And if they do get past Messi and company a potential date with Liverpool or FC Porto await in the semi-finals.
Solskjaer, yet to be announced as United’s permanent manager, will see his current focus on securing a top four finish something many felt wouldn’t be possible when he took charge. United were sixth, and 11 points behind fourth place, when he returned.
Across the following 13 league outings the Red Devils have picked up 32 points (already six more than Mourinho managed with four more games played) which leaves them in fifth and two points below the Champions League spots.
Before entertaining Barca in their Champions League quarter-final first-leg meeting there’s league meetings with high-flyers Watford (home) and Wolves (away).