The comparisons between Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Manchester United and Jose Mourinho’s are thankfully beginning to stop. People are mainly just focussed on Ole in his own right as a manager and the fantastic job he’s done since taking the helm.
But let’s just look at one more comparison. One last time for good measure.
Mourinho’s record at Stamford Bridge for United was pretty terrible. He didn’t win once. In fact United’s record against Chelsea in London has been woeful for a long time. Once again, Ole went against the grain and dispatched another top 6 side with ease.
He got his tactics spot on. He understood their weaknesses and he capitalised on them in true Ole fashion. Even without the supreme pace of Jesse Lingard and Anthony Martial. He opted instead for the nous of Juan Mata and the freeing of Ander Herrera from his Mourinho-enforced man-marking role on Eden Hazard. It paid off in dividends.
And here’s where there’s a slight similarity between Ole and Jose. They both fixate on the opposition before any match.
The big difference, however, is that where Mourinho was all about fixating on his opponents’ strengths and how he could stop them, Ole focuses on their weaknesses and how to exploit them.
It’s obvious which one is the better strategy.
Which brings us on to the final comparison we’re going to make between the two of them. Paul Pogba. Once again the Frenchman was in supreme form against Chelsea on Monday. He managed to free himself in dangerous positions constantly.
For the first goal, he was in acres of space after he drifted wide. His cross for Herrera to finish was fantastic. For the second it was all about timing his run into the box, Bryan Robson style.
It’s too easy to label Pogba as being all about pace, power and strength. In reality his qualities are timing, a vision of what’s around him and supreme ability to pick a pass.
Ole clearly recognises this and has placed full trust in him. Jose completely lost any trust and relegated him to the bench.
The turnaround has been stark. He now has nine goals and six assists since the Norwegian took over. No player represents the upturn in quite the same way.
After the game, the United number 6 summed it up in seven words: “He trusts us, and we trust him.”
The “he” is extremely pointed. It seems the thinly-veiled digs towards the Mourinho camp are continuing.
I’ve been extremely critical of Pogba this season. His form simply wasn’t good enough in the first half of the season and it was clear he wanted away.
For me this brings with it a few questions. Is it purely tactical? Does he truly need to feel the love? I’m ok with these questions. I’m a little less comfortable with: Was he even trying before? Does he still want to leave?
The fact he went from so poor to so good suggests a lack of effort and even a desire to underperform to get the manager out. That’s worrying.
And the last question. Many United fans seem to believe that, like Martial, he’s done a complete U-turn and will commit his future to United. The next few seasons could end up being his best years as a footballer, considering his age. But will it be at Old Trafford? I’m less sure.
Just because there’s been no murmurings and agitating for a move doesn’t mean it isn’t on the cards. After all, we all know about his agent. If he puts himself in the shop window by continuing to perform as he is on top of his World Cup win, it would be no surprise to see Barcelona calling in the summer. Then we’ll see the true lie of the land.
But that can wait for the summer. For the moment let’s content ourselves with enjoying our time under Ole, consolidating our position in the top four, winning the FA Cup and kicking off next season with the manager we all want still in charge. And no more Mourinho comparisons.