Manchester United ran rampant against Cardiff City as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer took charge of his first game as interim manager.
A 5-1 win over Premier League newcomers Cardiff got Solskjaer off to a perfect start in the United hotseat, and everyone connected with the club is feeling better ahead of Christmas as a result.
It’s funny how football can bring you down. There has been a weight on our shoulders these past few months, but now the lads appear to be playing with smiles on their faces again.
Long may that continue.
Unfortunately, it comes at Mourinho’s expense. He was unable to bring joy to the dressing room and made football look like work to these players.
Here are three positives we observed from the game.
The healing process begins
We don’t have the precise details about each dressing room incident that occurred under Mourinho, but there was tension and it wasn’t the happiest of environments. Solskjaer must unify this group of players and yesterday’s win got the ball rolling nicely.
A lot of these players joined United in recent years, expecting to have signed for the biggest football club in the world, but that notion quickly goes out the window when suits in charge care more about new sponsor deals and how many shirts each player will sell each summer.
It is a credit to Solskjaer how quickly he has them playing better football, the sort we were used to watching on the terraces with United, but it must continue.
The healing process won’t be completed overnight. It might go on for years until we’re safely able to predict a title race, and that is not something I see happening anytime soon.
Ed Woodward and the Glazers only think of one thing and it’s not trophies. That’s precisely why United have been left behind while Manchester City and Liverpool have strengthened.
Manchester United scored five goals in a league game for the first time in the post Sir Alex Ferguson era. While it was only against Cardiff City, you can only beat the team that is in front of you, and this season United have not been putting away teams like they did on Saturday.
They did it under Mourinho against Fulham, a truly awful side, but nobody saw that 4-1 result coming. It’s not in the Portuguese tactician to allow his attacking players express themselves. He prefers ‘mad dogs’ to disrupt play and to control games while boring everyone in the stadium to sleep.
Solskjaer, however, wants his team to entertain as well as score goals. He’s managed one game so far and our goal difference would be +4 if it was the first game of the season, whereas most weeks under Mourinho this season it has been negative in the standings. Truly unacceptable for Manchester United.
Perhaps the biggest observation from the match was how each United player played with freedom. There were even times when Victor Lindelof lost the run of himself and entered Cardiff City’s half of the pitch, and he looked comfortable doing so…
It was encouraging from start to finish. United have not played many games and dominated for 90 minutes since Fergie’s retirement (I can’t think of one), with Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho rarely able to get good spells out of their teams – for 45 minutes tops. The energy against Cardiff was on show for everyone to see, with the Reds winning every second battle and dominating possession throughout.
Another relief came as United never stopped their search for goals. Even after the fifth went in as Jesse Lingard rounded goalkeeper Neil Etheridge, the Reds never looked like they were ready to put their foot off the gas. But under Mourinho that was the norm after going a goal ahead…
Hopefully, we go into the second half of the season with the same approach, brushing teams aside and climb our way back towards the top four.
And, apologies for sounding a little giddy. It’s nice being able to enjoy football again.