Ole Gunnar Solskjaer immediately set a positive tone as Manchester United’s caretaker manager with a rousing speech at the club’s annual Christmas party, according to the Telegraph‘s James Ducker.
Morale among players was at an all-time low following a steady descent into dysfunction and paranoia under Jose Mourinho, who was dismissed after a 3-1 defeat at Anfield before Christmas.
Solskjaer, along with Mike Phelan, has allowed players to breathe on the pitch again, with Man United producing five wins out of five under the Norwegian’s leadership.
And according to Ducker, the air of optimism was instilled straight away when Solskjaer spoke at the Christmas party on his first day as boss. He told players it was their duty to put smiles on the faces of supporters, reportedly declaring: “If you can’t enjoy yourself at United, where can you enjoy yourself?”
This is a wonderfully illuminating piece from Ducker – one of the best United journalists out there – which details the way in which Solskjaer, through little more than practical man-management, has reversed the tide of despair cast by Mourinho.
Solskjaer has not been afraid to enlist the hairdryer treatment; he has also personally spoken to and coached players in an attempt to improve them, most notably with Marcus Rashford; he has told players to focus more on themselves and care less about the opponent; he has not served as a dictator, delegating more responsibility to Phelan, Michael Carrick and Kieran McKenna on the training ground; and he has, most importantly, treated players like humans.
In other words: Solskjaer has fulfilled the functions of what you’d expect from a manager, encouraging a more open environment and style of football which best suits the players.
In a counterfactual way, then, this exclusive really just underlines the sheer toxicity and incompetence of Mourinho, and the effect it had on United players.