5 achievements of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as Manchester United manager

Ole Gunnar Solksjaer was recently removed from his position as Manchester United manager.
Ole Gunnar Solksjaer was recently removed from his position as Manchester United manager.
Mayank Singhania

The inevitable departure of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as manager was finally announced by Manchester United. Given the run of poor results, the club couldn't be blamed. The hashtag #OleOut was the common sentiment across a section of fans, and even the most hardcore Solskjaer supporters couldn't disagree. His position as manager had become untenable.

Despite all the money spent over the summer, the results produced by the team were unacceptable. It was clear that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was unable to get the desired results.

Throughout his near three-year tenure at Old Trafford, Solskjaer was routinely dismissed by a section of football punditry. He was called a 'glorified PE teacher' to someone with no tactical knowhow.

The manager is only as good as his last few results. But there are many things Ole Gunnar Solskjaer can be proud of during his tenure as gaffer at Old Trafford. Rather than looking at his failures, let's look at five of the high points of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's managerial stint at Manchester United:

#1 Solskjaer lifted Manchester United from the shambles of the Mourinho era

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer made a good start to life as Manchester United manager.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer made a good start to life as Manchester United manager.

In 2018 after Jose Mourinho was sacked, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was bought in as an interim manager. The team was in shambles, and the dressing room morale was at an all-time low.

Solskjaer's appointment had an immediate, magical impact on the team. The team that looked lost and wayward suddenly went on a dominant, unbeaten run of games.

There was once again the attacking swagger and never-say-die spirit rekindled in the team, which seemed to have gone missing after the legendary Sir Alex Ferguson's retirement. The run of results left the question of permanent manager moot, and Solskjaer was appointed the full-time United manager.

Ole’s at the wheel! We can confirm that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has been appointed as #MUFC manager.

Mou's acerbic nature and difficult persona had left behind a toxic atmosphere in the dressing room and a lack of self-belief amongst the players. One cannot, even in the backdrop of the present disarray, say that the improvement in the team's fortunes had nothing to do with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

He must be given credit where it's due; Solskjaer did rejuvenate the team after Mourinho.

#2 That magical comeback in Paris

Paris Saint-Germain vs Manchester United - UEFA Champions League Round of 16: Second Leg
Paris Saint-Germain vs Manchester United - UEFA Champions League Round of 16: Second Leg

After a 2-0 home defeat, United headed to PSG facing virtually impossible odds in the second leg of their Champions League Round of 16 tie. They were under a new manager not renowned for such situations. It was Solskjaer's first major challenge.

Manchester United took an early lead through Romelu Lukaku in Paris, but a superb cross from Kylian Mbappe levelled the scores on the night. A mistake from PSG custodian Gianluigi Buffon then allowed United to score again.

Romelu Lukaku took full advantage of Buffon's spill to make it 2-1 on the night and 2-3 on aggregate. But United still needed another goal to complete a miraculous comeback as the game entered injury time.

A shot from Diogo Dalot hit Presnel Kimpembe's outstretched hand inside the PSG penalty area in the 91st minute. The resulting penalty was calmly converted by Marcus Rashford. Suddenly it was 3-3 on aggregate, and United were ahead on away goals.

United held on to seal an incredible, impossible victory after trailing on aggregate for more than 180 minutes over two legs.

The epic story of how we beat PSG last time out… 😍Bring on today’s game! #MUFC

To come back and win under such odds had personified Manchester United's spirit for decades. The team under Solskjaer once again showed the world that the word 'impossible' meant little to United. The victory in Paris remains one of the most memorable moments of Solskjaer's managerial stint at Manchester United.

#3 The inspired signing of Bruno Fernandes

Bruno Fernandes has been an inspired signing by Manchester United.
Bruno Fernandes has been an inspired signing by Manchester United.

Before the winter transfer window of the 2019-20 season, Manchester United were well outside the Champions League spots in the league table. They were linked with many star names, but none of those transfers materialised. By the end of the transfer window, Manchester United had made just one signing - that of a certain Bruno Fernandes.

But what a difference did that one signing make! Bruno Fernandes, since joining from Sporting Lisbon, has been a talisman for the team. He fit perfectly at the team, creating and scoring goals. The Portuguese magnifico lifted United with his aggressive passing and accurate finishing, delighting the fans. Rarely does a signing have such an immediate impact. Bruno Fernandes gave Solskjaer a selection headache when Paul Pogba recovered from injury.

Despite the COVID-19-interrupted season, United finished third in the league table. They earned more points than any other team since the Portuguese midfielder was signed. In his first full season in 2021-22, Bruno Fernandes showed that he was no flash in the pan.

He once again wowed the Old Trafford faithful with his remarkable performances on the pitch. Fernandes finished the season with an impressive tally of 28 goals and 18 assists across competitions - the best-ever campaign by a Premier League midfielder.

Bruno Fernandes has scored 28 goals in all competitions this season, the best ever in a single season by a Premier League midfielder. #mufc

Solskjaer was able to create a team that played around Bruno Fernandes as a pivot. The tactics employed by Solskjaer unlocked many defences that were difficult to break down. Against better oppositions, Solskjaer employed a counter-attacking strategy with great success, with Fernandes switching play from defence to attack.

Despite Solskjaer's departure from the club and the arrival of a certain Cristiano Ronaldo, Bruno Fernandes remains a key figure in the United dressing room.

#4 The resurgence of Luke Shaw

Luke Shaw enjoyed a remarkable resurgence under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer at Manchester United.
Luke Shaw enjoyed a remarkable resurgence under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer at Manchester United.

Luke Shaw was signed by Manchester United in 2014 from Southampton on a reported £27 million fee. That made him the fourth-most expensive defender of his time.

Shaw was considered amongst the best teens in his position. However, his Manchester United career was blighted with poor form and injuries. Shaw was nowhere close to the potential United expected him to reach at the time of his signing.

His injuries and lacklustre performances saw him dropped from the England squad as well. Under Mourinho, Luke Shaw seemed to be a lost cause, with the manager going public with Shaw's criticism.

However, under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Luke Shaw enjoyed a remarkable resurgence. Helped by encouragement and a positive approach, Luke Shaw turned a corner.

In the 2020-21 season, Shaw's form made him undroppable, not just for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's United, but also for Gareth Southgate's England. The youngster's transformation in fortunes was incredible, as described by BBC:

"Numerous sources have said Shaw - an unassuming character, according to one - responds best to support, encouragement and an arm around the shoulder. This is what he gets from Solskjaer. He certainly did not from Mourinho."

Since Solskjaer took over, Luke Shaw has seen a dramatic improvement in his performance, both in attack and defence. This improvement has also led to the moniker 'Shaw-berto'.

The stark contrast in Shaw's performance under the last two Manchester United managers goes to show the positivity and man-management skills Solskjaer brought to the table.

#5 Manchester United's incredible unbeaten away run under Solskjaer

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

The legendary Sir Alex Ferguson had made Old Trafford a fortress. Visiting teams would find it very tough to take points at Old Trafford during his tenure. Winning at Old Trafford was supposed to be a major achievement for any manager at that time.

Under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Manchester United could not quite keep the same home form. But as visitors, they prospered. Under Solskjaer, United went on an unbeaten run of 29 Premier League games away from home. That included going an entire season (2020-21) undefeated in away league games.

A lot of these games were come-from-behind wins. Home teams that celebrated early goals against The Red Devils would often find themselves at the losing end after 90 minutes.

Staying undefeated away from home is no mean feat. Away games are considered more difficult than home games for obvious reasons. But the brilliance United showed away from home during his tenure will remain amongst the greatest achievements of Solskjaer's reign at Old Trafford.

Solskjaer ended his United stint without any silverware. But he did come within a penalty shootout of winning his first title at United last season. David de Gea's miss in an epic shootout featuring no other misses put paid to United's title hopes. Villarreal eventually beat United 11-10 on penalties in the 2020-21 UEFA Europa League final in Gdansk.

After a marathon penalty shoot-out, Spain’s #Villarreal edged out Manchester United in the #EuropaLeagueFinal at Gdansk in…

Yes, United struggled under Solskjaer this season - a surprise reverse at Young Boys and five defeats in seven Premier League games - three of them at home. After the signings of Ronaldo, Raphael Varane and Jadon Sancho, United were expected to be contenders in major competitions. But they fell too far off the pace.

Nevertheless, as the cloud of negativity disperses, United fans should remember Solskjaer more for his intangible achievements than for not winning any trophies during his tenure at Old Trafford.

Edited by Bhargav
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