Manchester United: The Comeback of the feared kings
On a cold, rainy night in Paris on March 6, Manchester United scripted one of the most dramatic wins in the history of football. It was a sort of night that evoked memories of Manchester United's great 1999 Champions League triumph against all odds. Coincidentally, the man who scored the winner in that game is currently at the wheels of power at Manchester United, driving the club back to its glorious days.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, the man who rescued Manchester United as a substitute player on numerous occasions is doing the same as a manager this time at Old Trafford. Given the job by the Manchester United thinktank to carry the team till the end of the season after a disastrous start to the season led by the former manager, Jose Mourinho, Solskjaer has taken to the role just as the duck takes to water. In charge since the middle of December, Solskjaer has completely transformed the fortunes of Manchester United and they currently look like a team which can do no wrong.
Solskjaer's statistics say that Manchester United, under him, have won 14 out of their 17 games in the past 2 months. But what's more impressive and startling is the change in the attitude and the confidence among the players, who looked completely out of sorts and low on confidence under Jose Mourinho.
Solskjaer has instilled the long lost attacking mindset among the players, which has seen the players adapt to it quickly and employ it emphatically in match situations. The Norwegian's management skills and training methods have come as a breath of fresh air for United's superstars, who seemed unhappy and unfond of Mourinho's tactics. Solskjaer has also brought smiles back on the faces of the players, which has consequently reflected in their performances on the field.
When the draw for the Champions League round of 16 was made, nobody with even a decent footballing knowledge gave Manchester United any chance of beating Paris Saint Germain. Let alone defeating PSG, not many gave United a hope of even competing against them.
A 2-0 defeat at home in the first leg escalated the hopelessness. Meanwhile, United scripted some impressive wins, post the first leg debacle, in the league and in the other domestic competitions. The team started to play as a unit and defeated the likes of Chelsea and managed a draw against an in-form Liverpool.
Several of the wins came even when the team started to lose players to injuries, and that made the wins more impressive and the footballing world started to take note of United's performance again. The injuries did not bog down the team management or the players, and the replacement players started to make important contributions and fill up the role of injured players to a large extent.
Romelu Lukaku, who looked a shadow of his own self at the start of the season, has bounced back impressively under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and has been scoring goals with great frequency. The players look hungry and are fighting all the time to win games at Manchester United, something which seemed lost at the start of the season.
These signs looked ominous by the time the PSG 2nd leg clash beckoned, but the injuries to several players and a controversial Red Card to talismanic United midfielder, Paul Pogba didn't evoke strong thoughts of a result in the PSG game, even among the United fans.
But the Red Devils and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's superb tactics led Manchester United to overturn the 2 goal advantage for PSG and beat them on their home ground to create history. No team has overturned a 2 goal disadvantage away from home in the 2nd leg in the history of Champions League football.
The great win and the composure shown by the Manchester United players display their resilience and their never-say-die attitude. The current performances by Manchester United have taken the team back in time and give similar vibes to the great Manchester United teams of the past under Sir Alex Ferguson. This will surely make the Premier League giants a team to beat in the latter stages of the Champions League.
The fight for the 4th position in the league seems to be heavy in the favor of Manchester United, a team which was 11 points behind the Champions League spot just over 2 months before. If the brilliant performances of the club continue, then a fourth spot in the league would be a formality, and may well turn into a fight for the 3rd position given Tottenham's stuttering form, with the F.A Cup triumph also on the cards.
Considering the nature of their current performances, a place in the semifinals of the Champions League too seems to be contention for Manchester United. These instances give evidence of the comeback of the feared kings, who seem to be playing like the Manchester United of the past, evoking fears among their oppositions.