The secrets of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s success at Man Utd

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s flawless start to managing Manchester United can only be matched by club legend Sir Matt Busby.

But on Sunday, Solskjaer can go one better than the legendary Old Trafford figure by confirming the best start of any United manager if he can record a sixth win in six matches, away at Tottenham live on Sky Sports Premier League.

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January 13, 2019, 4:15pm

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But exactly how has the Norwegian produced such a dramatic upturn since taking over from Jose Mourinho? Ahead of the trip to Wembley, former United defender Danny Higginbotham takes a closer look at Solskjaer’s revolution…

What has Solskjaer changed?

Solskjaer has picked a system to suit the players. He’s thought, ‘how can I get the best out of my key players?’ He’s giving Paul Pogba the freedom to express himself and Marcus Rashford is playing more through the middle.

The front four have more freedom to interchange. They’re closer together. Early in the season, United were defending in numbers and whoever was up front was finding themselves isolated.

They’ve got to get things right defensively – Spurs will be their toughest test by a distance – but at the moment, they look as if they could score against anybody.

The rise of Rashford

The way that Solskjaer has got the team set up means that Rashford gets more support.

Confidence is high – and every centre-forward that I’ve played with has been the biggest confidence-player at the club.

That’s brought by goals and good performances. Solskjaer was one of the greatest finishers I’ve ever seen and I think Rashford will learn a lot.

Attack best form of defence

There are not many teams in the league who’ve scored more than United, but there are a lot that have conceded less. The defensive side will be the biggest factor when they play against Tottenham, who have got the likes of Harry Kane, Heung-Min Son, Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen.

We’ve often spoken about United being open to the counter-attack but you’ve now got your two full-backs giving the width and because of that, you’ve got a front four that can then interchange and stay close together.

What’s going to be key against Spurs is the area between the defenders and the sitting midfielders. You don’t want to take away the attacking influence United have got but in order to do that, it’s important that your centre-backs, your two sitting midfielders – whether it’s Matic, Fred, Herrera – don’t get ahead of the ball.

You’re defending with a four and attacking with a six. That gives the full-backs the license to go forward. But it’s also vital on the defensive side, when Tottenham do win the ball back, that both defensive midfielders can break into the full-back positions.

If you’re asking the full-backs to get forward and play as wingers, you need to have that protection. Martial’s goal against Cardiff typified this. The forwards are all close together but it’s all on the basis of how they’re set up defensively.

Earlier in the season, Lukaku was isolated because Mourinho at times didn’t trust his defensive stability. Players were having to do more defensively than they’d like and that affected them going forward.

I think Solskjaer has looked at them and thought that the best form of defence is attack. It’s worked well for them so far – but it’s a huge test at the weekend.

Watch Tottenham vs Man Utd on Renault Super Sunday live from 4.15pm on Sky Sports Premier League

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