Does Solskjaer deserve credit for Rashford and co?

Date published: Wednesday 15th January 2020 9:52

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Ole deserves credit for form of Rashford and others
There’s been endless criticism of Ole on these pages and elsewhere, though I think a lot of it ignores the fact that he is not and isn’t expected to be at the level of a Pochettino or Allegri or whoever. Ole is an inexperienced manager who is expected to learn on the job and grow into something better (with his history earning him goodwill from the fans and players when results aren’t great) — he’s nowhere close to the finished article. (Whether that is a wise move or not is an argument for a different day.)

But amid all the criticism he’s been facing, I’d also like to credit him for the form and overall improvement of United’s much-maligned attackers. “I know a thing or two about scoring them goals,” as he’s presumably said a thousand times to the press already.

Let’s start with Marcus Rashford. During the so-called “Ole bounce” last year, Rashford was excellent as a centre-forward, before tailing off toward the end of the season thanks to injuries and poor form. In the pre-season, Ole identified that his best position is on the left, from where he’s already having his best-ever season. He’s more confident taking unexpected shots, linking up better with Martial/Greenwood/James, has become cleverer and stronger as a player.

And, while he still misses loads of chances, his finishing has in fact improved – recent cases in point being the first-time finish against Norwich from Mata’s ball which was good positional awareness, or the very cool finish against Man City in the 3-1 loss. The latter, especially, is the kind of shot he’d often scuff in the past. Rashford has always been a brilliant player who relies on instinct, but he’s also become more composed in front of goal now. Last season, his best until now, he scored 10 (six assists) in 33 games, many of which came under Ole. This season, he’s on 14 (and four assists) in 22.

Pep Guardiola is so often credited – with overwritten gushy praise – for apparently ‘unlocking’ Raheem Sterling’s potential. By that same measure, I think it’s only fair to give Ole credit for Rashford too (NO, I’m not suggesting Guardiola = Solskjaer in any way)

On to Martial, who remains as mercurial as ever. But, on a good day, Martial becomes the heartbeat of the attack with his link-ups and quick releases and very assured shooting and dribbling. Plus, as a Utd fan, I can safely say that he looks happy playing football for the first time in years. Ole has improved his performances drastically from the dire days of Mourinho. The numbers back this up: Martial’s best season was his first, when he scored 11 in 31 under LVG. In the last two seasons, he scored 19 over 57 games, many of them from the bench.

In 19/20, where he’s finally been trusted in his preferred position, and allowed to develop a partnership with Rashford – unlike Mourinho, who for some reason insisted that the two compete for one position, despite their obvious interplay – he has scored eight in 16 with three assists, and is likely to have his best season ever (IF he can stay fit and motivated).

Finally, Mason Greenwood. He’s a precocious, maybe even a generational, talent – arguably the most exciting Utd academy product since Ravel Morrison – who’s been incessantly hyped up by Ole for months. Again, using Guardiola as an example, and how he’s managing Phil Foden’s time (who is older), I’d say Ole is doing an excellent job bedding him in to the first team. Instead of throwing him in at the deep end when Martial was injured, Ole stuck to the plan and let him build up confidence by starting in the Europa League and the League Cup. And now we’re seeing the results, as well as his unbelievable finishing, and he’s on the verge of the first team.

As much as I hate to admit it, a lot of the criticism Ole has faced has been valid. But that shouldn’t detract from the good work he’s done with the forwards – there’s enough evidence pointing to it. It’s a cop-out to claim that Rashford is thriving in spite of the management, or that it’s his natural progression, or that he has better defenders to play against in training. For all his flaws, Ole has a decent record with young players (at Utd reserves earlier, then at Molde, and now, evidently, at Utd again). It’s (tentatively) exciting and hopefully serves us well in the future.
Akhil, Man Utd, Delhi


Marcus Rashford is a winner
Look: as has no doubt been previously chronicled in the mailbox, I absolutely detest Manchester United for reasons dating to the 1995-96 season and my introduction to the Premier League. We hates them, we hates them forever and all that. But Storey is more right than he knows when he suggests Marcus Rashford deserves a thank you. For all my animus toward Man Utd, I have little doubt that the club’s financial might will eventually make itself felt, and Rashford is a down payment on that day. They’d be nuts to let anybody closer than China have him. Though I think a season-long loan at NUFC would really help him mature. Management should consider that.
Chris C, Toon Army DC




Kane injury opens door to Grealish
Sarah is correct regarding England being able to cope without Harry Kane, but not for the reasons she states in her piece.

For England, Kane’s role is to drop deeper, hold the ball up and create space for the pacy wide players to run into. He is also capable of playing intelligent passes; it is very much a typical No.10 role.

So without Kane, step forward a number 10. Tammy Abraham is more than capable of filling the gap, but losing Kane means an opportunity for Grealish or Alli. Both creative players who can hold the ball up and link attack with defence, tweaking the formation to a 4-3-1-2

I’m leaving Maddison out as he doesn’t hold the ball up, and isn’t tall or strong which gives us less options when we need to go from back to front quickly. Feel free to disagree!

Please, Gareth, leave Rashford out wide and put Vardy in the squad too. Vardy also looks suited to one of the wide positions in this system.
Rob S


What will happen at Man Utd
Let’s face it, we all know Man Utd will walk away from making a deal for Bruno Fernandes because it doesn’t fit with their bizarre new Right-Type-of-Player Transfer Policy (he’s not English). So they’ll force Ashley Young to sign a new two year deal, Solskjaer will remind everyone that he’s English and actually was a midfielder a few years ago, and having him sign is like getting a new player or some other absurdly positive spin on a bad situation. Thus the cycle of turd football will continue.\
Chris, Barnet


We can see you, cheaters…
It’s time for players, and coaches, to understand that we know when they cheat. We have HD TV, there is VAR, we can replay incidents to our heart’s content and see that yes, you, Lo Celso, you ran into Johnson’s shoulder and maybe bumped your chin. You go down as if you’ve been shot holding your nose, claiming an elbow hoping to a) get a penalty and b) get your opponent cautioned or ejected.

29:24 on the game clock – you run into Johnson and you go down like you’ve had your legs whipped away from under you
29:33 – after a lot of holding, crying and rolling around – oh, a sneaky check to see if anyone is looking before you go back to being in agony
29:50 – the referee comes over to “check” on you – in truth I’m hoping he tells you to get back on your feet otherwise he’ll kick you in the balls and give you something to really complain about
29:51 – should have been a yellow for simulation, so you’re a lucky chap

Will someone please explain that we can see all this? And you look completely pathetic? Technology has moved on, it’s time you and your coaches moved on too and stop trying our patience, wasting our time and letting us laugh at you.

Oh, and dear Mr. Son, I like that your first “touch” when you came on was to put Clayton on the ground coming in from behind – 15 seconds after your introduction. It looks like a few more red cards might be in order before you learn. Or maybe you are learning from your coach.

On a happier note, and picking up from a question in the mailbox last week, what would our reaction be if we woke up from a long coma and looked at the Premier League? Obviously that is a huge subject to cover, but my big astonishment would be that you couldn’t just turn up early to watch a game and “get in” paying your 50p on the gate. My conversation would be something like

Me: Who’s playing at the Bridge on Saturday?

Mate: Arsenal.

Me: Great! Let’s go!

Mate: Have you got tickets?

Me: Tickets? No, we’ll just get there early, we’ll get in!

Mate: Oh, you need tickets, even for the Shed. Never mind, we’ll watch it in the pub on Sky.

Me: ? What the hell is Sky? And I don’t want to watch it on Match of the Day.

Mate: Don’t worry, it’s live. It’s the early game

Me: Live? It’s not the FA Cup Final, how can it be live? And what the hell is the “early game”?

… and so on.
Steve, Los Angeles


To Neill’s question regarding my highlighting that the author of one article I found talking about Chris Wilder (not) being Old School, was that I have generally found it is men that talk about being ‘old school’. So mentioned that purely as a bit of a surprise, to me, that she was talking about it. Mind you, the article was then focused on why Chris Wilder was NOT old school. But clearly the (female) author felt it necessary to couch in those terms to get the attention of the largely male audience – INHO.

It wasn’t a sexist comment. In fact, I find that most articles written by female authors on sports topics tend to be more considered on average than their make counterparts – and don’t resort to the lowest common denominator type tropes that men do. Sure there are some great make writers but there are also a lot of dross. Just check out Mediawatch each morning. Such a great start to the day btw. Always brings a smile.
Paul McDevitt



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