Ole Gunnar Solskjaer beamed from ear to ear after enjoying a dream start to life back at Manchester United – and the caretaker manager warned the best is yet to come after hitting five past former club Cardiff.
Jose Mourinho paid for United’s lack of style, substance and togetherness, with his Old Trafford reign brought to an abrupt end as the club turned to one of their treble-winning heroes for the rest of the season.
Solskjaer took charge for the first time on Saturday evening and not only got off to a winning start but oversaw United’s first five-goal haul in a Premier League match since Sir Alex Ferguson’s last game in May 2013.
Jesse Lingard’s second-half brace complemented earlier efforts from Marcus Rashford, Ander Herrera and Anthony Martial as United won 5-1, with Victor Camarasa’s penalty a mere consolation for Cardiff.
Asked if there were any positives, Solskjaer laughed and said: “There’s quite a few!
“The attitude and application of the boys when you go out there and see them, the attitude has been fantastic, the dressing room, the way they approached this game. It’s been a difficult week for everyone and to get the focus and perform as well as they did impress.”
Solskjaer praised his team from front to back in the Welsh capital and playfully pointed out that this was returning coach Mike Phelan’s first match in the dugout since United netted five in the league 2,043 days earlier.
The team certainly had a Ferguson era swagger about them, with Paul Pogba – one of four changes to the Liverpool loss – impressing behind the visitors’ rapid attacking trio.
“I’m pleased with all of them – every single one of them – but of course it’s a threat,” Solskjaer said.
“When you’ve got Martial and Jesse Lingard down either side, Rashford up top with Paul supporting them, it’s exhilarating to watch and as long as we keep that standard up we’ll keep up picking points.”
Solskjaer is excited to see what serious time on the training pitch brings and is hopeful about United’s chances of clawing back the gap to the Champions League spots. “Well, we’ll take one game at a time but we’re eight points behind and we’ve caught up teams before at this club,” he said.
“Now, though, we’ve got to catch up a couple, but our job is to take one game at a time. Don’t look too far ahead but we always play well in second half of the season. Man United teams always do.”
Solskjaer’s attention now turns to Huddersfield’s visit to Old Trafford on Boxing Day, when Cardiff travel to Crystal Palace on the back of a loss that manager Neil Warnock found hard to argue with.
“The circumstances probably weren’t the right ones (for us), but we’ve had that before with Southampton and Leicester,” he said. “Probably (Mauricio) Pochettino will get the (United) job before we play Tottenham in the next home match. “It has been one of those things, but you can’t blame that.
“I thought we started the game quite well, if I am honest, and then out of nothing I thought it was an iffy free-kick and then it is a Sunday League goal. That put us on the back foot. Concede a second one like we did and I did feel we had a good chance of getting a result, even at half-time at 3-1 if we could get the next goal. The penalty really killed us again. It’s not a penalty but I can’t blame the ref today for 5-1.”
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