Football can be this easy: Solskjaer

Ander Herrera celebrating with Jesse Lingard and Ashley Young after putting United 2-0 up against Cardiff on Saturday. The 5-1 win closed the gap on fourth-placed Chelsea to eight points.
Ander Herrera celebrating with Jesse Lingard and Ashley Young after putting United 2-0 up against Cardiff on Saturday. The 5-1 win closed the gap on fourth-placed Chelsea to eight points.PHOTO: REUTERS

United's interim boss gets off to flying start, rewarded for giving players freedom to attack

CARDIFF • Before the match, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer spoke about how he will employ techniques used by former Manchester United boss Alex Ferguson to make full use of the talent in the squad, particularly in England duo Marcus Rashford and Jesse Lingard.

"Make these players play, you can't say it's an easy job, but it's a privilege to have that talent and make them express themselves," said the United caretaker manager.

Express themselves they did, and in emphatic fashion, too.

Rashford and Lingard both started and got on the scoresheet as the Red Devils gave Solskjaer the perfect start to his temporary reign with a 5-1 victory at Cardiff on Saturday, just days after replacing the sacked Jose Mourinho.

Call it coincidence if you like, but United scored five goals in a Premier League game for the first time since Ferguson's final game in May 2013.

"Football is easy if you've got good players," Solskjaer told BT Sport. "They are a great bunch of players and their quality is unbelievable."

And it was not only Ferguson whom Solskjaer drew inspiration from. The 45-year-old also revealed that a few words of encouragement from United's record goalscorer Wayne Rooney helped breathe new life into the stagnating club.

  • 5

    Years since Manchester United last netted five goals in a Premier League game, under Alex Ferguson.

"I arrived on Wednesday night and had only Thursday and Friday with the players. Wayne Rooney texted me and gave me some advice - so it must be down to him!" said Solskjaer with a laugh.

"He told me to make them play football, enjoy themselves and be Manchester United."

Rashford opened the scoring with a free kick in the third minute and a goal from Ander Herrera just before the half-hour mark gave them a 2-0 lead.

Cardiff pulled a goal back through a Victor Camarasa penalty in the 38th minute, but Anthony Martial restored the two-goal margin minutes later and two goals from Jesse Lingard in the second half added gloss to the scoreline.

The Norwegian said he had worked on patterns of play and focused on getting full-backs Ashley Young and Luke Shaw to push higher up the pitch.

"Your work rate is the easiest thing to work on. It is free. It is the attitude and application of the boys," he said.

"If we approach all the games like this - and we want them to approach them all like this - with combination play and playing the ball forward, then I'll be happy."

Rooney was delighted to see how Solskjaer managed to get the United players, who had looked shackled and careworn under Mourinho, to feel liberated enough to attack with pace and panache.

THAT'S THE WAY TO GO

If we approach all the games like this - and we want them to approach them all like this - with combination play and playing the ball forward, then I'll be happy.

OLE GUNNAR SOLSKJAER, who is pleased with his team's positive play which gave him a thumping 5-1 win on his debut.

"It's a fantastic day for the club. Manchester United's a big part of my life and it was never nice watching what was going on," said Rooney. "The players obviously looked a bit restricted (under Mourinho). The players have ability and today we've seen that.

"A lot of things were happening around the team and around the manager, which isn't good. Ole's given them that freedom."

That was certainly evident from the comments of United's rejuvenated young players, who were not shy in noting how Solskjaer had given them far more licence to express themselves.

Lingard said: "The lads played with a lot of energy, enjoyment and excitement. When you've got confidence, you put yourselves in positions to score goals.

"That's what we did. We were playing higher and the full-backs were higher. We pinned them back and created a lot of chances."

Rashford added: "He (Solskjaer) wants us to be positive on the ball and always look for the gaps. That was just the start. We're going to improve and get better at it."

Victory also sees United close the gap on fourth-placed Chelsea to eight points, thanks to the Blues' 1-0 home defeat by Leicester earlier in the day.

"We're eight points behind, so our job is to take one game at a time," added Solskjaer, whose team host Huddersfield on Boxing Day.

"We always play well in the second half of the season."

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 24, 2018, with the headline 'Football can be this easy: Solskjaer'. Print Edition | Subscribe