How Solskjaer won himself United top job

Norwegian has enjoyed a better start than any recent Manchester United boss

In Summary

• When Solskjaer took over, United sat sixth in the table, having won just seven of their 17 Premier League games

• It took 13 matches for any manager to get the better of him

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has been appointed Manchester United manager on a three-year deal, following an impressive spell as interim boss.

The United legend was brought back to Old Trafford in the aftermath of Jose Mourinho’s sacking in December.

In the ensuing few months Solskjaer has revitalised United’s season, winning 14 of his 19 competitive games in charge.

Three months, and only 19 games, can feel a long time in football. In his final 19 matches in charge Mourinho managed only seven wins, and seven draws. His side scored 30 goals, conceding 27.

The immediate turnaround under Solskjaer is as clear as night and day — in his first 19 games, United have won 14 games, losing only three. They have scored more goals (40), conceded fewer (17), had more shots, faced fewer shots and rediscovered their counter-attacking prowess.

Under the 46-year-old United have scored five goals from 16 fast breaks. In Mourinho’s turgid final few months, they amassed just one goal from seven breaks.

When Solskjaer took over, United sat sixth in the table, having won just seven of their 17 Premier League games. They were eight points behind fifth-placed Arsenal and 11 points off fourth-placed Chelsea.

Since then, no Premier League team has won more than their 32 points, or picked up more than their 10 wins. They now lead Chelsea by a point.It’s not just Mourinho who has been outshone by the Norwegian. Solskjaer’s 19-game spell has garnered 14 wins, two draws, and only three defeats. That gives him a win percentage of 73.7 per cent, which is considerably higher than any other manager since Sir Alex Ferguson took over back in 1986.

Ferguson enjoyed sustained and unprecedented success over a far greater period (1,503 games), of course, but it’s an illustration of Ole’s flying start that the Scot won fewer than 60 per cent of his games at Old Trafford.

United have also won 10 of Solskjaer’s 13 Premier League games in charge - giving him a win percentage of 76.9 per cent and a points-per-game ratio of 2.46. That’s the best of any United manager in the division’s history.In fact, only two managers have ever enjoyed a better start to a job in the Premier League. Solskjaer picked up 32 points from his first 13 games in charge, which puts him on a par with both Luis Felipe Scolari (Chelsea) and Mourinho (during his first spell at Stamford Bridge).

Carlo Ancelotti (33, Chelsea) and Guus Hiddink (34, Chelsea) are the only bosses to boast a better start to a Premier League tenure. His impressive record has been built on a flawless start — Solskjaer won six straight league games after taking over, which is more than the great Matt Busby and any United manager. 

It took 13 matches for any manager to get the better of him. During the previous 12 games, Solskjaer won 10 and drew two of his games in charge, scoring 29 goals. That is the joint-longest unbeaten start for a Premier League manager - level with Maurizio Sarri at Chelsea.

Solskjaer’s honeymoon period at Old Trafford appeared to end when his side were beaten 2-0 at home in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie with Paris Saint-Germain. But an injury-riddled United went on to win the second leg 3-1 in Paris.

In so doing, they became the first side in Champions League history to progress having lost the home first leg by two or more goals. That win was also United’s ninth successive away victory under Solskjaer - the longest streak in the club’s history.