Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has transformed the mood around Old Trafford since replacing Jose Mourinho, according to matchday host and former United great Norman Whiteside.
The Norwegian has five wins from five games as caretaker manager and his return has seen United go back to a style of play ‘we know and love’, according to Whiteside.
Solskjaer will look to continue his flying start to life at the club when United face Tottenham at Wembley on Sunday, but with 16 goals in his first five game games Whiteside has sensed a remarkable change in mood at Old Trafford.
“Everything at the club has changed in a few short weeks since Jose departed before Christmas. The atmosphere at home matches has gone from doom and gloom to excitement surging through the stands again,” he told the Belfast Telegraph .
“It’s the United style of play we know and love. It’s not just Ole’s results that have lifted the mood – it is the way he is getting them.
“United are a team going forward again with the crowd behind them. Players who looked inhibited and afraid under Jose have now thrown off whatever shackles were holding them back and are expressing themselves freely.
“Ole hasn’t exactly waved a magic wand. He’s simply reminded the players of their quality… that’s why you are in the team, go out and show it.”
As a matchday host in the hospitality suites Whiteside is well placed to assess how Old Trafford has changed since Mourinho departed and Solskjaer took over.
The 53-year-old believes the atmosphere at Old Trafford in the final days of Mourinho’s reign showed why change was needed.
“People were leaving the ground early, they were so hard to watch. I’d never seen that at Old Trafford before,” he said.
“Even in the hospitality suites, where they pay top dollar, they’d just brush out past you. The results weren’t good, the football was unattractive, visiting teams no longer feared coming to Old Trafford. It couldn’t go on.”
Norman Whiteside believes Solskjaer has bought the excitement back to Old Trafford
“I can’t pinpoint a single reason why it all went wrong under Jose. Just as good players don’t become bad players overnight, neither do managers.
“He won three trophies in his first season, including the Europa League, a hard one to achieve, and a year and a half later, it all turns to dust and he is gone. It is hard to fathom.
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“What I would say is that even when he was successful and winning trophies, for United and elsewhere, his style of play and methods were never the United way.”
While Solskjaer has impressed in the hot seat so far, Whiteside believes Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino remains the more likely long-term candidate to take the job on a permanent basis.
“If Ole keeps winning and adds a trophy or two, he will have presented a strong case the club will find hard to ignore,” he said. “But I do believe he is keeping the seat warm for Mauricio Pochettino, who seems to have been identified as the long-term target – that is if he and his club Spurs can be persuaded. There are no guarantees on that score.”