Ole Gunnar Solskjaer must be bold like his Manchester United players against Huddersfield on Boxing Day
- Caretaker manager should resist urge to make changes for first home game
- Man United squad players must earn their second chances
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has told his Manchester United players to relish playing at Old Trafford – but the caretaker manager’s selection against Huddersfield on Saturday will tell us if he intends to do the same.
In April 2014, Solskjaer’s former teammate Ryan Giggs made a fatal mistake when in a similar position – one that the Norwegian must avoid after the thumping 5-1 win at Cardiff last weekend in his own first match in charge.
Giggs took charge for the final four games of the season after Alex Ferguson’s successor David Moyes was sacked nine months into a six-year contract. After a 4-0 win against Norwich, the Welshman rung the changes for a home game against Sunderland.
“We prepared right,” Giggs later said after a 1-0 loss. “I picked a team I thought could win the game and I trusted the players. But some of the players let me down and let themselves down. Maybe I was a little bit too soft.”
After releasing the shackles at Cardiff, with plenty of free-flowing football on show, Solskjaer would be misguided to shuffle his pack and give some of the other players in his squad a chance to show their qualities.
Most United fans would like to see Diogo Dalot come in for Ashley Young, who wore the captain’s armband in Cardiff, but Nemanja Matic earned himself a reprieve and Ander Herrera showed he can press with energy.
Fred was also impressive off the bench on Saturday, while Juan Mata could thrive in this new attacking set-up.
But rotating the players now could threaten to disrupt the harmony created last weekend – it’s up to those on the bench to earn their place.
The forward four pick themselves. Anthony Martial, Jesse Lingard and Marcus Rashford excelled as an interchanging trio up front, with all three on the scoresheet, while Paul Pogba plundered three assists when foraying forward to join them.
“I don’t think any team would like Rashford, Martial, Lingard, Pogba running at them,” Solskjaer said in his pre-match press conference ahead of the Huddersfield game.
Solskjaer denied any of his players had said anything about playing with a handbrake under Jose Mourinho, but the players looked a lot freer.
“We spoke today in the team meeting about how, when we get one, we want to get two,” he said. “When we get two, we want to get three. That’s the nature of this team, this club. You always go and attack.”
Like Cardiff, Huddersfield are fighting relegation but United have looked timid at home since Ferguson’s retirement in 2013, with a fear factor creeping in.
For Solskjaer this will no doubt be a nervous occasion, but he is hoping his players can thrive on the atmosphere at Old Trafford like he did during his playing days.
“You try to keep your emotion in check, because I’m there to do a job,” Solskjaer said. “I’ve got to be focused.
“I don’t think it will be easy, but I’m looking forward to it and I think the boys are looking forward to playing at Old Trafford. That’s the key: we should be looking forward to playing there.”
“That comes when you sign for Man United,” he added. “You know you’re going to play in front of the best fans in the world.
“Confidence is not something you store in the fridge and pick out. You earn it by your performances, by your training, how you feel. Hopefully this [the win over Cardiff] gave them a boost.”