The Transformation At Manchester’s Old Trafford

by Ashnaam Mohamed Rashid

The Post-Ferguson era has been characterized with turmoil, uncertainties and dip of standards

at the Old Trafford. The once iconic fortress where opponents feared visiting lost its fear factor.

The Mancunian culture of flair and attacking football deeply embedded within Manchester

United was at risk of being forgotten. None of the post- fergie’s managers could fit into the

enormous shoes of the legend, neither could they measure up to his long strides. They came,

saw and left unceremoniously. Their stints cut short by the ambitions of the club. The long

shadows of Ferguson along the trophy laden corridors of the Carrington training grounds and

the Old Trafford changing rooms haunted the new managers. First in, the anointed one,

Scottish David Moyes. Handpicked by Ferguson himself. Fired Midway through his first season.


Then came Louis Van Gaal, an experienced manager having led the Netherlands National team

to a third position finish at the 2014 World cup prior to his disastrous stint at Manchester. His

world cup heroics could not guarantee him a continued stay at the Old Trafford. The little house

of cards he was building came down crumbling faster than an avalanche after disgruntled Old

Trafford faithfuls got fed up with his style of football. The house was a mess, a quick fixer

needed. The only available option was the self proclaimed "Special one" Jose Mourinho. Even

though his brand of football was not appealing, he had the Midas touch. He won trophies

everywhere he went. Everything he touched would turn to gold. With an ego larger than life, he

was the perfect fit, a born winner. A master of the mind games and a tactically gifted gaffer

who knew how and when to win. Finishing 2nd in his first season with what he called an

average squad. This brought an aura of optimism. In his second season things fell apart. His

open criticism to players brought about a divided dressing room. Players unwilling to play for

him. Just like in Chelsea and Real Madrid, he once again revealed his soft underbelly, poor man

management skills. Frustrated by the players revolt, Jose went out guns blazing trained at a

number of players i.e Pogba, Martial whom he openly called out as viruses in the dressing

room. He was taking no prisoners in his quest to fumigate the team and rid it off the viruses. His

downfall was nigh. A streak of poor performances continued. A tough decision for the clubs board. The players will prevailed, they had won the fight. Mou was out, reeling from the


fatal blows inflicted by the viruses. An ego punched, he drew back his sword and left. It was his

time to strategies before coming back into the murky Waters of football coaching.


With the failure of Mou, the board knew it was time to bring home someone who understood

the culture of Manchester United. Someone who would easily endear himself to the fans.

Someone to inspire the young talents at the Old Trafford. Someone who would rebuild the

team and reinstall the fear factor. Awaken the slumbering devil and set it out on path of success

in strict adherence to the Mancunian culture. A former red devil was the surest bet to lead the

project. Amongst the legends, Ole Gunner Solskjaer was a cut above the rest having managed

the Manchester United reserves team, Cardiff city and Molde. He was brought in as a caretaker

manager after the axe fell on Mou. Nicknamed the " Baby faced assassin", a super sub, he is

best remembered for coming on as a substitute and scoring late goals. Most memorably, he

scored a late winning goal in the injury time against Bayern Munich during the 1999 UEFA

Champions League final and helped United win the Treble. A true goal poacher. He was the man

to turn the tables in their favour. Even though he had failed to deliver at Cardiff, having lost 12

out of the 18 matches he managed the team, his 8 months reign provided him a handful of

experience in management in the top flight football . A successful managerial stint at his

boyhood Norwegian club Molde also helped him gain managerial experience. Furthermore,

having worked under the tutelage of Sir Alex Ferguson after retirement from playing football in

2007 where he worked with the first team strikers before being promoted to head the reserves

team, Ole cut out for management.


As a caretaker manager between 19th December 2018 to 27th March 2019,he successfully led

the team to 14 wins, 2 draws and 3 losses in the course beating Sir Matt Busby record by

becoming the first United’s manager to win 6 consecutive matches equaling Manchester city. With the presence of Mike Phelan

serving as his assistant, a long and loyal servant of the club having worked also as an assistant

under Sir Alex Ferguson, Ole had a wealth of experience on his plate to turn to. His success as a

caretaker manager earned him the trust and confidence of the Manchester United board who subsequently rewarded him with a 3 year contract at the end of the 2018/19 season. Ole was

here to lead his pack out of the dugout in the 2019/20 season.


He was the man to rebuild the team and with the board's confidence,he was given access to the

deep pockets that never ran dry of the Glazers. He went all out in the summer transfer window,

making Leicester centreback Harry Maguire his marquee signing. The club's record breaking

signing making and thee most expensive defender signing in the world. He also added Aaron

Wan Bissaka, a right back from Crystal Palace to his ranks and offloaded a number of first team

players who he seemed surplus to his requirement with the biggest casualty Romeo Lukaku

who many thought had failed to live to his expectations despite being the top scorer in the just

ended season. With the strengthening of the defense, Ole was hoping to find a balance in his

team.A good feeling and high spirits was felt everywhere around the team. Everyone was in

buoyant mood and raring to go. The pre-season came with a number of surprises, a call up to

the first team for a number of academy players, the biggest beneficiary being Mason

Greenwood who had an eye for the goal, a gifted two footed player, a player touted as the next

big thing from the academy. The academy is among the best, famously known for the 1992

class, producing greats like Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs, Nicky Butt, Phil Neville, Gary Neville and

the underwear boy David Beckham. A place to excel. The pre-season showed the

glimpses of quality and immense work that Ole had put in. The attacking looked sharp and

clinical in their finishing, with off the ball movements that would throw opponents defenses in

disarray. The midfield looking solid but lacking the spark to make a quick transition from

defense to attack and also lacking the defense splitting final balls. All in all the team looked

decent as compared to previous seasons.


The first half of that season was shaky with a series of inconsistent performances. The injury to

Paul Pogba also spelt doom to the team that lacked the quality in the midfield. Having failed to

capture the services of Bruno Fernandes during the summer transfer, Ole went all out in the

January winter window to secure his signing. A versatile attacking midfielder, quick on the ball

and a goal poacher. The signing proved a success, he came in and changed the team, lifted

spirits and improved the midfield. A leader. All the signings by Ole showing his sharp eye in

spotting talent and quality. The push for a Champions league spot was Ole's main objective. Ole

was also building a team for the future, a team of young players hungry for success with the

mancunian spirit boldly printed in their hearts. Only Nemanja Matic and David De Gea being the

players above 28 years of age in the first team. The belief was back and the Old Trafford was

reverting back to a fortress it once was. The flair and attacking football was coming back. Ole

man management skills were on point. He would castigate his players in private but defend,

protect, encourage and praise them when the camera lights shone upon him in press briefings.

The English Media can be very unforgiving to players especially when out of form. They will

drag players in the mud, throw shade at them especially when they came in for a huge price

tag. A good example is Pogba and Lukaku.Ole knew that his young team needed protection, he

provided it. The bond between him and the players could be seen from pictures and videos

coming out of Carrington and also during competitive league matches.


This was however stopped by the outbreak of the corona virus pandemic. A novel contagious virus originating from Wuhan, China spreading like wildfire with devastating effects leaving a trail of deaths across Europe moreso Italy and Spain

then England eventually. However, the suspension provided an opportunity for recovery of Paul

Pogba and Marcus Rashford both with long stints on the nursing tables. Pogba was yet to

partner with Bruno in the midfield. A partnership that many hoped to see and touted as one

that would overrun opponents midfields. Prior to the suspension, the team had been on an

impressive unbeaten run. A blow that would derail the team's consistency. The league faced a

bleak future, nobody could predict when competitive football would come back. With the rising

numbers of cases and deaths in the UK, stakeholders were caught between a rock and hard


place on whether to prematurely end the league and crown Liverpool EPL champions or wait

and hope that the spread is controlled, the infections curve flattened and a cure found. The

former was not an option for United and Ole because it meant missing a spot among the

qualifying teams for the UEFA Champions league. The Eredisivie and Ligue 1 were the top

European leagues to be prematurely ended, Ajax and Psg crowned champions respectively. Was

the EPL headed the same path? There was hope, the Bundesliga was restarted.

Project Restart was mooted. Premier leagues voted on cautious resumption of individual

training then contact training. They then agreed on resumption of premier league action on July

17th with teams strictly observing the laid down WHO guidelines. A chance for Ole to make a

last push for the top four enjoying the return of his two key players. The duo partnership (

Pogba and Bruno) in the midfield clicked. They complemented each other. The push leading to

a third position finish ahead of Chelsea on goal difference. United were back in the Champions

League, a place they belonged. They were here to enjoy the Tuesday and Wednesday football


The rise of youngster Mason Greenwood who ended the campaign with 10 premier league

goals, Marcus Rashford with 17 league goals and the re-emergence of Anthony Martial

registering his highest league return of 17 goals since signing from Monaco in the 2015/2016

season. It clearly shows the effort Ole has put in ensuring his attacking players fire on all

cylinders. Many say that the trio have benefited from Ole's experience having played as a

striker and scoring as many as 161 goals for United. 8 goals from 14 league appearances by

Bruno clearly shows the quality of signing Ole made. The re-emergence of Pogba after Project

Restart shows the mood and belief Ole has reinstalled in the team. It’s believed that Pogba has

confidence in what Ole is doing at United and is not keen on forcing a move away from the Old

Trafford as was the case earlier on. Looking at the defense, United conceded 36 goals in the

entire campaign, the third least behind Manchester City and Liverpool who came 2nd and first

respectively, shows the improvements made in the defensive department. This in sharp

contrast to the 52 league goals conceded in the 2018/19 season, the worst by the team since

the 1978/79 season (63). Looking at the stats, one can clearly see the improvements and

developments in the team. A return of the fearfactor. Humbling Manchester city and Chelsea


both at home and away show the strides made. The attacking football that has always been

demanded by the fans slowly creeping back into the team all thanks to Ole who's always

encouraged the boys to express themselves on the pitch and more importantly play for the

badge and the pride of the club. Although there are a few instances in which Ole has

under-performed tactically, the F.A semifinal cup match against Chelsea in which football

pundits question Ed his tactical approach to the match, Ole remains to be the best bet to follow

the footsteps of Fergie. He can and will always learn on the job with an able backroom staff and

the mentor-ship of Sir Alex Ferguson who lurks in the shadows. Ole still has a chance to

silverware this season and I believe he can claim the Europa league


With the 2020/21 season coming in thick and fast, I believe that Ole already has his plans

mapped out and identified the team’s areas of weaknesses. Given the financial support of the

board and Ole's eagle eye for quality signings as seen in his first season, Manchester United

look like a project ready to challenge the other big boys for the EPL title.

Let’s get ready to rumble because Ole's at the wheel, tell me how good it feels.


Ashnaam Mohamed Rashid

Ashnaam is the founder and chief editor of the He reviews, edits and approves all the articles before they go live to the audience. To share your views and opinions kindly contact Ashnaam on

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