Paul Pogba steps up as Manchester United shine again under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
Comfortable 3-1 victory at Old Trafford for the home side as Huddersfield continue to struggle
Three goals, three points and a second successive win against a struggling team.
Manchester United fans need to start with the small mercies they once took for granted.
England’s biggest club will always be judged against sterner opponents than a goal-shy bottom of the league side, but needs must.
This United team have already lost to two sides in the bottom half of the table this season and failed to beat two others.
United picked up six points in Jose Mourinho’s last six games as manager; they’ve earned six in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s first two after United beat Huddersfield Town 3-1, with two goals from Paul Pogba and one from Nemanja Matic. The Terriers late consolation came from Mathias Jorgensen.
Less than a week after he first took training, Solskjaer and his coaching staff have put stabilisers onto a bike which was wobbling throughout 2018 with an uncertain rider at the wheel.
That bike and its new rider is not ready to race against the best yet, but the Norwegian remains the star of the show.
With six minutes to play, the Stretford End- to the right of the 2OLEGEND flag - demanded “Ole give us a wave.” He did – as did his coaching staff.
United fans are still on a high after his appointment. Further songs followed about the new boss’s exploits as a player.
Fans even sang his name after Paul Pogba’s two goals, partly because the Frenchman does not have a song and partly because he’s one of several United players who needs to win favour again among the Old Trafford crowd after an indifferent season so far.
That crowd, like the team, are starting to find their stride again – though the stadium announcer’s “Leicester City 2 Manchester City 1” as the fans left the stadium added extra bounce.
Making three changes since Saturday’s 5-1 win against Cardiff City, one of them enforced with the illness of Anthony Martial, United dominated possession, but that was expected.
Bottom of the league, Huddersfield were missing their best player, the injured Aaron Mooy. They are also missing a goalscorer.
No Huddersfield striker has scored more than a single league goal nor more than two goals for the league’s lowest scorers this season, who have managed only 11 goals in 18 games.
That should have been 12 when Terence Kongolo had a chance after 10 minutes but it was skied into the Stretford End. .
Solskjaer has been fortunate with his first opponents as United boss. Cardiff City, Huddersfield Town beaten, with Bournemouth and Newcastle United next up.
That is as good as a manager could hope for, but wins are wins and the confidence of underperforming United players needed picking up off the floor.
There were flickers of brilliance too: Pogba’s two goals gave United the space to prevent another nervy end to the game.
His first came after he swept the ball in from the edge of the box. Pogba danced around and celebrated in front of the Solskjaer flag. His second was from 30 yards out. He stood static to celebrate that one as he soaked up the applause after 77 minutes.
Other highlights included Marcus Rashford nutmegging Jorgensen to cross superbly to Dalot – the full-back who had been encouraged to get wide and forward by assistant coach Mike Phelan. David de Gea chipped in as well with a superb save at the other end.
They gave United a comfort they had seldom had in games this season and if you can’t bring an 18-year-old on when you’re 3-0 up at home as Solskjaer did with attacking midfielder Angel Gomes, when can you?
Solskjaer said: “It took us 20 minutes for us to settle as we were playing against a team who make it hard for us.
“We could have finished the game off before the first half, but we really struggled in the first 10 minutes of the second half. But when you get the 2-0 you settle down, you can see the boys confidence growing.”
Huddersfield manager David Wagner said: “We got beaten by world class players as Paul (Pogba) has shown in these two goals and De Gea showed with his save from Depoitre.
“It was a good performance from my side and we feel we can get more points in the second half of the season than we did in the first.”
As for United under their new boss.
“They play with freedom and penetrate the opponents,” opined Wagner. “We came under tremendous pressure and they also have world class players.”
United are up to sixth, a position they occupied for most of the 2016-17 season. With a five points gap between United and fifth place Arsenal before the Gunners played at Brighton, they’re likely to stay sixth for some time, but as their Norwegian manager said after his first game, this club gets stronger in the second half of the season.
That second half of the season started with a welcome victory against Huddersfield.
Updated: December 26, 2018 10:34 PM