Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was given a simple brief when he returned to the club as caretaker manager back in December 2018, that task being to ‘put smiles back on people’s faces’ after a sour public divorce from previous manager Jose Mourinho.
Manchester United had started to become a toxic environment by the time the Norwegian arrived, though it wouldn’t take long for him to turn things around with a fresh positivity both on and off the pitch.
A key to that was Solskjaer’s own philosophy for the side with the Norwegian keen to see United utilise the same speed and trickery upfront that he witnessed during his Old Trafford playing career.
“Pace and power, Man United, that’s what we are,” he said four games into his caretaker spell.
“When you have players, like we have, with pace – Paul [Pogba], Anthony [Martial], Alexis [Sanchez], Romelu [Lukaku], [Marcus] Rashford – that’s how we played with Andy [Cole] and Yorkie [Dwight Yorke] with Giggsy [Ryan Giggs] and Becks [David Beckham]down the sides. We attacked quickly and that’s my philosophy as well.”
Okay, so two of the players he name-checked are no longer at the club, but in their place he has added more pace in Mason Greenwood,
Amad and Daniel James while Edinson Cavani provides the brute force which was missing from a sometimes limp forward line.
He added: “That’s always been the way I like to play football. Get the ball up in the opposition’s half as soon as you can, as quickly as you can. If you score, fantastic. If not then you’ve got to have patient build-up play. But attack quickly.”
It’s that desired philosophy which has led him towards Jadon Sancho this summer as Solskjaer looks to add world-class talent to a forward line which is already brimming with high quality individuals.
Sancho has agreed terms in principle to join in the coming weeks while The Manchester Evening News understand the player’s camp expect the winger to join United, despite having their opening offer rejected by Dortmund last week.
United’s bid of £67million was around £10m shy of Dortmund’s demand for an up-front fee for Sancho but the expectation from both sides is the transfer will go through.
The club will hope to reach another breakthrough in the days ahead but Sancho will be well worth the wait given he ticks every box of the recruitment strategy as a young world-class and homegrown talent playing in a position which needs bolstering.
Given his personal strengths as both a dribbler and a crosser Sancho will fit perfectly into Solskjaer’s philosophy for next season and could even open up the opportunity of playing a more traditional 4-4-2 formation if the opposition dictates such an approach.
As things stand Old Trafford is on course to welcome thousands of supporters back when the new season kick-offs and the sight of Sancho darting down the wing before whipping a cross into the box would be the perfect welcoming gift after such a long time away.
Solskjaer’s love of nostalgia is often mocked, but by adding the pace and power of Sancho this summer he might very well be bringing back memories of a time when the right wing role at United was the most glamorous in English football.
His signature could well represent the final piece of the jigsaw required to mount a serious Premier League title charge, at the very least it would be further reinforcement of the philosophy Solskjaer is still looking to implement.