Okay, let’s get one thing clear: custom league tables do not mean anything in the grander scheme of things. We all know that it is performances and results over the course of a whole season that really matter.
But, if we are going to assess how a new manager has performed, we have to look at the limited set of data available. In Ole Gunnar Solksjaer’s case, a quick glimpse at his first eight league games in charge makes impressive reading.
Top point scorers since his appointment
Since the former striker took charge on December 19, the Red Devils have accumulated more points than any team in the Premier League. Their 22-point total accumulated over an eight-game unbeaten run is four more than Manchester City’s and five more than Liverpool’s. Not bad considering Jose Mourinho’s final eight games had yielded just 12 points.
In that same period, United have netted 20 goals, the same as Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur and one more than Liverpool, and they have conceded just six times, fewer than any team in the league.
If the league had started the day the Norwegian arrived, the Old Trafford club would be four points clear of Spurs at the top of the table and nine points clear of fifth-ranked Arsenal. As we said, this means nothing in terms of a 38-game season, but it is all we have to work with at this time.
This newfound goal-scoring touch also extended to the FA Cup, where Solksjaer’s men cruised to a 3-1 win against Arsenal at the Emirates, taking the average goal count in the two sides’ last 20 meetings to 3.33 goals per match. The Total Goals/Over 2.5 wager was the best football bet of the day with social betting site betconnect on that occasion.
New manager bounce
United are not the only club to benefit from looking at a small sample size to assess the progress of a new coach. If the league had started when Ralph Hasenhüttl replaced Mark Hughes at Southampton on December 5, the Saints would be sat in eighth place in the table just two points behind Arsenal. Both men arrived without huge expectations but both have achieved their objectives of turning around their respective club’s poor form.
Few expect this kind of form to last, and the game against Burnley showed that things can change very quickly, not just from week to week, but even during the course of one game. United found the strength to fight back on that occasion and managed to salvage a point but the real test will come when they lose their first game under the caretaker boss and have to respond.
Link to the past
It has been suggested that Solksjaer has been seeking Alex Ferguson’s counsel and that could be crucial in helping him to secure the job on a permanent basis. Having that link to the culture that brought so much success could be vital if United are to remain a force in the Premier League’s top four. While the hierarchy may be content with the financial performance off the pitch, that will be of little use if they do not back it up with success on the field.