Why Ole is proving to be a super subber!
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was probably the best substitute in Premier League history.
The Manchester United favourite may not like the 'super-sub' tag (who does?) but his record spoke for itself when coming off the bench. His 29 goals from 150 appearances when replacing another player is 12 more than anybody else has managed and, of course, one of them came in the Nou Camp at 1999 when his timing was just perfect.
Famously, the Norwegian would admit to studying games intently while awaiting his chance, then exploiting any weaknesses he had seen in the opposition when paying such close attention.
So perhaps it is no surprise that Ole is embracing the rule changes that are permitting five alterations in personnel during a game. He even made six substitutions in the Emirates FA Cup tie at Norwich City when it went to extra-time, become the first manager in this country to do so.
The boss has used 28 players in our 33 Premier League matches to date and he has been utilising the bench effectively since the restart.
At Tottenham Hotspur, in our opening fixture back, the Reds were striving to make a comeback with Mason Greenwood and Paul Pogba coming on for Daniel James and Fred around the 63-minute mark, before another double change saw Odion Ighalo and Nemanja Matic replace Anthony Martial and Victor Lindelof. This was a particularly attacking move, with Matic on for centre-back Lindelof and we secured an equaliser, through Bruno Fernandes's penalty, before Scott McTominay, who had reverted to defence, was withdrawn for Eric Bailly late on.
Against Sheffield United at home, the points were effectively safe at 3-0 when five subs came on with 10 minutes remaining - Andreas Pereira, McTominay, James, Juan Mata and Ighalo. It was certainly unusual seeing half of the outfield players changed in a competitive match!
Eight changes to the line-up were made for the Norwich tie but, as stated, six Reds came off the bench to help clinch the semi-final clash with Chelsea at Wembley.
There was a triple change on 63 minutes with Brandon Williams, Greenwood and Marcus Rashford entering the fray, before Matic and Pogba replaced McTominay and Fred with 12 minutes of normal time left. The final, and record-breaking, sixth alteration was Martial for Bailly in the ultimate attacking move. It paid dividends when the Frenchman helped set up Harry Magure's dramatic winner.
A 3-0 win at Brighton & Hove Albion followed and, with victory virtually assured, Williams, McTominay, Andreas, Ighalo and James all got some game-time.
It was a similar story last weekend but an enforced substitution was made first when Lindelof had a back issue so Bailly was drafted in at half-time. Fred, James, Mata and Ighalo all came on in the second half with the points in the bag.
In summary, Ole has used up his full complement of substitutions since lockdown. He made five changes in each of the Premier League games and six in the FA Cup tie, ensuring there was the right level of freshness out on the pitch.
Furthermore, it is an essential way of keeping players involved and sharp, which is going to become even more important as we face the challenges at home and abroad as the 2019/20 campaign comes to a belated end.
It's a squad game nowadays and everybody will be needed to play their part, despite Ole naming the same XI in our latest three league outings. After all, you never know when a substitute might become the hero when the trophies are handed out.
Think back to 1999 again for evidence of that!
We are all United as the Reds go marching on! On sale now, get your 2019/20 kit while stocks last.