Debate: Which is Ole's greatest game so far?
We have ranked the top matches from Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s first year as Manchester United manager, but deciding on the greatest game so far proved to be far from easy.
In fact, the topic has caused a split in the office!
Is it the miraculous comeback win over Paris Saint-Germain on that famous night in France, or the dominant and exhilarating victory in the recent Manchester derby? Here, two reporters on opposite sides state their cases…
City 1 United 2, 7 December 2019
The astonishing turnaround that Ole orchestrated at the Parc des Princes, to dump PSG out of the Champions League, sent shockwaves around European football. But, to my mind, as a fan, the best moment under Solskjaer arrived when United ripped into Pep Guardiola’s City at the Etihad Stadium.
The PSG triumph was amazing because it was unlikely; against all odds. But the City victory was thrilling in a different way. One, it showed how Solskjaer’s United have progressed. Two, it provided a seductive glimpse of the future we all hope this team can reach, where those displays are regular.
90 in 20: Man City 1 United 2Video
This performance had it all. If you like your United teams fearless, ferocious and quick, the 35-minute burst that opened the game probably had you purring like the Cheshire Cat. We could have scored five before half-time. You could hear fear sweeping through the City faithful each time Daniel James, Marcus Rashford, Jesse Lingard and Anthony Martial surged forward like the Light Brigade.
Sure, United won at City under Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho. Wolves won there in October. But those teams didn’t slice open Guardiola’s side with the ease and dexterity of a Swiss Army knife from the first whistle. If you don’t believe me, maybe you’ll buy Roy Keane’s verdict.
“They were outstanding; great to watch,” said our former captain on Sky Sports.
“We're talking about playing for Man United… showing courage, passing forward, passing moves, the pace of the pass, the angles, getting bodies into the box. And they were opening City so easily.”
Then, in the second half, there was a resilience and steely togetherness that Keane’s teams would have been proud to produce. It was a complete, rounded performance; full of variety, resolve and attacking menace, against a team that amassed 198 points in the two most recent Premier League seasons. PSG was miraculous; this was nothing of the sort.
PSG 1 United 3, 6 March 2019
I totally understand what Joe is saying – I loved the derby, its energy and what that performance promises – but our electrifying, pulsating night in Paris was all that I love about Manchester United.
Beaten 2-0 in the first leg by a dominant and more experienced PSG side, we were down and out in the eyes of football, without a hope in hell of turning the tie around. Throw an injury-ravaged squad for the second leg into the mix - with Paul Pogba suspended - and Ole’s Reds had been written off before the first whistle.
But those people aren’t Manchester United. They weren’t raised on a history of overcoming adversity; they weren’t raised on a history of fighting back against the odds. But Solskjaer was.
Highlights: PSG 1 United 3Video
Under Ole’s guidance - and inspired by Ajax’s miraculous comeback over Real Madrid the night before - a team shorn of 10 first-team regulars turned over the French champions on a rain-sodden night in Paris, with five Academy graduates on the pitch, cheered on by an ecstatic away end, and watched by Sir Alex Ferguson and Eric Cantona from the stands. It was perfect. It was United.
Look, I’m not daft. I acknowledge there was a huge slice of luck about it.
A sloppy back-pass and goalkeeping clanger led to Romelu Lukaku’s two first-half goals, before a dubious VAR decision led to Marcus Rashford’s nerveless late penalty. Yet this remained a showcase of guts, courage and fighting spirit.
I admit, we were probably guilty of milking the victory in the weeks afterwards – it was only the round of 16, after all – but I’d do it all over again in a heartbeat.
I adore football for celebratory moments like that and, if you could bottle that feeling, then you’d be a gazillionaire.
Oh what a night!
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