After a 1-0 loss at Bournemouth ended Manchester United’s three-match winning run, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s role at the helm of the club came into question once again.
The defeat at the Vitality Stadium condemned United to their worst start in 33 years, with Solskjaer’s men picking up just 13 points from 11 games.
But should his team’s abysmal league form see Solskjaer lose his job, it wouldn’t necessarily mean his tenure at United has been a complete failure.
Although results on the pitch haven’t been as consistent as United fans demand, there is no question the club is in a better position than when the Norwegian took over permanently in March.
The former United striker has stuck by the philosophies he preached during his early days in charge, and invested heavily in youth over the summer.
Daniel James, 21, looks to have a bright future at the club after being one of United’s few standout performers this season.
It is hard to see the previously unproven Welshman being signed by someone like former manager Jose Mourinho, but Solskjaer’s faith in youth has secured United a player that could become a star player in the future.
Solskjaer has also overseen the signings of Aaron Wan-Bissaka, 21, and Harry Maguire, 26, who will more than likely be staples of United’s defence for at least the next six years – regardless of who’s in charge.
In fairness to Mourinho, he was interested in Maguire in summer of 2018, but failed to persuade the board to sanction a move.
Perhaps it was Solskjaer’s reputation at United, or his long-term philosophy that finally convinced those above him to splash the cash on the centre-back – either way, United are a top-class defender better off due to their club legend.
Solskjaer has also overseen the transition of a plethora of home-grown talent into the first team – academy graduates Taith Chong, Mason Greenwood, Angel Gomes, Brandon Williams, James Garner and Axel Tuanzebe have all been awarded starts in competitive games this season.
This becomes all the more impressive when it is considered that of those six players, only Greenwood started a competitive game for United last season – and that was under Solskjaer.
This comes alongside regular starting spots for other, more seasoned, academy graduates Scott McTominay and Marcus Rashford.
Rashford has been effective in spells this season – with Solskjaer sanctioning the sale of Romelu Lukaku, the Englishman was handed a consistent starting spot, and has managed five goals and three assists this term.
McTominay was awarded minutes by Mourinho, but was behind the ageing Nemanja Matic and the one-dimensional Marouane Fellaini in the pecking order, when all three were fit.
The Scotsman is now United’s first-choice holding midfielder under Solskjaer, and is becoming a crucial part of the squad.
Solskjaer has not only provided these youngsters with game time, but he has secured their futures at the club – McTominay, Garner, Greenwood, Williams, Tuanzebe and Rashford have all signed long-term deals at Old Trafford, under the watch of the Norwegian.
If he can tie down Gomes and Chong to deals in the near future as well, United will have a strong core of players for the coming years.
Alongside his signings and youth-promotion, Solskjaer has slowly phased out and got rid of players that have been below United’s standards in recent years.
Chris Smalling, Matteo Darmian, Antonio Valencia, Alexis Sanchez and Fellaini have all left the club permanently or on-loan under Solskjaer, while players still at the club such as Phil Jones and Matic have gradually been phased-out – few United supporters would argue against the fact that these players’ performances have not been good enough for a club of Manchester United’s stature.
In reality, United’s squad is much more balanced, stable and set up for the future than when Solskjaer took over in December.
If United’s results don’t improve on the pitch though, perhaps Solskjaer has laid the perfect foundations for a more tactically-experienced manager to take the 13-time Premier League champions back to where they belong.