Amidst the 101 different things we like about Ole is his refreshingly succinct and honest style in front of the microphones. After years of Fergie’s mindgames, José’s psychodramas, and Van Loony’s out and out wibble, Ole’s cheerful Scandi bluntness threatens to put matchday hacks out of business.
Not only does Ole give them nothing to write about in terms of spoken idiocies or phoney outrages, he also obviates the need to read hacks’ match summaries. Because can anyone sum up Saturday better than this? “Character and belief [won it], more than quality. There was quality in the three finishes, but we lacked a little bit of that class.” Boom; fewer than 20 words, job done, move on.
Norwegian understatement being what it is, let us pause to note that in Pereira’s strike and Lukaku’s second, there was not just ‘quality’; we actually saw two of the best goals of the season so far.
And both from players who had been racking up more than their fair share of fan criticism hitherto; Lukaku’s brace of braces this past week screams ‘turning point’.
There is no real mystery here, mind. Stick the ball nicely in front of the big Belgian lump, and he will put it away most of the time in classic centre-forward style. But expect him to play with his back to goal, or to start behaving like some fancy dan inside-forward, and you’re just asking for trouble.
Nice touch of him to take his top off too, as though to demonstrate the rumours are untrue, and he is not as fat as Luke Shaw used to be. “It’s definitely mainly muscle,” cooed one watching female in my earshot. (Her new glasses have certainly enlivened Grandma’s matchday.)
Pogba managed to blot the copybook by missing his third penalty of the season, which means he’s only getting a 66% conversion rate using that unaesthetic abomination of a ‘run-up’.
Any other player would now risk losing the spot-kick job but Ole, probably wisely, has already gone on record to state that he will continue.
Anyone who watched the way the José-Pogba relationship soured, and who has grasped what a ‘special case’ Pogba is, will understand why Ole has adopted that
policy. We perhaps don’t like it, but we understand it. Will this indulgent approach also mean Pogba has to be considered for the club captaincy in due course, now that Tony V has confirmed he is leaving Old Trafford?
Bryan Robson, arguably the greatest British football captain since Bobby Moore, suggested this week that
Herrera or Smalling would be better candidates for the job, to some raised eyebrows. Yet, Pogba more or less runs the French world champions, despite Lloris being the official skipper. Moreover, to be fair to him, Pogba did prove a responsible and able leader in Russia, as became evident when the French released their behind-the-scenes TV film of the campaign. Perhaps putting him in charge of the United dressing room would be the making of him?
A suspended Pogba will be absent, along with half-a-dozen crocks, from the United team in Paris this week, where any whispers about a possible remontada are being greeted with derision. It’s true that PSG have never got over throwing away a four-goal lead against Barca a couple of years ago but the expectation is still that this is going to be a formality-completion job. Not that this will prevent the Red Army from enjoying a long-awaited Euro away day, likely our last before Brexit. How fitting it’ll be our greatest EU foes, the French, probably throwing us out of the tourney.
Instead, attention and desires are already focusing on Arsenal next weekend. United are now essentially playing in a four-team mini-league for two Champions League places, and a repeat of the fabulous cup win in February would put us into an ‘ours to lose’ position.
Whodathunk it possible back in November? Solskjaer can play it down all he likes, but the boy done good: ‘Give It Ole.’