Manchester United are seven in seven as Solskjaer allows boys to be boys
The kids are alright.
Whether you believe Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to be merely riding the crest of a wave or masterminding something of a mini-revolution at Manchester United, he is clearly doing something right. On Saturday afternoon, his newly-emboldened charges overcame obstinate opposition with a wit and vigour that was alien to Old Trafford just a matter of weeks ago. Brighton were always going to be a tough test, but Ole again passed with distinction.
As much as Solskjaer may be benefitting from the residuals of not being his predecessor, it feels increasingly hacky to peddle that line without qualification or due praise. Even if - as some would have you believe - the genial Norwegian has done little beyond allow his players to express themselves, that is praiseworthy in itself. Given a finite period to make a managerial impact, economy of instruction is a deliberate and egoless act.
Against Brighton, the home side grabbed the initiative with attacking intent. The likes of Paul Pogba, Anthony Martial, Diogo Dalot, Jesse Lingard and most notably Marcus Rashford darted and swarmed with a level of freedom they clearly relish. The second half may have highlighted just how imperfect this side currently are, but positivity won out over fear. Whereas Jose Mourinho obsessed over weaknesses, Ole leans into strength.
A key aspect of that is giving youth its head. There is a healthy competition developing between Martial and Rashford as to which can prove the more dazzling prospect. Whereas they were previously pitted against one another for the same first-team berth, the duelling cavaliers now play out their fraternal rivalry on the pitch. And under their new mentor, they can truly be themselves rather than having their natural exuberance doused.
'Giving kids a chance' doesn't mean just including them in the team. It is about letting them play. Older players are generally physically stronger, mentally tougher, more technically-honed, emotionally-centred, tactically-aware and consistent. The advantages of 'playing it safe' with seasoned pros are numerous. But talented youngsters offer one fundamental quality that can outweigh anything listed and turn logic on its head - fearlessness.
This was evident in the second goal of the game and the ultimate winner - an absolute beaut of naive surety from Wythenshawe's finest. Fed by Dalot in a position that demanded the ball be drilled across the six-yard box, Rashford foolishly took it upon himself to slalom past two defenders before carving a strike into the furthest corner of the goal. It was almost insolent in its audacity and absolutely a product of unfettered daring.
Whether Solskjaer turns out to be the next Di Matteo or the new Del Bosque remains to be seen. He has started impeccably well, but there are bigger tests ahead. That said, if his only achievement in temporary charge is to allow the likes of Rashford and Martial to fully cherish their youth, it will have been worth it.