Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was handed the Premier League manager of the month for January, following in footsteps of ‘the gaffer’ Sir Alex Ferguson and also becoming the first person to claim the award at Manchester United since the legendary Scotsman. The former striker has taken to life back in England like a duck to water since replacing the sacked Jose Mourinho as caretaker charge at his former club back in December.
Out of his ten matches so far in charge in all competitions, Solskjaer has won nine and drawn one, with United also clinching 10 of the available 12 Premier League points available last month. Such a remarkable run of form saw the 1999 treble winner named January’s Barclays manager of the month, beating the likes of Southampton boss Ralph Hasenhuttl and Burnley manager Sean Dyche.
It made the Norwegian the first United manager to claim the award since Ferguson in October 2012 — which was also his final season and ended with Premier League glory. Solskjaer said: “It means we’ve been the team of the month, both the staff and the players, so we’ve done well. We want to be winning games, we want to move up the table and this is the start of it.”
United marksman Marcus Rashford also won the EA Sports Player of the Month award for January for returning three goals in four PL matches, thus ensuring that the Red Devils clinched the player and manager double for the first time since Dimitar Berbatov and Ferguson in January 2011. Rashford said: “Playing consistently gives you the opportunity to be up for these awards. It’s the first time I’ve won the award and I think only the second time I’ve been up for it, so it’s a good one to win.”
Despite talking down his chances, Solskjaer’s impressive body of work has made him the bookmakers’ favourite to become permanent manager, though his current agreement requires him to return to his primary role as Molde boss in the summer. Ironically, the last person to be bestowed the Premier League manager of the month award but not be in charge come next season was Solkjaer’s current right-hand man Mike Phelan.
And he didn’t forget to thank Phelan and the rest of the support staff after winning the coveted award, which is decided in a vote decided by a panel of football experts and the public. “The more you know the culture of the club, the culture of the players and the way that we have been successful, that has helped me,” the Norwegian said.
“I’ve got some fantastic coaches, I have to say, Kieran (McKenna), Michael (Carrick), they’re brilliant. Emilio Alvarez’s working with the best goalkeeper in the world and to bring Micky in with me is very reassuring because he’s so calm and experienced. You cannot be a good leader or a manager without good players, you can’t get results without the players, so ultimately it’s how they respond to what we tell them and they’ve been fantastic, so all credit to them.”
Regardless of what happens come season end, and whether Solkasjaer is retained as permanent manager or not, he has done enough to restore some credibility in the English shores following a disastrous time with Cardiff City back in 2014. He has also managed to get the best out of the United stars, and the clubs fans will be hoping for some silverware come season end.