2019 has been a year of ups and downs for Manchester United; the Red Devils changed manager early in the year and went on to endure turbulent form under the new boss.
Writes Matt Lee…
It has not been an easy ride for United supporters, but these have been the three key moments of 2019 for Manchester United.
Late night in Paris
March 6th, 2019. Smothered by a number of injuries, United arrived at the Stade de France knowing nothing but a miraculous performance would help them to overturn the 2-0 deficit from the home leg against PSG.
Unfortunately for those involved in sports betting, United provided exactly that.
Romelu Lukaku set the tone with an early, second-minute, strike before Juan Bernat dispatched Kylian Mbappe’s pass ten minutes later.
In what was a staggering move of tactical genius, Solskjaer responded to Lukaku’s second goal on 30 minutes by introducing youngsters Tahith Chong and Mason Greenwood.
The winning goal, albeit from the penalty spot, proved to be contentious as pundits debated whether Dalot had in fact been fouled – United fans were careless though as, Marcus Rashford slamming home from 12 yards, meaning they had won on away goals and were through to the next round.
While the result meant little later on, as United exited the competition in the following round at Barcelona – the scene of their 1999 miracle comeback – but its legacy lives on.
It proved to be a deciding factor in many pundits to support the appointment of Ole Gunnar-Solskjaer permanently and proved the Dane’s belief in young talent – something he would later embrace when given a transfer window to work his magic.
Appointing Ole Gunnar-Solskjaer
While Jose Mourinho officially left United in December 2018, Gunnar-Solskjaer was not officially appointed as his successor until late March.
Mourinho’s time at United came to an end after an inconsistent run of form where the Red Devils won just once in six gams – losing 3-1 at both Manchester City and Liverpool.
Under the guidance of their new Danish boss, United ended the seasons with a valiant sixth-place finish – high enough to qualify for European football through the Europa League.
Appointing the former United legend as their new boss proved to be a turning point for United as results soon began to come.
The disappointment and under-performing under Mourinho had been brought to an end. It took a while for Gunnar-Solskjaer to be officially appointed, but the Dane appeared to provide an immediate change as he helped the Red Devils to salvage a respectable finish.
Their form did nosedive, with United winning just two of the twelve remaining games after the aforementioned night in Paris – but the Red Devils hierarchy stuck with Gunnar-Solskjaer.
Summer transfer window
As shown by the memorable night in France, Gunnar-Solskjaer’s United is no stumbling block for the development of youth players.
More importantly, however, was how the Dane addressed his youthful philosophy in the transfer window.
He made just three signings in the summer as Daniel James, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Harry Maguire made moves to Old Trafford.
The combined ages of the trio provide an average age of just 23, further proof of Gunnar-Solskjaer’s trust in the youth.
Age continues to be an obstacle at United, with the importance of a blend in youth and experience being emphasized.
Fourteen members of the squad are 25 or younger; meanwhile, just five of the current squad of 26 have broken the 30-year-old threshold.
Gunnar Solskjaer continues to face criticism due to his lack of managerial experience; it is unknown how 2020 will pan out, but there has been plenty for United fans to reflect on from the last twelve months.
Main photo: Embed from Getty Images