For the first time over the past week this Manchester United team has been more Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s than anybody else’s.
Against Istanbul Basaksehir six of the starting XI were Solskjaer signings and he repeated that majority in the second half at Southampton when Edinson Cavani came off the bench to great effect.
Solskjaer didn’t exactly inherit a poor squad when he replaced Jose Mourinho at Old Trafford, but every manager wants to put their own stamp on the squad and bring in their own players.
That’s been a gradual process for Solskjaer across three transfer windows, but now the balance looks to finally be tilted in his favour.
In the Champions League Solskjaer began with six of his seven permanent signings in the side, in Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Harry Maguire, Alex Telles, Donny van de Beek, Bruno Fernandes and Cavani. At St Mary’s it took until the interval for the sextet to be reunited when Cavani came on for Mason Greenwood.
It’s certainly been a good week for Solskjaer, then. Not only is this team looking more like his own than ever before, but his signings have played a key role.
Six of the seven goals United have scored this week have come through Solskjaer additions, and it could have been all seven had Fernandes not donated the penalty against Basaksehir to Marcus Rashford. One of those came from Daniel James, the only Solskjaer signing not to start a game this week, but time remains firmly on his side.
Solskjaer deserves credit at St Mary’s for his in-game management and bold half-time substitutions, correcting a first-half formation that didn’t work, but this week has again shone a light on the fact his best work has been done in the transfer market.
United continue to operate without a director of football and it’s clear someone with experience and know-how could be a valuable asset, in smoothing negotiations as much as anything, but it seems Solskjaer needs little help with identifying the right players for his United.
Fernandes could well be the signing of the year given his continued impact, but almost every Solskjaer addition has contributed. Telles looks a bargain at £13.6million, offering a greater attacking threat from left-back, while Wan-Bissaka is assured at right-back, defensively excellent and continuing to improve going forward.
Maybe the jury remains out on Maguire due to the £80million fee, but Solskjaer has seen enough to make him his captain and there is clearly an excellent centre back in Maguire on his day.
But further forward Solskjaer’s additions have generally been very good. James has had a difficult spell but he remains young in terms of his development and has scored crucial goals.
In midfield Fernandes has been a revelation, but Van de Beek is beginning to prove his worth as well. United acted quickly to sign the Dutch midfielder from Ajax for £35million this summer, pouncing when a move to Real Madrid fell through.
He has been eased gently into the side but in two starts this week has looked potentially as transformative as Fernandes in the way he’s made United tick.
Not only have United scored seven times this week but they’ve created a lot of chances as well and the way they’ve moved the ball through midfield, with Van de Beek at the heart of it, has been essential to that. The Dutchman has added some impetus to United’s play and speed to the way they moved the ball into the forward players and Fernandes.
It’s clearly Fernandes who is the gold standard for United signings under Solskjaer, but all seven permanent additions have made the mark at the club and at the moment none of them can be deemed to have been unsuccessful. That’s an impressive strike rate for Solskjaer and this week this side has become more of his own than ever before.