Manchester United face a potentially season-defining run of games ahead of the international break later this month.
Sunday’s victory in the Manchester derby was a welcome and impressive return to form in the Premier League but, with the Reds still 11 points off Man City, it is unlikely to change the course of the title race this season.
Instead, United’s best hope of silverware this season is in the cup competitions, with a Europa League round of 16 tie and FA Cup quarter-final on the horizon.
In the next 12 days, United will face AC Milan in a two-legged Europa League tie and also travel to Leicester City in the FA Cup.
With a Premier League game against West Ham that could go a long way to guaranteeing a top-four finish sandwiched in between the two Europa League legs, it is a four-game run that could well make or break the rest of the season for United.
Speaking in October 2019, a little over six months after Solskjaer was appointed permanent manager at Old Trafford, Woodward outlined the objectives United had for the future under the Norwegian boss.
“Ole’s vision maps exactly to the core three football objectives we have,” said Woodward.
“We must win trophies, we must play attacking football, and we must give youth its chance.
“Last season we were the Premier League’s leading club in terms of the most match minutes given to our own Academy graduates.
“We should all be proud that the significant investments we have made in our academy – spanning recruitment, facilities and analytics – are now bearing fruit.
“There’s a lot more we need to do in that but that’s coming in the next few years.
“We know this is a strong competitive advantage for us and an area that we’ll continue to focus on and invest in. But this remains the heart of the club.”
Since then, Solskjaer has clearly met two of Woodward’s three objectives.
The emergence of Mason Greenwood has shown United’s renewed approach to youth players at the club, with Scott McTominay also developing into one of the Premier League’s leading midfielders this season.
United’s young players make up a key part of Solskjaer’s squad, with the likes of Brandon Williams, Dean Henderson and Axel Tuanzebe adding valuable strength in depth and challenging for starting places.
Alongside this, the recent promotions of Amad, Shola Shoretire and Hannibal Mejbri show Solskjaer’s commitment to rewarding young players for their impressive performances in United’s development teams.
United are also the second-highest scorers in the Premier League this season, having netted just one less than Man City, showing Solskjaer is also delivering on Woodward’s desire to play attacking football.
So the only objective left for Solskjaer to meet is winning trophies.
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Manchester United secured a memorable 2-0 derby victory over Man City at the Etihad Stadium.
Bruno Fernandes and Luke Shaw scored the goals to clinch an unexpected, but empathic, victory for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s troops against the league leaders.
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United came close last season, suffering semi-final defeats in three competitions, which, at the time, represented progress and positive signs of development.
Yet a defeat in this season’s Carabao Cup semi-final raised questions over whether United had some sort of mental block in taking the final steps towards winning silverware – and those questions will only grow louder should United stumble in the next 12 days.
Whilst the Reds are not at the semi-final stage in Europe or the FA Cup just yet, the nature of their next four fixtures could go some way to demonstrating how close Solskjaer is to being able to deliver on Woodward’s final Old Trafford objective.