Just two days after #MourinhoOut actually happened, former Manchester United captain Gary Neville described the last six months of manager Jose Mourinho's tenure at the club as "messy and scabby."
Neville, who is a pundit with Sky Sports , felt that "the club has been crawling on its hands and knees, minute-to-minute, hour-to-hour, day-to-day, match-to-match for the last two months" after United's 3-1 loss to arch-rival Liverpool on December 16 last year. This loss left the side 19 points adrift off the top and 11 points off the Champions League places, at sixth on the Premier League table.
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Several former players were convinced that the current crop of players at the club did not have what it takes to play for a club of United's calibre. Even David de Gea, who has been one of the most consistent performers in the last four years, saw his form dip in the first half of the season.
Mourinho was sacked on December 17, bringing an end to his two-and-a-half year stint in charge during which he had reportedly fallen out with several key players, primarily the club's record signing Paul Pogba. His relationship with the club's board members too was reportedly rocky.
Less than two months since his departure, the Red Devils are flying again under the guidance of caretaker boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, a club icon himself.
United is unbeaten in 11 matches across all competitions (league and FA Cup) under Solskjaer. This run includes 10 wins, and has powered the club to fourth in the league.
United is the form team in the league since Solskjaer took over on December 19. Under him, the club has pocketed 25 points out a possible 27 in nine matches.
Under Mourinho, United had managed 26 points of the 51 available in 17 games. From a goal difference of zero under Mourinho, this statistic under Solskjaer now stands at 17. United has scored more and conceded less than any other side in the division with the Norwegian in charge.
United appears to be the favourite heading into its last-16 Champions League first-leg game against Paris Saint-Germain without Neymar on Tuesday, a thought which may have seemed far-fetched under Mourinho.
Supporters often found fault with Mourinho blaming United's woes on the players, officials and other things but being riled by criticism of his own role. This led to the hundreds of tweets from the popular club's supporters, with one of the cheekier ones being: the greatest trick Mourinho ever pulled was making the United fans believe that this squad cannot do any better.
A fractious relationship
Flamboyant midfielder Pogba's turbulent relationship with Mourinho often headlined United's failings. Both the player and the manager were outspoken against each other, with Mourinho reported to have described Pogba as a 'virus' . He was left out of the starting line-up in United's 2-2 draw against Arsenal and the defeat to Liverpool citing poor form.
Under Mourinho, Pogba had five goals and four assists in 20 matches. Since his departure, the 26-year-old is thriving in a more advanced role in midfield and displaying the goal-scoring attributes of a forward. The Frenchman has eight goals and five assists in 10 matches across competitions. His 11 goals in the league is already his best-ever tally in his career.
Anthony Martial, another Frenchman, who Mourinho was reportedly keen on selling last summer, has also been fundamental to United's attacking exploits in recent matches.
A blossoming Marcus Rashford and Martial coming into his own makes the duo quite a handful for opponents. Martial's nearly 50-yard dribbling run to score in United's 3-0 win over Fulham on Saturday shows why the club was keen to keep faith in the youngster and extend his contract until 2023.
'Stick to the philosophy'
After United's 1-0 win away to Tottenham in January, Neville emphasised United's deep-rooted philosophy and said the club should not hire any manager who would differ from it.
"No one should ever be allowed to enter Manchester United's training ground or Old Trafford ever again to shape their own philosophy. That is done.
"Manchester United's philosophy is so deep and so meaningful, it's like Barcelona's and it's like Ajax's. At Manchester United you play fast, attacking football in an entertaining way. You bring young players through and give them belief. And you win," he said on an episode of Gary Neville podcast .
Solskjaer, who was a player for 12 years at United and coach of its reserve side for three, seems to have stuck by United's philosophy and is reaping the rewards for it so far. The buzz surrounding his elevation to a permanent role in charge is growing by the day.
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