The three most improved Man United players under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer 5 years ago

The three most improved Man United players under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

By Philip Dillon.

The "Babyface Assassin" has brought a new lease of life into a Manchester United squad that appeared to be a lost cause upon his arrival.

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United were eight points behind Arsenal before Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's first match as caretaker manager. Six games later, they are on the same points as Arsenal and mounting a challenge for the top four.

A squad that was previously drained of confidence is now playing with a sense of freedom that we have not seen at United for many years. Players that were previously considered failures under Jose Mourinho are playing fantastic football with Solskjaer.

Here are the three most improved players under the Norwegian coach:

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Paul Pogba

Pogba is a polarizing figure in world football but no-one can deny that he has been United’s best player since the appointment of Solskjaer. No matter what Mourinho said to the press, there was a clear relationship breakdown between the pair.

The World Cup winner criticised United's style of play in a post-match interview after a 1-1 draw against Wolves and was subsequently stripped of the vice-captaincy a few days later.

Playing only 25 minutes against Arsenal and completely frozen out of the squad for the trip to Liverpool. There were rumours that Barcelona were interested in Pogba whilst Mourinho was still in charge.

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The former Juventus midfielder has been brought back in from the wilderness under Solskjaer and he has been in sensational form. He has been a talisman for United, scoring five goals and contributing four assists in his last six games.

Pundits have regularly criticized the French midfielder for not showing his incredible abilities enough since his return to the Premier League. The last few games, he has played with a sense of freedom.

We have seen him making late runs into the box from midfield - which means he can finally contribute goals and assists to the side.

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It has been similar to how Frank Lampard played for Chelsea, drifting in late to snatch on chances and we have seen Pogba’s output improve significantly. In 15 Premier League games under Mourinho, Pogba only created six chances. He has created at least two in every game under Solskjaer.

His attitude has been fantastic since he has returned to the side and he is playing with a hunger and desire that was missing in the last few months of the Mourinho tenure. He has praised the United legend for giving him the opportunity to play again.

"Before the coach arrived I was in the shadows, on the bench, and I accepted that," he said following the win over Spurs.

"It is a pleasure to play again. That’s normal. Now I am always smiling."

There is no doubt that United will continue to win games with Pogba in this kind of form.

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Marcus Rashford

Rashford burst on to the scene back in 2016 as an unknown 18-year-old, scoring in his first Europa League and Premier League appearances against Midtjylland and Arsenal respectively.

The English striker has massive potential but he was never a guaranteed starter under Jose Mourinho. He was also played out of position on the left flank as Romelu Lukaku was the preferred man at striker.

In big games, Rashford would be used as a winger who tucked in as a wing-back in a back six when United were defending. The focus was always on tracking back and try catch teams on the break but his role in the team was defensive first and foremost.

Rashford has played in his preferred position of striker under Solskjaer and he has managed to score in three consecutive Premier League games for the first time in his career.

The goal against Tottenham showed how much of an asset Rashford can be for Manchester United. His pace can cause any team in the league problems on his day and he proved how clinical he can be in front of goal when played in his natural position.

At just 21 years of age, Rashford's potential is enormous and if he remains in this form Lukaku will have to get used to playing the role of an impact sub.

Victor Lindelof

Lindelof has struggled for form since his £35 million move from Benfica to Manchester United in the 2017 summer transfer window. The centre back only made 17 Premier League appearances in his first season but this year he has had more of a chance in the first team.

When United were hammered 3-0 at home to Tottenham, Victor Lindelof came on in the 58th minute for an injured Phil Jones. The attacking threat of Lucas Moura and Harry Kane made the Swedish international look almost amateurish.

Jamie Carragher did not hold back in his analysis of the centre back, saying:

"I can’t really criticize Lindelof because it gets to the stage that he’s so far out of his depth that you start to feel sorry for him."

In the return fixture on Sunday, Lindelof started and proved to his doubters that he is good enough to be a regular starter for United.

Lindelof was one of the few players who can say they performed well in the latter stages of Mourinho's reign. He has continued to improve under Solskjaer, He has started every Premier League game since the appointment.

Lindelof’s improvement in recent times is one of the few positives defensively for United this season. The defence have kept two clean sheets in their last two games - which is as many clean sheets as they had in the previous 20 Premier League games.

It is another sign of Solskjaer improving this team from top to bottom and the confidence gained from two clean sheets on the bounce will benefit Lindelof and the whole United defence.