As you might have heard from some obnoxious chanting recently; Ole’s at the wheel! For his first few months in the driving seat, he looked to have steered Manchester United to greener pastures. Lately however, he’s been driving that banged up car towards the same cliff edge that Jose Mourinho was heading toward, losing six of their last eight games.
Regardless, you have to admit that he has done a surprisingly decent job at keeping the red half of Manchester relevant this season, with them still fighting for a top four finish. On April 24th, United take on City at Old Trafford in the 178th Manchester derby, and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s first as manager.
While Solksjaer is all too familiar with what it’s like to play in a Manchester derby, this match will be completely different. The Manchester City sides he competed against are almost incomparable to the one they’ll play this coming Wednesday.
Ahead of the game, I thought I’d take a look over recent years and how managers for both clubs have fared in their first ever derby and see if any lessons can be learned for either side…
David Moyes (2013–2014) & Manuel Pellegrini (2013-2016)
The start of the 2013/14 season saw both Manchester clubs hire new managers to take up the rivalry left by Roberto Mancini and Sir Alex Ferguson. David ‘The Chosen One’ Moyes undoubtedly had the bigger challenge of the two. Ferguson’s last season saw him end his career with Manchester United lifting the Premier League trophy, despite losing the final Manchester derby he managed in.
No-one should need reminding how Moyes’ ten months at Old Trafford went, though it is fun to do so. Within the first month of the new season, he took his team to the Etihad Stadium to face Pellegrini’s new look Manchester City. Though the two managers careers would pan out differently, they had very similar starts in their opening campaigns before this match; both teams playing four: winning twice, drawing once, and losing once – setting this first meeting up nicely.
22/09/2013: Manchester City 4–1 Manchester United
Both managers sought to assert their authority early in the game, epitomised by the duels between Rooney and Kompany, but it was City’s attacking prowess that proved too much for the United defence to handle. Nasri and Kolorov worked the ball easily around somehow still United player Chris Smalling – for Aguero to hit a stylish volley in the back of the net for the first goal in the 16th minute. There was little hope for the reds who went 2-0 down just before half-time from a well worked City corner.
From the start of the second half the future shark team smelled blood and attacked in waves, playing around and across the United back line with ease. By the 50th minute they were 4-0 up. City cruised to victory, losing a consolation goal from a free-kick by Joe Pesci in Home Alone disguised Wayne Rooney in dying minutes.
This match defines the 2013/14 season for both managers. Moyes showing he was a little out of his depth, and Pellegrini putting on an attacking display that his City side would keep up for the rest of the season. Moyes’ tentativeness cost United while City weren’t afraid to go for the jugular when the time was right.
It’s more likely that Solksjaer will take Pellegrini’s approach to his game over Moyes, having committed himself early in his Old Trafford career to playing attacking football. But after seeing recent Man United performances, it’s doubtful they have players with the quality of what Aguero, Nasri, and Negredo were able to pull off here.
Louis Van Gaal (2014-2016)
Louis Van Gaal claimed he inherited a “broken” Manchester United squad when he took over the season after David Moyes, and following a rough start to life at Old Trafford he would soon go on to say that it could take three years for the clubs potential to be reached. They needed to get their act together a lot sooner than that with Van Gaal’s first Manchester derby coming three months into the 2014/15 season.
02/11/2014: Manchester City 1-0 Manchester United
In a more hard-fought contest than the derby at the Etihad the season before, both goalkeepers David De Gea and Joe Hart were on top form as they made crucial saves that kept their teams in with a chance of getting a result. De Gea saved a one-on-one shot from Aguero early on, whilst Hart denied Angel Di Maria late in the match.
Van Gaal certainly had his players fired up , with somehow still United player Chris Smalling getting an early booking by blocking a Joe Hart kick, then ruining his teams chances shortly afterwards, gaining another booking and subsequently sent off for a mistimed sliding tackle on James Milner.
In truth, the scoreline flattered United with City having many more chances, as well as missing out on a clear-cut penalty when the game was still 0-0. Aguero sealed the win with a bullet one touch strike from a Gael Clichy touch-line cross.
Solksjaer will be hoping for the passion Manchester United showed in this game, only without the punishment. He’ll also want the luck they benefited from with some City near misses and questionable refereeing decisions.
In recent Manchester derby’s, United have been clinical when presented with chances, and if Rashford or Martial are presented with the chance Di Maria had in this match, Solksjaer could come away with points that Van Gaal and Moyes weren’t able to get.
Jose Mourinho (2016-2018) & Pep Guardiola (2016–present)
A lot of United fans (friends I know included) heavily doubted the rumours that Pep Guardiola would be joining Man City, and were frankly gutted when it happened. United’s response to this was to bring in Pep’s managerial rival from his La Liga days; Jose Mourinho. After sacking Louis Van Gaal for not playing ‘attack, attack, attack’, it remains a mystery why Mourinho would be your choice to help bring those days back, but they did it anyway.
This showdown had the media salivating and looking to the fourth match of the new season where these two managers went head-to-head in their first Manchester derby. With Chris Smalling starting on the bench, it felt like it could be anyone’s game…
10/09/2016: Manchester United 1–2 Manchester City
This is one of the most tense derby days I can remember. I’m not sure if this personally came from watching the match surrounded by Manchester United fans in town, or if it was just as tense for everybody.
Both teams tested each other out early on; Kevin De Bruyne playing in a great cross across the face of goal which no one was quick enough to get on the end of, and Paul Pogba trying his luck from distance and coming close. But it was City who broke the deadlock with De Bruyne taking advantage of a too-slow-to-react Daley Blind, pouncing on a headed pass from Iheanacho and slotting the ball into the United net.
Tensions flared with Rooney and Pep getting into a brief scuffle on the touch-line, and not long after City were up 0-2 courtesy of Iheanacho following up on a KDB shot of the post. It was one of the most dominant first half displays we’ve ever seen from Manchester City. United got back into the game after some trademark Claudio Bravo nervousness led to a spill and Ibrahimovic goal, but City weathered the storm and Guardiola came out of his first derby day with the win.
This was one of the first glimpses that City fans got of what it was like to play Guardiola’s style of football, and it’s a performance we’ll remember for a long time. While the rest of the season didn’t pan out the way they would have wanted, City are now where they want to be, and if they play on Wednesday with as much drive and intensity as they showed in this match, Manchester United and Solksjaer will know just what Manchester City can do.
Here United didn’t get to ‘attack, attack, attack’, but many of their fans do feel like they have that now with Ole, despite recent results. Unlike Mourinho’s United team, they’ll want to come out of the gate swinging, and put the Blues under pressure early on.
With both sides needing the win, I think we’re in for another blockbuster and certainly a first derby day for Ole Gunnar Solksjaer to remember, hopefully after falling asleep at the wheel.
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