Solskjaer’s Christmas gift – an easy run of games to begin Manchester United era

Might be too early to call, but Manchester United played some good football on Saturday which makes one wonder if these were the same set of players Jose Mourinho played down so often for two-and-half years.

For the first time since the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson and Mike Phelan five years ago, Manchester United scored five goals on the return of the latter, an assistant to Sir Alex.

Perhaps his return to the coaching crew, alongside Michael Carrick and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer set the right tone for the transition United have long sought. The question about the interim manager’s capacity is a different conservation entirely.

Man United looked turgid in the opening quarter of an hour, and one might wonder how they would have responded had Marcus Rashford’s third-minute freekick not given United the lead early on.

As it turned out, that goal and particularly Ander Herrera’s stunner gave United the confidence they desperately craved and afterwards, what was witnessed was a masterclass birth by freedom and confidence – traits that had been subdued for a while.

Before anyone gets carried away, it’s only Cardiff City, one of the poorer teams in the league this season but Manchester United equally fought from 2-0 to draw Southampton a few weeks ago when they were hugely expected to win. So, yes, it matters.

Having already faced each of the top five teams in past weeks, Manchester United will face relatively easier opposition in Bournemouth, Huddersfield and Newcastle in the league before paying Spurs a visit at Wembley by mid-January.

Somewhere in this run is another home game in the FA Cup against Reading all of which gives Ole Gunnar Solskjaer ample opportunity to build this side into what he would like.

And if Saturday’s display is anything to go by, then Manchester United will be a stark difference from the gloomy and boring one fans endured for months.