After a difficult start to the season, it’s beginning to look as if Ole Gunnar Solskjaer may have just turned a corner with Manchester United.
Defeats to Newcastle, Bournemouth and Astana had piled the pressure on the United boss, but after a potentially season-defining victory in Saturday evening’s Manchester derby restored a good deal of pride to some of the damaged egos at Old Trafford, things are once again beginning to look up.
The win at the Etihad came just days after José Mourinho was sent home with his tail between his legs upon his return to the club. Tottenham fell to two Marcus Rashford goals then, and with Saturday’s win United have clawed themselves back into fifth place – just five points off the Champions League places.
Amid all the fanfare of the recent revival, however, the significance of the back-to-back wins, from a managerial perspective at least, seems to have been overlooked.
Mourinho and Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola – great rivals and two of the most esteemed coaches in history – both suffered defeats in close succession to the inexperienced Solskjaer, and while that highlights a couple of huge wins for the Norwegian, it also marks an all-time first.
Prior to Saturday, no manager in history had recorded wins over both Mourinho and Guardiola in the same week, but it’s something Solskjaer’s Manchester United managed to achieve.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is the only manager ever to get wins against Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola in the same week.
— Richard Jolly (@RichJolly) December 8, 2019
Of course, that statistic is skewed by the fact that few managers are ever likely to have faced both in the space of a week. Though their shared history is storied, they have only actually managed in the same league for four seasons, so it isn’t likely to have been an opportunity afforded to too many managers.
Nevertheless, it’s a symbolic statistic that underlines Solskjaer’s ability to go toe-to-toe with the best in the business, even this early in his managerial career.