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Man Utd beat Crystal Palace in the Premier League and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer added another string to his managerial bow.
Fourteen games into his reign and it is so far so good for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in his role as interim manager at Manchester United.
The Norwegian has had a smile permanently plastered on his face since he walked back through the doors at Carrington on December 19 and while he insists that’s just who he is, he cut a slightly more concerned figure on the touchline at Selhurst Park.
Mike Phelan was biting his nails as he watched the warm up from the sidelines and Michael Carrick and Kieran McKenna were back in among the warm up drills having delegated to other staff for some other games in recent weeks.
United knew this game would be tough. It’s been a happy hunting ground for them in recent years, in fact Palace have never beaten United in 19 attempts, but it’s not been easy and in the last five meetings before Wednesday night’s clash, United had only triumphed by more than two goals once.
It took a 91st minute Nemanja Matic winner last season and the Serbian was ruled out of this one with an injury he picked up in training ahead of the Liverpool draw so Solskjaer would have to rely on someone and something else to get the win against Roy Hodgson’s side who were in a good run of form themselves, unbeaten in six in all competitions.
After the draw against Liverpool, Solskjaer could have been forgiven if that permanent smile he’s had on his face since he arrived had gone, with up to 10 first team players doubts for the trip to Selhurst Park.
But, the smile remained and he set about showing Ed Woodward and any of his critics that he’s got another string to his managerial bow.
It had been suggested by some that Solskjaer was just a smiley face in the dressing room to increase morale and improve performances but to say that is to discredit the job the Norwegian has done in the weeks he has been in charge.
He had already shown against Tottenham, Arsenal and Chelsea he was capable of tweaking his attack-minded approach to deal with their threat and he did the same against Palace.
Solskjaer’s 4-3-3 formation has been working well for United, their attack has clicked and they’ve found a solid defensive base to build their attack on.
But, with injuries going against United, Solskjaer switched up his tactics again and it worked. United started with a back three against Palace with Luke Shaw and Diogo Dalot pushing up as wing backs and it was the speed of Shaw which fashioned United’s opener in the first half.
Having shrugged off Jeffrey Schlupp he cut inside and set up Romelu Lukaku – 1-0 and Solskjaer’s plans had already started to pay off.
Playing two wing backs allowed United to stretch Palace and the trio of Lindelof, Smalling and Young were composed enough at the back to deal with the home side’s threat between them.
When Joel Ward pulled one back, Solskjaer changed tact again and the introduction of Eric Bailly, who came on at right back, allowed United to go back to a back four and have a little more security.
Whatever is thrown at Solskjaer he seems to deal with it; he’s set a club record for most amount of successive away wins in all competitions and without five regular starters.
He’s already proved he’s more than just a smiley face.