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Ole has finally got United moving in right direction

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KEY MAN: Manchester United’s Bruno Fernandes. Photo: Dave Thompson/Pool via REUTERS

KEY MAN: Manchester United’s Bruno Fernandes. Photo: Dave Thompson/Pool via REUTERS

REUTERS

KEY MAN: Manchester United’s Bruno Fernandes. Photo: Dave Thompson/Pool via REUTERS

Liverpool have yet to get their hands on the Premier League trophy and already, their greatest rivals are flexing their muscles ahead of next season.

I have not been surprised to see some unusual results since football returned to our TV screens last month. With no crowds and some teams playing with little or nothing at stake, the mood around the matches has inevitably changed.

However, the one team that has caught my eye since the restart has been Manchester United.

I went on record in my Herald column to suggest Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was not the man to revive United, with his lack of top-level coaching experience meaning he does not appear to be qualified in any way to be the manager of a great club like United.

Yet after it seemed he was on the brink of the sack when his side lost back-to-back games against Liverpool and Burnley back in January, Solskjaer has led United to a 16-game unbeaten run that has been impressive in more ways than one.

Problem

We could all see that United’s big problem in recent years has been the disruptive influence of players with exploding egos who believe they are bigger than the club they are lucky to be playing for.

The likes of Paul Pogba, Alexis Sanchez and Angel Di Maria arrived at Old Trafford amid a fanfare of hype, but they failed to shine where it matters most and, more often than not, detracted from the team rather than enhanced it.

You look at the success Jurgen Klopp has generated at Liverpool and it has been built on a rock-solid team ethic that ensures no player is put on a pedestal ahead of another, but that has not been the case at United.

Solskjaer made it clear when he replaced Jose Mourinho as the club’s manager that he wanted to change that culture eating away at the club’s soul and what we have seen since the Premier League restart last month suggests he has made progress in that mission.

A lot of the matches we have seen in the last month have been pretty dire and not having any fans on hand to lift players when they lose a bit of focus has been a factor in that.

Yet United have bucked the trend, with Bruno Fernandes making a huge impact since he signed for the club in January and young forward Mason Greenwood looking like the real deal as he bangs in goals with real class.

Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford are attacking threats when they are at their best and while United still have a lot to prove before they will give Liverpool any sleepless nights, you can see that the culture of that team is changing for the better.

Chelsea will also be a threat next season as they have already signed Ajax’s Hakim Ziyech and beat Liverpool to the signature of RB Leipzig striker Timo Werner, with Bayer Leverkusen midfielder Kai Havertz also being linked with a move to Stamford Bridge.

I think Chelsea need defenders to become serious title challengers, but they are showing some ambition in the transfer market once again and will be stronger next season.

Tottenham and Arsenal have both been pretty dreadful for most of this campaign and I can’t believe they will be as bad again, while Manchester City won’t take their dethroning as Premier League champions lying down.

When you look at the Premier League table ahead of Liverpool’s trip to Brighton tonight, it is incredible to see the champions a massive 23 points clear and even more remarkable that Manchester City have lost NINE games this season.

How can a team as great as City lose almost a quarter of the Premier League matches they have played?

It’s hard to understand how it can happen, but when you look at their 1-0 defeat at Southampton last weekend, it sums up where they have gone wrong.

Pressure

They have been put under huge pressure by Liverpool and that has probably affected them, but the defensive flaws that have been on display all season have tripped them up time and again and their manager Pep Guardiola has to solve that.

City have looked better than Liverpool since the Premier League resumed and their attacking play is second to none, but this sport is not just about scoring goals and Liverpool have found the perfect balance that has allowed them to serve up consistency the rest couldn’t deal with.

Klopp’s champions will look to move their points tally into the 90s by beating Brighton tonight and I would expect them to get the job done against a side that is closing in on securing their own survival in the Premier League.

It will be interesting to see if Klopp gives Curtis Jones a start after he made a positive impact against Aston Villa on Sunday and their might also be a case to give teenage full-back Neco Williams a few matches in the final five matches.

I’d love to see Liverpool crash through the 100-point barrier and I’m sure Klopp’s players will want to do that as well.

But their cutting edge has been lacking now that the main job is done and it might be a case of limping over the finishing line in these final five games.