Seeing Mason Greenwood drive into the Brighton penalty area from inside the right channel, produce a couple of upsetting passes and then find a sharp and intelligent ending was like watching a Premier League Years episode when Robin van Persie was in his pomp .
Solskjaer has already compared Greenwood to the Dutch striker who was influential in United’s last win in 2012/13 and the similarities are evident, particularly in the lethal ending they both provide.
Greenwood now has 13 goals this season, a fantastic return for a striker who isn’t turning 19 until October, and while Solskjaer was critical of the odds that his forwards would have lost to Sheffield United, Greenwood is usually exempt from such reviews. . While Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial may occasionally be guilty of some wayward finish, Greenwood is rarely anything but deadly.
It has shown that it can also create targets in Brighton. His composure when he ran to the rhythm of the third goal was a salient moment, slowing down over time to cut a perfectly weighted cross in the path of the precipitant Bruno Fernandes.
The longer the undefeated United game continues – which now has 15 games and should really reach 19 before the FA Cup semi-final against Chelsea – the stronger the feeling that this is not a false dawn.
Twitter’s reaction to United’s third magic at Amex quickly went from what was glorious to a fairly majestic goal: “United has come back again, hasn’t it?” by rival fans who have already seen it in the past seven years.
It is still too early to answer this question in the affirmative, but the signs are promising. It’s surprising to think that the team that played with such panache and precision towards Sheffield United and Brighton is the same embarrassed by Burnley at Old Trafford in late January.
If these are the first shots of United’s recovery to become one of the major forces at the top of the Premier League again, Fernandes’ second goal will be one of the moments when they will feel like a real United team again. It was the kind of devastating breakaway goal that Sir Alex Ferguson’s best teams have scored every season.
Solskjaer wanted to bring that kind of freedom back to United. He built this team following the rhythm and that goal was the clearest example of why.
A simple decision
Solskjaer gambled on Saturday when he made so many changes for an English Cup quarter-final when he already talked about how essential a trophy is for the development of this team, but having obtained that dice roll for the decision of his team to choose the trip to Amex was as easy as it gets.
United had the good fortune to beat Norwich City on Saturday and needed the intervention of a group of stars from the first team to bring them to the semifinals during extra time. None of the eight arriving on Carrow Road gave Solskjaer anything to think about, perhaps apart from Odion Ighalo, which is still a clear backup option.
The only remote decisions for Solskjaer’s assignment were whether to go again with Nemanja Matic in midfield and Greenwood on the right, but having seen the fluid side against Sheffield United he was happy to stay with that part, and that decision was justified . Changing this side right now seems very unlikely.
A nice group
It was just under 14 months ago, Sunday May 5, 2019, when Gary Neville said, “There is nothing I like about this Manchester United team.”
Solskjaer’s honeymoon was truly over. They had only won two of 11 games since eliminating Paris Saint-Germain out of the Champions League and had just played a terrifying draw with Huddersfield Town already demoted. The players seemed to have pulled down the tools and Solskjaer was becoming critical of some attitudes he was encountering.
During his co-commentary in Brighton Neville sang the praises of this team, saying that they were becoming part of their liking again. You can understand why. They seem a much more balanced side and the egos and agendas that were upsetting the team just over a year ago are gone.
He’s not even alone on the pitch. Harry Maguire and Marcus Rashford pioneered the team during an exceptional response to the coronavirus pandemic and the club hit the right note over and over again. It added to the sense of a factor of well-being that is gathered around United.
After the mistake that proved so expensive at Tottenham, David de Gea returned to the track against Sheffield United and Brighton with clean back-to-back sheets.
He will be particularly satisfied with his performance at Amex. While he had very little to do in either game, he showed the concentration levels required by a United No. 1 to come to the rescue in the second half, making a nice save to deny Aaron Connolly and Neal Maupay did nothing for the first three quarters of the game.