When Ole Gunnar Solskjaer took the reins at Manchester United in December, no one could have imagined the immediate impact he would go on to make.
The glory days seemed long gone but their former striker has started to reignite that feel-good factor around Old Trafford.
Since taking charge, Solskjaer has suffered just one league defeat as the Reds have closed the gap on a top-four place.
And on top of that, their Champions League dreams remain intact after defeating the odds to knock out PSG in the Round of 16 last week.
However, there are a few unsung heroes behind the recent rise at United with Solskjaer fronting a pivotal team of backroom staff.
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And if there’s one thing they all share, it’s that they have Man United close to their heart.
Mike Phelan – Assistant Manager
As a man who knows the club inside out, Phelan is proving to be a great addition to Solskjaer’s backroom staff.
The 56-year-old made over 100 appearances for the Reds during his playing career before rotating between the reserves and first team as a coach from 1999 to 2013.
Phelan first became assistant manager at United in 2008 under Sir Alex and went on to win three Premier League titles and two League Cups on top of reaching two Champions League finals before leaving in 2013.
And he will have returned to Old Trafford stronger this time around having had a crack at sitting in the hot seat at a club for the first time in his career in 2016, taking charge of Hull.
As a former defender, he has undoubtedly helped improve United at the back as they have conceded 0.9 less goals per game since his return.
Michael Carrick – Coach
As a member of Jose Mourinho’s staff, former United star Michael Carrick was retained by Solskjaer during the managerial switch.
Defensively minded, he has helped the likes of Nemanja Matic and Ander Herrera improve during the leadership of Solskjaer.
As former team-mates, Carrick and his new boss will have a special partnership that wasn’t there during the former midfielder’s time under Mourinho.
Kieran McKenna – First Team Coach
Similarly to Carrick, McKenna is also a former midfielder and another one who has undoubtedly helped the rise of United’s middle players.
Another product of Mourinho’s staff, he was promoted to the senior side following a spell as U18s manager.
Unlike Carrick, McKenna’s focus will be on the attacking side of midfield, a key factor behind their strength going forward through the likes of Andreas Pereira and Paul Pogba.
Before Solskjaer arrived, the latter only had five goals to his name in all competitions but after scoring four in his first two games under the new boss, he’s gone on to bag another five.
Pogba has also managed to accumulate nine assists this season which is the joint-third highest tally.
Emilio Alvarez – Goalkeeper Coach
With Emilio Alvarez the driving force behind David de Gea’s rise to the top, it came as no surprise when Solskjaer decided to retain the goalkeeper coach aswell.
Prior to United, the pair worked together between 2009 and 2011 whilst at Atletico Madrid where the shot-stopper would play a vital role in their Europa League and Super Cup success.
Whilst under the guidance of Alvarez, de Gea not only secured his mouth-watering move to England but also his first appearance for Spain whilst at United in 2014.
Under Mourinho, the goalkeeper also teamed up with another coach in Silvino Louro who left at the same time as the Portuguese.
However, after Solskjaer decided to keep it to just Alvarez and de Gea, the latter’s season has turned a corner having clinched six of his seven clean sheets this season without the leadership Louro or Mourinho.
Solskjaer’s impact on the strikers
As a former United striker, it’s no surprise that Solskjaer’s arrival has had a positive impact on the front-line.
Prior to the managerial switch, one man who struggled to find his feet was Romelu Lukaku, having netted on only six occasions in all competitions.
However, in his first three appearances under the new manager, the Belgian bagged three goals before enduring a goal drought ending with a brace at Crystal Palace.
He then went on to find the net six more times in three games, taking his sum under Solskjaer to nine, three more than his tally prior to the Norwegian’s return.
The same can also be said for Marcus Rashford, who has exceeded his goal total too, netting six under the Norwegian, adding to the five he already had.
Solskjaer v Mourinho stats
United have also claimed more points per game under Solskjaer with 2.75 achieved per match, 1.25 more than the first half of the season under Mourinho. They have also accumulated more goals per game (2.5), shots (16.4) and chances (12.0) in comparison to the Portuguese (1.7 goals, 12.7 shots and 9.4 chances).
As for United’s win percentages this campaign, the Norweigan has clinched 87.5%, compared to the 41.2% accumulated by Mourinho.
It is still unclear as to whether Solskjaer will receive the job permanently in the summer but what is for certain is that no one would complain if he is given the nod.News Now - Sport News