Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was accused of being too nice to succeed as Manchester United manager.
Even his predecessor, Jose Mourinho, seemed to predicted things would not end well as he declared: “The nice guy, after three months, is a puppet and that doesn’t end well.”
Speaking to L’Equipe last May, after Solskjaer’s dream start at United faded into a sixth-placed Premier League finish, Mourinho suggested he would not be able to have success with his approach.
Instead, he defended his famously intense outlook which has led to countless trophies but also caused numerous dressing-room tensions which ultimately saw his United project unravel.
“Generally, the players can feel a certain erosion, especially when you ask a lot of them,” Mourinho told L’Equipe.
“When I say that the second season was fantastic, I say it because the potential and the objectives were met.
“I really squeezed, like an orange, to achieve them. When you have a very professional group of players who are ambitious, hard-working and talented, at a structured club, you don’t have that erosion.
“When you are almost alone, in that you don’t have the support of the club close to you, while certain players go somewhat against the coach, who is the nice guy.
“I don’t want to be the nice guy, because the nice guy, after three months, is a puppet and that doesn’t end well.”
But Solskjaer has responded perfectly to Mourinho’s suggestion that there is only one way to get the best out of players at Old Trafford.
Rather than “squeezing” them like an orange, he has sown the seeds of a long-term project which is now starting to bear fruit.
The likes of Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial have enjoyed their best-ever seasons under Solskjaer, whilst multiple other players have thrived in what is seemingly a more relaxed environment.
Paul Pogba’s return seems to see him with a new focus after an injury-plagued season, whilst new signings Bruno Fernandes, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Harry Maguire have all had an impact.
Whilst Mourinho suggested Solskjaer would simply become a “puppet” after three months, that has not proved to be the case.
Instead of bemoaning the structure of the dressing room, he has been the focal point of creating an environment suitable for success.
After a tough start to the season, he has put together a 14-game unbeaten run which they will hope to extend to 15 games at Brighton tonight.
And that has boosted their hopes of a Premier League top four finish with Solskjaer this week insisting they can go the rest of the season unbeaten.
Asked whether United could finish the season without another defeat, Solskjaer responded: “The short answer is yes but the long answer is that there’s more to it than that,” he said. “Any Man United team should go into any game against any opposition believing they can win..
“Complacency, that kicks you somewhere you don’t want to get kicked in football and any game is a difficult one.”
Whether or not they do taste defeat again this season, their recent run has indicated a perfect response to Mourinho’s “puppet” claims and has proved there is more than one approach which can yield success in the Old Trafford dugout.