Well now he has something to equal Paris, perhaps even to surpass that night. He has an evening to remember at the Etihad, a performance which surpassed anything his team has produced under his reign and a derby victory that will live long in the memory.Whatever happened to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer at Manchester United – and few have been betting on long stay – you thought that at least he would always have Paris. That giddy, spring night back in March where an outstanding performance and a 3-1 win over Paris St Germian sent United into the Champions League quarter finals, secured Solskjaer the manager’s job. Yet it also precipitated the collapse in the form that has brought so much uncertainty to his future.
They may not celebrate allowing Liverpool to move an astonishing 14 points clear. Yet pretty much everything else was as perfect as you can imagine for the red half of Manchester. The score-line made it look close. In reality, in as scintillating a display of football as we have seen this season. United took City apart in the opening 30 minutes. They should have been 4-0 up. Perhaps the fact that it was only two indicates the underlying weaknesses. But this was the United the club envisioned when Solskjaer was appointed: audacious, exhilarating, fearless. They were a throwback, even if this was victory conceived in counter attack excellence.
There are times when Manchester City, for all their consistent excellence, simply disintegrate. Pep Guardiola is so convinced of the his tactical plan, so bold in its execution, that perhaps he forgets he’s playing 34-year-old Fernandinho and an unsteady John Stones as centre halves. As such, asking Angelino taking up a position on the left wing, with Kyle Walker also getting forward (though he, at least, showed some caution) might seem unnecessarily brave.
Perhaps they expected the United that turned up at Bournemouth away last month? They got something quite different. This was the dashing, audacious team that emerged this time last year when Ole Gunnar Solskjaer first took over.
More than that, though. That opening thirty minutes was Solskjaer’s finest tactical moment ain his reign so far. We have seen Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool do this to City or Real Madrid and Barcelona do it to Pep Guardiola’s Bayern Munich. But Solskjaer has yet to prove he exists in such exalted coaching heights. But here was a game plan perfectly designed and superbly implemented.