Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s instant impact as Manchester United interim manager continued in his first home game in charge as two goals from Paul Pogba helped his team secure a 3-1 win over Huddersfield.
After a resounding 5-1 victory at Cardiff, in his first game since replacing Jose Mourinho at the weekend, Solskjaer saw his team make it six points in five days over the Christmas period.
More significantly, the win and performance also maintained the positive atmosphere generated by the arrival of the popular Norwegian, who spent nearly 15 years with the club as player and coach before moving to his current club Molde.
The first Old Trafford goal of the Solskjaer era came after 28 minutes after a Pogba free-kick had deflected off Philip Billing and behind for a corner.
Marcus Rashford swung over a cross which was met by Victor Lindelof with a goalbound flick that Christopher Schindler cleared off the line, only as far as Nemanja Matic, unmarked at the far post, who steered in his first goal of the season.
United had dominated possession to the point, without unduly troubling Jonas Lossl in the visitors’ goal, and Solskjaer’s animated reaction on the touchline during that period showed his passion for the task.
It was a point not lost on the United supporters who had given their new caretaker manager a heartfelt welcome on his return to the club where his playing career ended in 2007.
Solskjaer could not conceal the delight on his face as he strode down the touchline before kick-off, dressed in club blazer and tie, waving to supporters as he made his way to the dugout.
A banner proclaiming “20-Legend” – Solskjaer’s shirt number in his United playing days – also made a return to the stands at Old Trafford, another reminder of the hero status the Norwegian holds at the club following his match-winning goal in the 1999 Champions League final.
– Key tactical switch –
But Solskjaer was not in for an easy afternoon. Huddersfield, who had moved bottom in the Premier League before kick-off, wasted a glorious chance after just 10 minutes, Terence Kongolo clearing the bar from six yards after a long throw-in by Billing.
And, when the visitors started the second half comfortably the more threatening of the two teams Solskjaer responded with an important double substitution that saw Ander Herrera and Ashley Young brought on.
Briefly, Huddersfield maintained their threat and a brilliantly-worked Alex Pritchard corner allowed Laurent Depoitre a 15-yard shot which David de Gea kept out with a magnificent, diving, one-handed stop.
That made the timing of Pogba’s first goal all the more significant as he doubled United’s lead just seconds later.
Rashford started the move with a darting 63rd minute run and pass to Juan Mata who reached the byline before pulling the ball back to Herrera whose square pass allowed Pogba to convert an accurate finish from 16 yards.
Pogba had only scored two Premier League goals in the same game on one other occasion – the derby victory at Manchester City in April that ranked as one of the highlights of Mourinho’s time in charge.
But he would repeat the trick in Solskjaer’s second game in charge, exchanging passes with Jesse Lingard after 77 minutes before beating Lossl with a spectacular right-foot finish from 25 yards.
Huddersfield at least claimed a late consolation as substitute Steve Mounie outjumped Pogba to head on an 88th minute Pritchard free-kick, setting up Mathias Jorgensen who slotted in from close range.