Beneath the surface there seems to be a method employed by the coaching staff all of whose positions have been filled for the first time in a decade. They have not only sought young and hungry players who consider joining this illustrious trophy laden club as a step-up but also have picked out defense as an area requiring urgent repair.
In Harry Maguire they have got a leader apart from being England's best centre-half. Mourinho was furious with the club last summer for not recruiting one although he broke the record for the same position twice in Eric Bailly and Victor Lindelof. Clearly the missing element was leadership. United have not made their best player as Captain in recent seasons but senior-most who might not play every match. Fans hope that after David de Gea signs his contract extension he will wear the arm band, last worn by Goal Keeper in 1919 - Jack Mew. Another area where no one since Gary Neville's retirement made his own seems to have been finally filled in Aaron Wan-Bissaka at right-back and he comes with EPL experience unlike Matteo Darmian. Luke Shaw the left-back was voted the clubs player of the season last year while Victor Lindelof had a steady season after a slow start to his United career. For the first time since United last won the league in '13 under Ferguson, they now have a formidable defense.
Ole's mentor Sir Alex Ferguson also signed a right-back in Viv Anderson and centre-half in Steve Bruce as two of his first three signings. Comparisons do not end there. Like in '95 where Ferguson famously let Hughes, Ince and Kanchelsks go and replaced them with 'Class of 92' prompting Alan Hansen to say "You can't win anything with kids", Ole has let Fellaini, Herrera and Lukaku off without replacements. Ole retracted Pereira after the FA Cup 3rd round game and made him ready by February when the change was there for everyone to see, esp the goal against Southampton. Fred had a great night in Paris against PSG. McTominay ran riot against Barcelona in the first leg of Champions' League quarter-finals and has persisted with the Scot ceding the fact that his positional sense will naturally improve with age. Only player yet to respond to Ole has been Alexis Sanchez and one gets a feeling its only a matter of time before the Chilean starts to produce the magic his earnings so demand.
Apart from these Ole has promoted youth and bought a sensation of the championship last season in Daniel James. Tuanzebe (back from two excellent campaigns on loan at Villa) in defense, Angel Gomes and James Garner in midfield, Mason Greenwood in attack, Tahit Chong on the wing. All of them had a great pre-season tour of Far East, restoring the belief in Ole that "If they are good enough, they are old enough." a famous Matt Busby quote. This has prompted comparisons with Busby Babes of '55 and Fergie's Fledglings of '95.
Busby introduced the Babes from '51 onwards after their debut against arch rivals Liverpool ("United's Babes were cool and confidant", Tom Jackson). They had won the League in '51 after a gap of 41 years with Carey, Chilton, Pearson, Cockburn, Aston Sr, Rowley forming the backbone of the squad who also played in '48 FA Cup triumph. This coupled with United winning the first six FA Youth Cups from '52 gave Busby plenty of options to think about. '53 would prove even more significant with record signing Tommy Taylor and debut to Duncan Edwards, both of whom dominated the '55 and '56 league winning teams.
Ferguson re-focused the emphasis on youth under an impressive coach Eric Harrison that bore results by winning the FA Youth Cup in '92. And later became mainstay of the senior squad from '95 while Giggs was already part of the first team since '91. That team had a spine of Schmeichel, Bruce, Pallister, Irwin, Keane, Cantona. On that foundation United went on to win the League and FA Cup double with kids in Neville brothers, Butt and Scholes.
Ole meanwhile has just got his defense together and are yet to know each others strengths and weakness. While apart from De Gea and Pogba, United have lacked a spine capable of holding the team against tough opponents and guide the upstarts in the fast, pacey and physical demands of the league. Ole has broken from the recent mistakes of using just the cheque-book to fill the gaps, choosing instead to form a structure with a high-press style that requires lot of stamina which was the focus of the pre-season training. This has certainly excited the long serving die-hard fans with eager anticipation of the new campaign. But doubts remain if United would do any better than finishing 6th given the absence of a proven spine, lack of depth in other positions and loss of their talisman Lukaku.
Lot rides on young Rashford and Martial to not only make up for loss of Lukaku but start proving their credentials of becoming a lead marksmen for the team on a consistent basis. The right midfield was bereft of creating ideas in recent seasons and introducing James or Chong on the wing with consistent run of games for Pereira might yield better results. Sanchez might occupy the left attacking role where he had clashed with Pogba in the past for possession. McTominay and Fred have to support the slowing Matic, whose positional sense is still great to thwart and create chances. Attack and midfield areas still need sorting out in later transfer windows requiring patience from fans and MUFC Board. From Busby, Ferguson analogy and the spine of the team that needs strengthening in a methodical way, Ole has created a 3 year blueprint to challenge for the top which is better than quick fixes that have not solved the root cause.
At long last the defense is sorted and new kids are raring to go as per the great traditions of this famous club, can't wait to get behind the team. #OlesAtTheWheel #OurManOfDestiny #GGMU