When Ole Gunnar Solskjaer took over the Manchester United managerial job, it was clear that a rebuild was the need of the hour. The squad, left behind by Jose Mourinho, was low on confidence, disjointed and needed restructuring.
And Solskjaer, who has overseen two transfer windows now, after being handed the reins on a permanent basis a little over a year ago, has done a solid job so far. True, the season was off to a dodgy start, but Manchester United have recovered admirably and are in contention for a top-four finish, while still being in the hunt for the FA Cup and the UEFA Europa League.
Solskjaer’s task is not complete by any stretch of the imagination, but the Norwegian has brought back the positive atmosphere around Old Trafford, with his five new signings playing a crucial part along the way.
But which of Solskjaer’s signing has made the most impact since arriving at the Theatre of Dreams? Let’s find out;
Daniel James – 7/10
Arriving from Swansea City for a modest fee of £15 million, there weren’t a lot of expectations on Daniel James, given that he had just played one full season with the senior team. But the manner in which he started life at Manchester United – with a goal on his debut against Chelsea – sent the Red Devils’ faithful over the moon.
Indeed, James enjoyed a fantastic first month in Manchester United colours, and suddenly the Welshman became a key member of Solskjaer’s side at a time when many expected him to be a squad player at most.
The goals dried up for James soon enough, but he continued to make a difference on the pitch with his relentless running and work-rate off the ball. His goal-drought finally came to an end earlier this month, leaving him with a tally of four goals and seven assists in 37 games till date.
There is plenty to like about James’ game – his searing pace, the willingness to keep on running and the way he shrugs off tackles from opponents and gets back up. The 22-year-old has made a solid impact at Manchester United, but there is still a lot of work to be done on his game, mainly with regard to his decision-making.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka – 8.5/10
There were many who felt that Manchester United had overspent when they splashed £45 million to sign Aaron Wan-Bissaka from Crystal Palace. After all, he had played just one full season with the Eagles’ first-team prior to the switch. But boy has he proved everyone wrong!
Wan-Bissaka did not take long to endear himself to the Manchester United supporters with his crunching tackles and solid defending. The 22-year-old has gone onto become one of the best in his position in the Premier League and even earned a call-up to the England national team, but an injury deprived him of a chance to earn an international cap.
Wan-Bissaka, so far this season, has made 34 appearances in all competitions for Manchester United, contributing with two assists. Furthermore, he has made a whopping 99 tackles in the Premier League this seasons, with only Leicester City’s Ricardo Pereira making more (118), although the latter has played over 200 minutes more than Wan-Bissaka.
While there are no doubts over Wan-Bissaka's defensive capabilities, his attacking output does leave a lot to be desired, considering that a modern-day full-back is expected to act as a key attacking outlet for the teams. Wan-Bissaka has shown improvement in that facet of the game as well recently though, reinforcing a belief that Manchester United have a gem on their hands.
Harry Maguire – 8/10
A lot of eyebrows were raised when Manchester United decided to splash a whopping £80 million to sign Harry Maguire from Leicester City last summer, in the process, making him the world’s most expensive defender.
While there is still a long way to go for Maguire to repay that outlay completely, he has shown why United were willing to go all out for him. The Englishman has helped the Red Devils’ defence improve considerably from where they were last season. His presence on the field has brought a sense of assurance to the backline, while the composure he exudes when on the ball and his strong aerial presence have been particular standouts.
But it is the authority and the leadership qualities that has made Maguire such a hit at Manchester United. From his first game, the England international has taken over the leadership mantle at the club. So, it was hardly surprising that he was appointed the club captain after Ashley Young’s departure in January.
There have been mistakes here and there, while he is also capable of scoring more than the two goals he has scored so far given his aerial strengths. But Maguire, without a doubt, has played a huge role in the club’s revival under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and has also had a positive impact on fellow defender Victor Lindelof’s game.
Bruno Fernandes – 9/10
If reports are to be believed, Manchester United spent the entire summer trying to sign the Portuguese playmaker, but were unable to close the deal. However, they ensured that a repeat of the same did not happen in January. And what an inspired piece of business this has proved to be for the Red Devils!
It is no secret that Manchester United were lacking the creative element in their game for the entire first half of the season, especially with Paul Pogba out injured. But Bruno Fernandes’ arrival has addressed that issue in some style.
Fernandes’ effect at Manchester United has been infectious, to say the least. While the Portuguese has contributed heavily with three goals and four assists in just nine matches, it is the impact that he has had on the players around him that makes him such a special signing for United. In his short time at the club, the 25-year-old has struck up a fine partnership with fellow midfielder Fred and star striker Anthony Martial.
It is no surprise that Manchester United have gone on to an 11-game unbeaten run following the Portuguese’s arrival at the club. Fernandes has made a huge difference at United, not only with his football but with also his natural leadership.
Odion Ighalo – 8/10
A signing that was termed bizarre, a transfer that was said to be another knee-jerk decision by Ed Woodward & co – the January deadline day signing of Odion Ighalo, on loan from Shanghai Shenhua, was ridiculed by pundits and rival fans alike. But it has taken very little time for the Nigerian centre-forward to make those naysayers eat their own words.
Ighalo’s signing was one out of need and necessity, with Marcus Rashford facing a lengthy spell on the sidelines. And the former Watford striker, who had left the Premier League for China three years ago, has justified Manchester United and Solskjaer’s decision to take a punt on him.
Ighalo has made such an impact during his short stint at the club that there are already talks about making his transfer a permanent one before next season kicks off. The 30-year-old, a boyhood Manchester United supporter, has scored four goals and set up one more in four starts in all competitions.
Goals and assists aside, Ighalo has also led the line admirably. Holding the ball up effectively, bringing his teammates into play with sharp link-up, the 30-year-old has brought a different flavour to the Manchester United squad – something that they were lacking.