Manchester United defeated Bournemouth 4-1 on Sunday in Premier League play, as the Red Devils continue to cruise sincein the month. Paul Pogba continued his revitalization with two goals, while Marcus Rashford and Romelu Lukaku also scored in a dominant showing. United is up to sixth place in the table and enters 2019 with some serious momentum. Here are three takeaways from Sunday's game.
United is showing confidence under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
This team just looks and feels different under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. There is a lot of fluid movement inside-out as the team looks to move the ball in the final third, and there is a confidence that has been missing for quite some time when attacking. Whether it's Pogba's impact, the fact that this team can get the job done without Lukaku or just the defense playing a bit more organized, it's like night and day. The key has been the creativity in the final third.
During the end of Mourinho's tenure, things surely felt toxic. There, and the team really struggled to create much of anything in the final third. It's like a weight has been lifted off all of the players and they are unchained to perform as they wish.
Twenty-four shots on frame and 12 goals in three games (and three wins) are telling numbers. United had 16 goals in the 10 games prior with Mourinho, and the creativity and effectiveness have been something else. With Mourinho the team was so, so predictable. You can see a change in philosophy under the new boss. The team is attempting more crosses, trying to take quicker touches and utilizing speed to punish opponents.
The club is averaging eight shots on frame per game and four goals with Solskjaer. With Mourinho the club averaged 1.5 goals per game over its previous 12 contests.
Paul Pogba looks like a new man
It's like he's been born again. While he looked sharp for France while winning the 2018 World Cup, he is finally playing the part at United, and you can contribute that to Mourinho being gone. A manager that makes you believe and that you can connect with can make all the difference. Now, United players certainly didn't live with a fear of Mourinho, but it did appear bumpy and uncomfortable. With him gone, Pogba is on a different level. His first goal -- though it came off a lovely run from Rashford -- showed the determination Pogba has to get forward and make an impact. Take a look:
And when you see Pogba breaking out dance moves like this, it's a good sign for United fans:
I’d love to know what those ex pros, pundits and some #manutd fans have to say about this man now? Too many lazy narratives & general nonsense has been said and it all comes from a lack of understanding about who he is. Dance #Pogba, dance. #MUNBOU #POGBACK #MANUTD pic.twitter.com/J91JPzd0qe— Jordan Jarrett Bryan (@_JordanJBryan) December 30, 2018
Let's wait to declare United as being back
Is United back? I'm not so sure. The signs are encouraging and you can't deny the results, but all three of the wins under the new coach have come against teams in the bottom half. Confidence is everything in this sport, and this team is certainly trending upward. But we've got to see them do it against a big team in order to really believe. Newcastle is next, and then Reading in the FA Cup, results that won't tell us much unless they lose. But Tottenham on Jan. 13 at Wembley (11:30 a.m. ET, available on fuboTV) will be the first big test. The truth is, outside of that one, United will be favored in its other six games through Feb. 9. Taking care of most of them team will be enough to declare this team back and get the Red Devils back into the top-four race.