When the injury bug bit Manchester United a few weeks ago, fans were worried it could derail the teams promising run under new boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
Coming during a tough stretch of the season, many were quick to write off the rest of the campaign. However, United have been able to keep the good times coming as the role players in the team have been able to step up to the plate and deliver when the team needed them most.
The run of injuries started with Jesse Lingard and Anthony Martial, who were forced to leave the Champions League tie against Paris Saint-Germain before the end of the first half.
Nemanja Matic then picked up a knock in training during the week, and he was suddenly ruled out for a number of weeks. The match against rivals Liverpool was close to a disaster, as Ander Herrera and Juan Mata both came off injured, while Lingard re-aggravated his prior hamstring issue and Marcus Rashford picked up a knock that limited his movement in the second half.
In the span of two weeks, the team was missing out on almost the entire starting midfield and forward line.
Heavy squad rotation was inevitable, but players who were previously stuck on the bench have come on and kept United on the right track.
Others getting the job done
Romelu Lukaku has been the face of this resurgence, as the Belgian is back to his very best. He was crucial in United’s draw against Liverpool, sacrificing himself to stay out wide and track back to help cover the backline.
Lukaku was back in the attacking spotlight in the next game against Crystal Palace, as he got to start as the focal point in the attack with Rashford missing out. It was like the Lukaku of old, as he grabbed two goals in typical fashion, scoring without getting too involved in the teams build up play. It was a similar performance in the next game against Southampton, as he made the most of the chances that fell to him. Putting on a masterclass in finishing, Lukaku curled in two separate beauties on his weaker foot to give United the win.
He was helped out by Andreas Pereira, who might have had his breakout game in a United kit. He had helped out defensively against Liverpool the week prior, but his attacking abilities were on show against the Saints.
Subdued in the first half, the Brazilian was pushed forward in the second. He grew in confidence and started to have a bigger and bigger impact on the contest. His efforts culminated near the hour mark, as Andreas carried the ball up the pitch, cut inside, and unleashed a rocket that flew into the top corner.
Old Trafford erupted, and everyone in the stadium was bouncing in celebration. Andreas wasn't done, soon after assisting Lukaku’s first after some clever dribbling and playing an instrumental role in securing all three points for the Red Devils.
Even the lesser names on the United roster have made the most of their chance in the spotlight. Scott McTominay was thrown into the fire on a moments notice against Liverpool, and came out with a clean sheet against one of the continents best-attacking trios. Far from the most glamorous player, the Scottish youngster was able to prove that he can get the job done whenever called upon and was compared to former United legend Darren Fletcher by Solskjaer after the game.
Summer signing Fred has failed to acclimate to United, but even he put in some solid shifts in recent weeks, assisting the winner against Southampton on Saturday.
Credit due to Solskjaer
This stretch has only made boss Solskjaer look better and better. He’s dealing with an injury-depleted squad but is still getting the needed results on the pitch. The Norwegian has rotated the team well, keeping everyone happy and ready to go whenever needed. Instead of being his downfall, the number of injuries has only made Solskjaer a stronger manager.
However, it won’t be getting any easier, as United have three critical contests in three different competitions. It starts with a trip to Paris for the second leg of their Champions League tie, where the Red Devils will have to somehow come back from a two-goal deficit on the road.
Then United heads to London to face Arsenal in a game that could decide who will end the Premier League season in the top four. The run of games concludes with another fixture away from home, as an in-form Wolves side will host United in the quarterfinals of the FA Cup. If Solskjaer can get through this brutal stretch unscathed with a depleted squad, then he should be a shoo-in for the permanent job come the end of the season.