Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s dream start as Manchester United’s interim boss continued at St James’ Park on Wednesday as a 2-0 victory at Newcastle United saw him emulate an achievement set by the club’s most legendary figure.
Matt Busby was the only other United manager to win his first four games in charge, way back in 1946, but the Norwegian, who has breathed fresh life into the team since Jose Mourinho’s sacking, demonstrated his fresh-faced Midas touch again.
His second-half introduction of Romelu Lukaku saw the big Belgian score within 38 seconds and when Marcus Rashford slotted home the second, it meant United have now scored 14 goals and earned maximum points from their four matches under Solskjaer.
While sixth-placed United were celebrating the start of what promises to be a rather happier new year, Chelsea suffered a frustrating start to 2019, being held to a goalless draw at home by Southampton.
Chelsea had hoped to cap off a big day having earlier announced the signing of Christian Pulisic, who will join them next season from Borussia Dortmund for 64 million euros (58 million pounds), making him the most expensive U.S. player of all-time.
Instead, the Blues were held by Ralph Hasenhuettl’s stubborn Saints and could only move on 44 points in fourth place, three behind Manchester City, four behind Tottenham Hotspur and now 10 behind leaders Liverpool.
“We did not move the ball very well and we need to improve,” said Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri.
“You’d be happy with four wins from four — and finally we kept a clean sheet too,” said a delighted Solskjaer, who reiterated his desire to turn his temporary appointment into a full-time job.
“We were slow in the first half but we controlled the game well, we concentrated and overall it was a very professional performance.”
Manchester United were 11 points off the fourth Champions League spot when Solskjaer took over a fortnight ago but their gap behind Chelsea is now already down to six points.
“We have to play every three days so I cannot think of next year, I have to think about the next match,” he shrugged.
Unbeaten Liverpool will face champions Manchester City in what has all the feel of a pivotal top-of-the-table clash on Thursday.At the other end of the table, there was more misery for bottom club Huddersfield Town, who after taking the lead at home to Burnley through Steve Mounie’s first goal since April tumbled to a 2-1 defeat with 10 men.
It meant a club record of eight successive defeats as Christopher Schindler got sent off just before halftime and Burnley, who equalised through Chris Wood, came from behind to win with a second-half Ashley Barnes goal.
The loss left the Terriers eight points from safety on 10 points — four adrift of 19th-placed Fulham — while Burnley burst out the bottom three into 16th on 18 points.
Wolverhampton Wanderers’ hopes of soaring as high as seventh plummeted at Molineux as Crystal Palace won 2-0 with two late goals from Jordan Ayew — his first for the club — and Luka Milivojevic.
On a night full of flat New Year performances, it was all rather different at the aptly-named Vitality Stadium as Bournemouth drew 3-3 with Watford, with all six goals coming in the first half, including five in the space of 13 mad minutes.
West Ham United had Marko Arnautovic’s three-minute double in the second half to thank for them coming from 2-0 down at the London Stadium to secure a 2-2 draw against Brighton & Hove Albion.