Rebuild over: Now Solskjaer must deliver Man Utd trophies after agreeing new contract

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In the moments after Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had finished his final media requirements having watched his Manchester United side throw away victory against Everton at Old Trafford in February, the Norwegian headed to his car. 

No security, no bodyguards, just Solskjaer going home from another day at work.

He could have been forgiven for putting his head down and rushing to leave after what was a disappointing result, but instead as he left he took the time to acknowledge and say  goodbye to every person he passed.

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A small gesture, but one that further showed the departure from the Jose Mourinho days at United. 

It was not all anger and bitterness with the Portuguese in charge, but the final months of his reign compared with the arrival of Solskjaer was like darkness and light. 

At first Solskjaer was brought in to do just that - improve the mood and bring back that famous 'Manchester United way'. But a remarkable set of results coupled with progress off the pitch led to the 48-year-old being given a permanent deal. 

Aside from the way in which he has changed the mood around Old Trafford, one of the most commonly used phrases in Solskjaer's press conferences has been progress, and the debate as to whether or not United have been making any.

The results over that time and subsequent improvement in league position show that they have, but now, with Solskjaer having signed a new three-year contract, the time for judging him on progress has ended.

Now he must be judged on titles.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer Manchester United GFX

Since the start of his time in charge, Solskjaer has spoken about the rebuild in front of him. He wanted to come in and not just change the culture but mould the team into a youthful, exciting, attacking unit that competes at the top for silverware.

It is that final piece of that jigsaw that he has yet to find. Four semi-finals and a final defeat mean the wait for a first trophy since 2017 goes on and, and while they leapfrogged Liverpool in the Premier League table last season, the gap to champions Manchester City was still 12 points. 

Now, though, this is undoubtedly Solskjaer's team. He has been handed over £350 million ($481m) so far to bring in fresh faces in a bid instill his own identity.

As the former striker said when the £73m ($101m) signing of Jadon Sancho was confirmed, the England international epitomises the exact kind of player he wants to bring to the club.

So, now the rebuild is getting closer to completion, does that bring more pressure? Solskjaer does not think so. 

“There's pressure all the time,” Solskjaer said after his new deal was announced on Saturday. “But with the decisions we made a couple of seasons ago, we knew this was going be a rebuild and we’re getting closer and closer to the team we want and the team I envisaged Man United being, with attacking flair, pace, defensive solidity.

“Last season we went unbeaten in the league away from home, we scored many more goals than we have done for many, many years, and we need to  tighten up at the back as well.”

That could be the last piece of the jigsaw for Solskjaer, sorting out the defence.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer Manchester United quote GFX

They have hired Eric Ramsay as a set-piece coach, who will be a welcome addition given how many goals they conceded from dead-ball situations last season, and, most importantly, are in discussions to sign Real Madrid centre-back Raphael Varane.

While the attack could do with a little bit of fine tuning, there is little to complain about when it comes to United's firepower, particularly with Sancho now in the building.

They scored 73 times in the league last season, just 10 times fewer than a Manchester City team who have been hailed as one of the greatest attacking units of all time. The issue is clearly at the back. 

City conceded 32 times in 2020-21, the fewest in the English top-flight, while United’s 44 was worse than Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea. Solskjaer knows they need to improve, and that is why they are working on strengthening at the back. 

If they land Varane, there will be an expectation that - for now at least - the final piece of the jigsaw has been put in place.

The rebuild can no longer be used as an excuse. Solskjaer has shown he is worthy of his new deal, but now he really needs to deliver silverware. 

The pressure is on.