Caretaker manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has revived Manchester United by “unblocking the minds of the players”, says his former team-mate Jordi Cruyff.
United have picked up 22 points in eight games under Solskjaer after earning 26 in 17 under Jose Mourinho.
“After two or three days there was a huge turnaround without any training,” Cruyff told BBC Sport.
“His work has been more mental, talking to the players and pressing the right buttons to get the best out of them.”
After starting his spell in charge with a relatively comfortable run of fixtures, United have now won away at Tottenham and at a Leicester side that earned positive results against Chelsea, Manchester City and Liverpool in the last six weeks.
They are now two points off the top four, compared to being 11 adrift when Mourinho was sacked on 18 December.
Solskjaer also guided his side to victory against Arsenal at Emirates Stadium in the FA Cup.
Cruyff added: “The quality is there. They are good players. From the outside, he has touched their minds and put an arm around their shoulder.
“They really needed someone to stabilise things and give positive messages, outside and inside the club.
“When players are blocked, they cannot produce. Suddenly there is an unblock, which probably comes more from the mind because Ole had no time to turn things around based on training.
“That tells you a lot about the players’ state of mind.”
‘Manchester United need sporting director’
Cruyff joined United at the same time as Solskjaer in 1996.
They are both now managers but reached their current situations through different routes.
Solskjaer had successful stints at Molde either side of an unhappy few months at Cardiff in 2014 and the momentum for him to replace Mourinho permanently will increase if he successfully navigates upcoming fixtures against Paris St-Germain, Liverpool, Arsenal and Manchester City.
Meanwhile Cruyff is preparing for the start of the Chinese Super League season, having steered Chongqing SWM away from relegation trouble after joining in August.
Before that, the 44-year-old had extensive experience as a sporting director in Cyprus and Israel.
United intend to create such a role, having previously kept the power with the manager, and Cruyff believes it is crucial they make an astute appointment.
The former Netherlands winger said: “The sports director role is vital.
“Managers decide training schedules, tactics, line-ups. But who makes the decisions about where to scout or the structure of the academy? The manager? There is no logic to that.
“If a manager loses eight games, unfortunately, he is out of a job these days. Why would you give the keys to the club to the person who is most fragile?”