Ex-England international Richards heaps praise on the job Solskjaer has done so far in the Premier League this season.
Former Manchester City defender Micah Richards is convinced Manchester United are title contenders after their 6-2 win against Leeds United in the Premier League.
The Red Devils thrashed Marcelo Bielsa's Whites on Sunday to move to third spot in the league table, five points behind leaders Liverpool with a game in hand.
Midfielder Scott McTominay scored twice inside the first three minutes of the clash against old rivals Leeds at Old Trafford.
Bruno Fernandes and Victor Lindelof increased the home side's lead, with Liam Cooper's header reducing the deficit at the brink of half-time.
Daniel James broke clear of the Leeds defence to increase the lead 20 minutes into the second half, and that was before Fernandes added his second of the game from the penalty spot after France striker Martial had been brought down by Pascal Struijk.
Then, Stuart Dallas fired home a beautiful consolation goal for the awayside as one of the entertaining games of the season that had 43 shots came to an end.
Despite the majority saying that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's boys are far away from being title contenders, the table tells a different story, and if they win their game in hand, they'll move into second place - two points behind the defending champions.
"They are in the race, for sure, even if some of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's critics won't want to admit it. He deserves a lot of credit for the run they are on, but he probably won't get it," Richards told BBC Sport.
"I do kind of understand why - as pundits, we go week to week sometimes just looking in detail at one particular game or performance by a team, good or bad, and you can miss the bigger picture or the direction they are heading in.
"You forget that, when you get a bit of momentum as a club, the outside noise doesn't matter.
"United haven't come from nowhere. A couple of poor results in the Champions League meant they are out of that competition, and that led to more criticism of Solskjaer, but, in the Premier League they have been building momentum for a while now and they have climbed to third on the back of six wins and a draw in their past seven games.
"They have been playing well too, and scoring lots of goals, but no-one really seems to consider Ole's part in that or those good results.
"It's put down to his players rescuing games for him, and it's only Solskjaer's fault when things go wrong and he gets the blame for being "poor" tactically.
"I don't think that's fair, or reflects what has actually been happening. Solskjaer has got things absolutely spot on in plenty of big games in his time as United boss, including on Sunday against a Leeds team that have frightened a lot of opponents so far this season.
"I'm sure Solskjaer's selection raised a few eyebrows, with Paul Pogba on the bench, Fred and Scott McTominay in midfield, and Daniel James part of the attack.
"But McTominay was superb, giving them the energy and dynamism they needed in midfield, and I thought James was brilliant too. He helped provide that extra bit of pace to their attack that let them really tear Leeds apart.
"Leeds are a high-energy team, who work hard and play expansive football high up the pitch. A lot of teams see those qualities and think they will just sit back and wait to hit them on the counter.
"Manchester United, though, were different. They left three players up the pitch, which meant every time they got the ball they caused them lots of problems.
"Leeds midfielder Kalvin Phillips is one of my favourite players but he was left completely exposed and totally over-run in the middle of the pitch.
"The final score was 6-2 but, really, the home side could have reached double figures with the chances they had. It was a brilliant attacking performance to run away with what was a thrilling game.
"Solskjaer has been taking a lot of stick recently, and every time he loses a game it seems like it is the worst thing ever, and it is time for him to go.
"But now is the time to give him some credit. Manchester United have not truly been in touch at the top of the table at Christmas since Sir Alex Ferguson left in 2013, but they are this year.
"That's one sign of their progress, and proof of how they are heading in the right direction after two years with Solskjaer as manager. Another is the table which shows only Liverpool and City have picked up more points since he took charge.
"I still don't believe they will win the title, but they won't care what anyone else thinks. They have got momentum and confidence and they will feel like anything is possible. We saw in the second half of last season that they are capable of going on a long run of good results, so they will believe in themselves."