Solskjaer Can Resurrect Man Utd – But Will He Be Given the Time?
In 2019, every pundit and stat-obsessed soccer writer highlighted the fact that Manchester United got off to their worst start to a season since 1989/90.
What many of them failed to mention is that Alex Ferguson was in charge of the club in that season. Now, before you jump to conclusions and try to accuse me of comparing both Solskjaer and Ferguson, let me nip that thought in the bud.
When Ferguson took over at United in 1986, he had a very solid resume.
He had led Aberdeen to the Scottish Premier Division in 1979/80, 1983/84, and 1984/85, as well as the Scottish Cup in 1981/82, 1982/83, 1983/84, and 1985/86. Ferguson also won the Scottish League Cup in 1985/86, the Drybrough Cup in 1980, the European Cup Winners’ Cup in 1982/83, and the European Super Cup in 1983.
Solskjaer, on the other hand, has two Tippeligaens — in 2011 and 2012 — and a Norwegian Football Cup in 2013.
He was in charge of Cardiff City when they were relegated to the Championship in 2014.
No comparison. But there are certain qualities that Ferguson and Solskjaer share, which I will be highlighting for you today. More than this, Solskjaer took the manager gig in United’s hour of need and won the full-time role with some pretty solid form.
Look, Solskjaer is a legend at Manchester United. If he was anyone else, he would have been out the door a long time ago.
But can Solskjaer turn Manchester United around in 2020?
Solskjaer’s Run in the United Hot Seat
For many United fans, the Solskjaer project is one that is arguably the most frustrating since Alex Ferguson’s departure.
David Moyes took over from the legendary boss and was handed something of a poisoned chalice, in retrospect. United fans had expected things to go south a little with Ferguson’s retirement, but no one had anticipated that it would be that bad.
Moyes was sacked, and former Barcelona and Netherlands gaffer Louis van Gaal took over. United had their moments with the eccentric Dutchman, but the best they could achieve was to win the FA Cup in 2015/16.
I don’t need to tell any United fan how to feel about Jose Mourinho. But in retrospect, the wily Portuguese did incredibly well to lead the club to a second-place finish in 2017/18.
Of course, Mourinho’s abrasive nature saw him lose the dressing room before Solskjaer took over in December 2018.
Now, who would have predicted that the Norwegian would win 10 games and draw one before his first loss as interim boss came against PSG in the Champions League?
That was some serious form, and fans questioned whether it was Mourinho’s miserable nature that held the club back, rather than any discernible lack of talent in the team.
But when Solskjaer was named permanent boss on March 28, things went downhill fast. In their last nine games of the season, United won just two. They were beaten 2-0 by relegated Cardiff City in the Welsh capital, just to top things off.
An incredible contrast of results, it must be said. But surely you cannot have your team firing on all cylinders for weeks on end and then see that same group of players collapse like an old stone wall.
Welcome to Manchester United.
Solskjaer Is Man Utd Through and Through
While fans are getting extremely frustrated by United’s inability to close out games — and the tendency of key players to seemingly get abducted by aliens when they are needed the most — Solskjaer does get off the hook.
Why? Well, because fans of a certain age can remember just how much of an incredibly important player he was for the club. Their memories of the Champions League final — where he scored the winning goal with practically the last kick of the game — are not easily forgotten.
More than this, Solskjaer is a man that is deeply entrenched in the ethos of the club. Almost all of the established players that starred under Alex Ferguson in those glorious years are.
Sure, listen to Roy Keane’s opinion on anything Man Utd, and you will be treated to a lecture on how things should be done. But unfortunately, the players that Solskjaer inherited are not of that ilk.
Are any players these days capable of giving all to the United cause? Or are the modern mercenaries that happily hop from club to club to chase the biggest checks possible ubiquitous, regardless of what shirt they are wearing?
In my opinion, Solskjaer loves this club more than any other. He wants to bring back that feeling of pride to Old Trafford, and the only way of doing it is to cut the deadwood and start blooding the youth with the academy graduates and established younger players with more experience.
Solskjaer Has the Future in Mind
All right, United might not be at the level where they are challenging Liverpool for the title, but Solskjaer needs to build his own team first.
After all, Solskjaer inherited a motley crew of players that had no interest in working hard for the United cause. When he decided to get rid of Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez, he was widely criticized for not replacing Lukaku, at least, with a proven goalscorer.
Now, you have Mason Greenwood scoring four goals in his last five games. He joins the likes of Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford, Scott McTominay, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, and Daniel James as the nucleus of a young team that can go on to establish itself as one of the best in the league.
Paul Pogba will surely be out the door soon, and the message that will be plastered to the dressing room wall after his departure will essentially invite anyone else not up to the job to join him.
While United spent £80 million on Harry Maguire in the summer, I’m sure that will not turn out to be the most dreadful business the club has engaged in since Ferguson’s departure.
You can count the signings on one hand that have really proven themselves for the club over the past seven years, which highlights their atrocious work in the transfer market.
Solskjaer needs funds to turn this club into competitors in the short term, but he is doing a great job of establishing foundations for the future. On this basis alone, he needs time to carry on.
In this day and age, immediate success and instant gratification are demanded by clubs. United won’t be winning the title this year. They will more than likely fail to win it next year, too. So, why not build a team that can deliver consistent success?
I think United might be considering the long term for the first time since God knows when.
But, to play devil’s advocate here, could another manager essentially do the same job as Solskjaer while probably yielding better results in the short term?
Could Another Manager Do Better?
There must have been a few thoughts bouncing around the heads of the United board when Carlo Ancelotti was sacked by Napoli.
A proven manager with an incredible resume, United’s top brass must have asked themselves, or each other, for that matter, if the Italian was the answer to their problems.
Instead, Ancelotti moved to Everton on a four-and-a-half-year deal.
Now, don’t get wrong here, but Everton is hardly one of Europe’s best teams. Ancelotti will have to get used to smaller club mentality, a smaller checkbook, and pretty much smaller everything while in Liverpool.
Even though the 2010s have mostly been a nightmare for United, the club can still attract the best coaches on the planet. I’m pretty sure the more ego-driven of those managers would love the opportunity to be the one that rescues United from the present-day doldrums.
Solskjaer’s contract runs out in March 2022, which gives him the rest of this season and the entirety of next season, at very least, to show that he is the right man to take United forward.
If he hasn’t shown tangible progress by the midpoint of next season, questions will be asked.
So, it is fair to say that the Norwegian will be angling for a sizeable war chest in the January transfer window to help his cause.
Look, you could bring another manager in, but that new guy is going to need the same amount of time to do something special. Additionally, there are no guarantees that a new boss wouldn’t need even more time.
Why United Should Stick by Solskjaer
United fans have suffered for the best part of a decade under managers that overspent and had no desire to blood for the future.
With Solskjaer, they have a club legend that can go on to bring United back in line with the club they once were. This isn’t the first disastrous spell that the club has been through, and it won’t be the last.
But when you think about it, they haven’t been relegated like in 1974. They have not suffered a tragedy like Munich. They have had a few seasons without glory. That’s all.
You’d think that bossing the 1990s and a sizeable part of the 2000s would be enough for some fans, eh?
I’m not saying that United fans don’t have the right to be very pissed off with how things are going right now. Because they do. But what is the alternative to giving Solskjaer the time he needs to do something special?
The most obvious alternative is to draft in a big name coach and hand him hundreds of millions to bring in star players. Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but hasn’t this already been done?
United has had to rebuild after the Ferguson era. So, what better way to ensure the sustainability of brand Man Utd than ripping out the old decor, the rot in the walls, and starting from scratch?
I don’t believe that anyone other than the likes of former United players will truly understand how to replicate the old days. I’m not sure that United’s glory days will ever be replicated, but a new era could yield all kinds of success.
Solskjaer should be given at least a couple of years to continue his work. The question is, will United see things the same way?
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer could not have hoped for a better start to his reign as the interim boss of Manchester United. The leading soccer betting sites had more experienced coaches ahead of him for the full-time vacancy, but he was given the nod.
However, as soon as he signed off on a permanent deal, things fell apart.
Now, as we head into 2020, there are many fans and pundits who are torn on the subject of the Solskjaer project.
On one hand, some think he should be given the time to completely strip the club of the malignant culture and underperforming stars that have held the club back. On the other, some think he is just not cut out for the task.
Whatever you think of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, I think we can expect him to be the manager of Manchester United at the beginning of the next campaign.
Barring a completely irreparable disaster, naturally.