Last 3 weeks have been the most tumultuous for all Manchester United fans, 2 losses to bitterest rivals aren’t something which we have heard from Manchester United in the last 2 decades. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is under massive pressure and make no mistake that his job is on the line, but the big question is till when can he save his spot?
Currently, a lot of United fanbase is massively divided as “ole Out” vs “ole in”. Just to put context to this conversation, all the rival fans are Ole in brigade and that is not because he is a top manager but because if United sack Ole, then they will hire someone who is good and that smells troubles for rivals. Imagine the league is already competing with Klopp, Tuchel, Pep and now Conte, rival fans are happy with mediocre United manager rather than see them being steered by a Zidane or Erik Ten Hag.
Through this article, what I am trying to tell you is why is Ole a stop gap manager and United should look beyond him ASAP.
Positives under Ole
One big credit which ole deserves is that he has steadied a sinking ship post the Jose era. In an environment where people felt it was toxic, ole was a breath of fresh air. The likes of Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial enjoyed their best seasons under Ole. Manchester United returned to their old Swagger of fearless football and not to forget their iconic comebacks, be it the night in Paris or as small as the 96th min winner against Brighton. There was a pattern of comebacks which became a template for Ole and his men.
Having said all the positives for ole, there has and there will always be criticism against Ole and right since his appointment in December 2018, one common critic has been “what is the style of play?”
Jurgen Klopp, Pep Guardiola, Thomas Tuchel led teams have one thing in common and that is a system. No matter what the result is, their system doesn’t change, and it only gets improved game after game. Although United still get the points but there is no system for this current squad. They rely a lot on individual moments to win the games instead of a collective dominance by top teams. The biggest criticism for Jose Mourinho was “Fellaini” as Plan B but my question to Ole fans is “What is ole’s plan B?”
For example, the game against Southampton which ended in a 1-1, the highlight of the game was Jake Livramento’s smart exploitation of spaces between United midfield. United were pressed high up the pitch and looked like a deer in the headlights whenever they had the ball. The players looked lost and had no plan in place to counter this press, leading to Southampton’s first goal where Che Adams took a well drilled shot.
The same happened in 3-1 loss to Chelsea in FA cup semi-final. United used a 3-5-2 which saw them get better of Chelsea twice earlier on in the season. But Frank Lampard went with a 3-4-3 in the same game and dominated United in possession, they again had no answers, or a plan B to fall back on, and were thoroughly outplayed. Chelsea went on to win 3-1.
The blame for this is with Manager and not on individuals because he has been in charge for close to 3.5 years and in that duration, you would expect some playing style being associated to the team but there hasn’t been one.
There is obvious question on the manager and the staff and let’s look at the staff which is deployed at United under Ole:
• Ole Gunnar Solskjaer – Relegated with Cardiff, won league title with Molde
• Kieran McKenna – Former u23’s coach
• Mike Phelan – Coach under Fergie, brief stint as Hull manager, sporting director at Central Coast Mariners
• Michael Carrick – N/A
As you can see clearly, there is not much experience at a high level and there isn’t evidence that they can get the job done at the level which Manchester united demands. Another point to note is that it speaks volumes that the red devils had to poach Phelan from a nonmanagerial role in Australia and promote McKenna who has no coaching experience for a first-team club and essentially just give Carrick a job for the fun of it because he just completed his coaching badges. As much as Ole must bear the brunt of the criticism, his coaching staff have not helped him either
Over reliance on Individual brilliance – Brunaldo
For 2 seasons, it has been Bruno Fernandes who has been getting United out of the dumps all by himself and this season Mr. champions League has been saving Ole’s job or United’s position at UCL. Bruno and Ronaldo have quickly made their impact in PL and for Manchester united. The main reason for United’s finish couple of years back where they closed an impossible gap with Leicester and Chelsea and ended up finishing third is called as Bruno Fernandes.
One of the biggest strengths of Ole has been his man management skills but there are enough signs to tell you that it is far from the truth. If Ole is deemed as a great man manager then there are countless examples in this team who has bore the brunt of him. The most obvious one being Donny Van De beek (VDB).
VDB came with a reputation from Ajax and to be honest United have made a smart acquisition. But there are set of fans who say, “well he’s not going to play above Bruno” or “he can’t play in a pivot”. But my question is doing we pay 35 million pounds for someone who has had less than 5 minutes of action in PL and to top it his loan move to Everton was blocked by Ole. Surely, a great lesson in Man Management.
The impact that Solskjaer has made at Manchester United cannot be undervalued or understated. He has developed players, gotten rid of deadwood, and provided excitement to fans who have been starved of it for so long, but he has hit his ceiling.
For United to reach the next level, they need to employ someone who can take this platform that Solskjaer has built and elevate it to the next level. What the future holds for Manchester United is a mystery but what is clear is that they need to make important decisions soon. Sacking Ole is only solving half the problem though… Zinedine Zidane, and Erik ten Hag are all names that have been linked with the role but if United aspire to return to the upper echelon of the Premier League soon, they need to get their next appointment right.