Is Ole Gunnar Solskjaer up to the job at Manchester United?

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With the problems quickly piling up, it’s time for the Manchester United board to understand that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is not the elite manager they need.

In their history, United have only ever had one manager who was at the club for three years and failed to win a trophy and that was pre-war. Solskjaer is set to become the second if they still haven’t won any silverware by the end of the season. 

It seems the FA Cup may be the only option with Chelsea, Liverpool, and Manchester City’s strong starts in the Premier League and defeats to West Ham and Young Boys in the Carabao Cup and Champions League respectively.  

Tactically, it seems that Solskjaer does not have the understanding and nous of other top managers. He seems to prioritise player relationships over what is needed to win three points by making late substitutions. Benching Cristiano Ronaldo in their Premier League game against Everton could suggest that he is moving away from this, but that backfired in a 1-1 draw, leaving them winless in their last three home games. 

It seems improbable that elite managers like Jurgen Klopp, Pep Guardiola, and Thomas Tuchel would be struggling so much with a squad full of superstars. His obvious preference of certain players, such as Aaron Wan-Bissaka, who has had a torrid start to the season yet has started every game compared to poor man management of players like Van de Beek who looked on the verge of tears after not being brought on against Villareal proves even further he isn’t the right man for the job.

Solskjaer has also failed to implement a distinct playing style to the team. The squad is full of elite-level players, yet they do not play as a team, rather as a group of individuals. Games are won on moments of individual brilliance from a certain player, rather than a continuous stream of chances, that Liverpool create by pressing or Man City with their quick passing, for example. 

The squad is full of elite level players, yet they do not play as a team, rather a group of individuals

The next few months will be key for Solskjaer, and the fixture list is not friendly with United’s next six games coming against Leicester, Liverpool, Spurs, City, and Atalanta twice. If they can get through this tough patch with either good performances or results, then this boost could push United to a good league run towards the end of the season.

It still seems unlikely they will win the league, however. Ask yourself if any of the other top 10 clubs in the world would be happy with one domestic trophy in three years with a squad that cost £877 million. It seems highly improbable.

Ole’s legendary status at United seems to be the only thing that is stopping the board giving him the same treatment they gave Moyes, Van Gaal, and Mourinho. There cannot be the complaints of clubs like Spurs and Arsenal who have previously bemoaned at the lack of investment from their owners. 

They are spending over £75 million more per year on wages than any other club and have extraordinary depth in attack; the list of excuses dwindles the deeper you look. Fans seem to think there is a lack of creativity in midfield and the defensive midfield pairing of McTominay and Fred is mid-table standard at best.

This may not be Ole’s fault, as the board prioritised the signing of a 36-year-old Ronaldo this summer, which may have short-term benefits but doesn’t fit with the supposed long-term plan. Some blame must be shifted onto the board for strange recruitment choices, but it is Solskjaer who is failing to deliver the tactics that are needed to compete for League and European titles. 

For all their attacking prowess their defence is considerably leaky. Solskjaer has the world’s most expensive defender in Harry Maguire alongside four-time champions league winner Raphael Varane. These two alongside in form Luke Shaw and young talent Aaron Wan-Bissaka should create a solid backline, yet they have kept only one clean sheet in their past 18 games. Solskjaer must change something before this frailty at the back becomes even worse. 

The signing of a world-class holding midfielder in January – Ndidi, Brozovic or Rice perhaps – may fix this. However, there has to be a point where as a club United realise that they would not be in this scenario if they had not taken a gamble on an ex-player (a lesson they should’ve learnt from clubs like Chelsea and AC Milan).

He is a mid-table premier league manager at best, which is not what Manchester United, who should be competing for multiple titles a year, need. The sooner they get rid, the better.

Image: inanews via flickr

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