Solskjaer’s failing, but at least it’s for the right reasons
Solskjaer is more concerned with the long-term health of Man Utd than his own reputation as a boss – an admirable trait that's likely to cost him his job.
Prediction: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer won’t be in charge by the time Manchester United are a good football team again.
If his first six months in permanent charge is anything to go by, Solskjaer isn’t a talented enough manager to challenge for either Premier League or Champions League success.
But it’s unfair to declare him out of his depth at United, a criticism that has been levelled at him after his side made their worst start to a season in more than 30 years.
Solskjaer does have a plan, which is to rebuild the culture of the club that, thanks to negligent owners, has been destroyed since the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson in 2013.
His plan is to do that through recruiting players who are young and determined enough to improve and playing them alongside academy graduates such as Marcus Rashford, Scott McTominay and Axel Tuanzebe.
So far, so good. Harry Maguire, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Daniel James have, alongside McTominay, been United’s best performers so far this season.
That makes a pleasant change from United’s post-Ferguson transfer business, which can generally be described as "fucking atrocious".
Of the near-30 players signed between 2013 and 2018, only a handful have been successful. One of those is Sergio Romero, a substitute goalkeeper.
That mismanagement is what’s letting Solskjaer down right now.
Fred is the worst Brazilian to play for United, an impressive feat for anyone who watched Kleberson play, while Nemanja Matic is finished in the Premier League. So, too, is Juan Mata, who was generously afforded a two-year contract extension in the summer.
That, in turn, has placed too much burden on the club’s academy players, who, while talented, are not ready to play week in, week out, never mind return United to the glory days of Ferguson.
That’s not to say that Solskjaer hasn’t made mistakes.
He would not be relying on Tahith Chong, Angel Gomes and Mason Greenwood, who had made just 12 senior appearances between them prior to this season, had Anthony Martial, Jesse Lingard and Marcus Rashford not suffered muscle injuries at various points of the campaign – a result of being run into the ground in pre-season after Solskjaer inherited an out-of-shape and plodding group of players upon becoming interim boss in December.
Solskjaer has also been poor tactically, selecting a 4-2-3-1 formation for every game of the campaign so far. While it’s admirable to try and establish a style of play that will dazzle supporters for years to come, that formation requires a decent number 10 and a right winger, of which United have neither.
The Norwegian’s failing, but at least it’s for the right reasons. Even his reluctance to replace Romelu Lukaku or Alexis Sanchez with short-term solutions, which left his squad horribly short of attackers, was an glorious act of self-sabotage.
Solskjaer is more concerned with the long-term health of the club than his own reputation as a manager – an admirable trait that is likely to end up costing him his job.
But when he is replaced, which will probably be in the summer after guiding the club to their worst ever Premier League finish, the club will be in a much better place than he found them in.
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