Ole Gunnar: The Missing Piece In The United Puzzle?


The year 2013 was a year many Manchester United fans all over the world will not forget in a hurry, at least not yet — it was the last time United wore the coveted crown of Champions of England under then manager, Alex Ferguson. It was also the year that club legend and indeed one of the most influential coaches in the history of English football bade farewell to the round leather game.

Ever since 2013, Manchester United fans have been asking themselves year in, year out: “who would fit into this puzzle?” United have witnessed a series of managerial changes, something that is quite unfamiliar with the club. First it was David Moyes who Alex Ferguson himself picked to be his successor. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to fit into the very big shoes of Sir Alex, David Moyes led the Manchester giants to their worst league finish in over 20 years breaking lots of negative records and he finished 7th, a position not befitting enough for the 13 times premier League Champions.

David Moyes was soon sacked after his disastrous debut season at United and the services of Ryan Giggs was employed shortly until Louis Van Gaal was employed to take charge at the club. Van Gaal’s arrival saw the influx of young talents of which just one- Luke Shaw is a first team player under current manager. Louis Van Gaal showed promise, winning an FA cup for his troubles but inconsistency and his star players poor form made sure that he would have his contract terminated after about two years in charge.

When Manchester United landed big-name manager, Jose Mourinho, it seemed as though they had found the Holy Grail. With two champions’ league under his belt, league titles in all the clubs he had coached and a staggering record of winning a trophy in his first season at all the clubs he had coached made sure that his presence at the club caused his opponents to stutter. His first season at United was only bested by a rampaging city side under Pep Guardiola and with a very long gap between them. Mourinho was critically criticized for his style of play at United, he played “Negative football” and was a regular customer for the English Press especially because he was outspoken. At Manchester United Mourinho brought in 11 players to United despite bemoaning the transfer policy of the club. Mourinho who is known for being straightforward criticized the club management frequently as regards the support the club gave to him with transfers especially in his second season. Of all the players signed by Mourinho 2 are first team players at the club. Jose Mourinho won 58% of his games in charge at Old Trafford and had a league cup trophy to his name.

Mourinho was able to attract big players like Lukaku, Zlattan, Pogba, and Sanchez – who was a massive flop. In his second season, a lack of activity in the summer transfer market made the Portuguese manager criticize the board a bit more frequently and his poor results coupled with the former led to his sack.

The question as to who the next manager would be didn’t linger for long as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer- club legend/ cult hero was employed to serve as an interim, Solskjaer had some club experience, winning the Norwegian league with Molde but it was expected that he’d just fill in for some time until United could draw another big name manager. Solskjaer started the job in blistering form as he guided a side that looked “dead” to fourteen wins off eighteen matches. And at the end of the season it wasn’t much of a hard decision to give him the job on a full-time basis.

Solskjaer had signed seven players for the senior team so far and three are first team players. Solskjaer has a good win ratio with just 29 losses from 104 games, so far at United Solskjaer has proven to be up to the task whenever he faces the big teams but a notable feature of Solskjaer’s time as manager of Manchester United is his tendency to crack at crucial times.

In his first full season, he beat a weak Chelsea side 3-0 but still needed a final day win to cement a third place finish ahead of the same team by just goal difference points. It took a post Covid-19 resurgence for Manchester United to get back into contention for a top four finish, shaking off Leicester City whose poor run of form made sure they had to settle for Europa league football. Notable in the hearts of United fans would be the inexcusable Champions League capitulation that saw Manchester United who led the group at some point drop to third after 3 straight defeats of which most notable was that of Istanbul Basaksehir.

Solskjaer has been touted to have a small club mentality, as he has approached some of his games with questionable tactics. Most of his critics think United have the capability to play an expansive style of football but fail to realize that different managers have their different philosophies- even though it still seems like the United side still don’t play based on a solid philosophy. In this season, he had relied heavily on the brilliance of Bruno Fernandez and when Bruno suffers a loss of form United start to dwindle.

Questions have been asked about his personality, if he has the ability to draw the big name players to United because of who he is, but so far, he hasn’t proved much of that. Managers have the ability to attract big names to their clubs because of their personality – what they’ve achieved. Pep was able to attract Gundogan to Manchester City despite interest from Barcelona; Ancelotti was able to attract James Rodriguez to a “lowly” Everton despite interests from others top European clubs but Ole Gunnar Solskjaer couldn’t attract Erling Haaland or Jadon Sancho who Manchester United chased for a full transfer window.

He’s being fond of sucking up to the club and not stating out his frustration with the club policies especially as regards to how transfers are done. Big managers don’t sit and watch they state their concerns and push to get it sorted out.

In Guardiola’s first season, he didn’t win the league, same for Jurgen Klopp. Nevertheless, they showed great signs of things to come with time. Solskjaer hasn’t won any trophies yet neither has he taken the club to any Cup final but he has showed a few flashes, this season United topped the table with 7 points above second place but now they find themselves behind an in form City side who have the experience and mentality to win the league.

Despite winning the Manchester derby, the jury is still out on him and still would be for quite some time until he achieves something substantial – a trophy. Moving forward there are some vital questions one would ask:

Does Ole have the mentality to lead Manchester United?

Does he have the Personality to lead Manchester United?

Do his results show promises of a better tomorrow?

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