OLE’S MIGHTY EXPECTATIONS

OLE’S MIGHTY EXPECTATIONS

Manchester United are on their longest trophy-less run in 32 years with four seasons spent without having anything to celebrate. For a club of the stature of Manchester United, it is an extremely disappointing run and wide criticism is expected.

United fans, however, have been jubilant with the man-in-charge for more than two full seasons during this period, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. Being a club legend obviously has its perks and despite critics who call for his sacking, trusting a manager for a long period is probably what the club needs at this moment.

 

UNITED NEEDS STABILITY

Since Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement in 2013, United have had four different managers with Ole being the fourth. David Moyes, who was dubbed as the chosen one for being handpicked by Sir Alex, couldn’t live up to the expectations. Winning the FA Community Shield in his first match in charge was the only silver lining in his time at the club.

 

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Image Source – Man United / Twitter

 

He was replaced by the former manager of Barcelona and the Netherlands national team Louis van Gaal. Van Gaal stayed at the club for two years and won an FA Cup before being sacked. Then came Jose Mourinho who was expected to bring his winning mentality to revive the club. It started off well with them winning the EFL Cup, Europa League, and a Community Shield in the first year. But they couldn’t progress further and it ended midway season 18/19.

 

 

Solskjaer first arrived as a caretaker manager without much experience at the top level and the only success in his CV were two Norwegian League titles and a Norwegian Football Cup. No one had foreseen that he will become United’s permanent manager from the coming season with so little to show for his achievements as a manager. But a brilliant run of 14 wins from 19 games won him the trust of both the board and the fans and he signed a 3-year contract with the club.

 

IS OLE THE RIGHT MAN?

They indeed need stability and it usually has fruitful results. Take the example of Sir Alex Ferguson himself at Manchester United. The United legend took four years to win his first trophy at the club and then never stopped the glory days. When Jurgen Klopp arrived at Liverpool, he took three years to win the first trophy and when he did, it was the humongous achievement of winning the Champions League. He then won the Premier League next year. But time is not the only factor needed to become successful and Ole hasn’t shown the tactical adeptness to win crunch games so far.

 

Image Source – Eurosport / Website

 

Is he the right choice to command the Red Devils back to winning ways?

In his two and a half seasons at the club, Solskjaer is credited with improving the state of the club regarding clearing out deadwood, improving the quality of football, and bringing the United DNA back into the club. However, for all the support and trust that has been put in him, there isn’t one piece of silverware to show. And this will remain to be his biggest criticism unless he can bring the #21 for United this season.

 

 

His best achievement has been reaching the Europa League final last season which they lost to seventh-placed La Liga side Villarreal on penalties. In the league, United finished on their joint-best second position since Sir Alex’s retirement but were still light years behind the champions in terms of point difference (12).

 

THE GLAZER ISSUE

United might be one of the top-spending clubs of the world but it can’t be mistaken for United owners being gracious and “investing” in the club. Much has been talked about the owners of Manchester United and there are a lot of misconceptions regarding the issue.

 

Image Source – Independent / Website

 

People often use the money spent by the team as a counter-argument to the Glazers’ criticism. However, the issue is not about expenditure but instead about investment. The infamous Glazer Family took over the club in 2004 and the current manager was one of the most vocal critics of the deal at that time.

In 17 years owning the club, the Glazers have reportedly taken almost $2 billion out of the club and didn’t invest a single new penny in one of the most revenue-generating clubs. They have successfully made United their cash-cow and have shown no attachment towards the club and its progress, bearing the hate of the majority of the fanbase.

 

 

The recent ESL fiasco was just the tipping point that gave the fans a reason to take a united stand against this legal robbery of their beloved club. The Glazers responded positively after fans started to target the club’s sponsors on social media and promised to satisfy the demands. And the signing of Jadon Sancho and possibly Raphael Varane for a combined cost of approximately €150 million is a sign of positive change.

They might still need a few more first-team signings considering Paul Pogba might head towards a new journey. United have also been linked with the French youngster Eduardo Camavinga to bolster their midfield and eventually their chances of a title challenge.

 

Image Source – Manchester United / Website

 

They also created new posts at the club of a Football Director and a Technical Director which were filled by John Murtough and Darren Fletcher respectively after the resignation of Ed Woodward, the ex-banker who managed footballing decisions at the club.

 

THE UNITED DNA?

One of the major arguments in Solskjaer’s favour has been reviving the United DNA, which involves running a culture at the club that includes promoting youth, playing attacking free-flowing football that United is known for. The concept of merging success with entertaining football that a 75,000 full Old Trafford is used to watching.

 

 

In terms of “entertaining and attacking” football, United scored 73 goals in the Premier League, the most since their last title-winning campaign in 2012/13. They conceded 44 goals last season, a figure that needs to be improved and is expected to improve this season with the possible addition of Raphael Varane.

Academy players like Mason Greenwood, Brandon Williams, Axel Tuanzebe have been promoted and given opportunities to prove their mettle. The team has a completely new look and most of their starters from next season will be new additions under Solskjaer, barring possibly Shaw, Pogba, Fred, and Rashford.

 

 

But one significant factor needed to complete the United DNA is churning constant success. Solskjaer has failed to do that so far but hopefully for Ole and the club, a positive future lies ahead.

 

21 IS COMING?

Fans have been patient with Ole considering his achievements at the club as a player and still reminisce his clutch moments from the 98/99 season where Man United won the historic treble. Ole scored the winning goal in the Champions League final that year. But for one of the biggest clubs in the world with arguably the largest fanbase, the trophy drought is a major concern and this season will be decisive for his and the club’s future.

 

Image Source – AS / Website

 

Since arriving in December 2019, Solskjaer has got many of his targets such as Harry Maguire, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Bruno Fernandes, Alex Telles, Daniel James, and Donny van de Beek but couldn’t bring the desired success.

It is the sad reality of football that the only true determining factor of one’s work as a manager is the titles they won. The terms like philosophy, DNA, progress can actually mean something for a set of fans but they just act as a protection to failure when the sole aim of sports is to win. And Solskjaer has been close to winning on many occasions as a United manager, but four semi-finals and a final defeat isn’t something worth much applause.

 

 

Even if United clearly have made progress, a couple more signings should seal the deal for them and they must get within challenging distance of rivals Manchester City and Liverpool.

Despite the ups and downs, there is a lot of positivity around the club right now and the team has successfully moved on from the devastating end to last season, losing the Europa League final. The incoming player(s) are surely joining a happy squad that is united in both winning and losing. Ole deserves credit for reviving the atmosphere as Mourinho didn’t go out on good terms. The improvement shown by Luke Shaw is another praiseworthy act from the Norwegian manager.

 

 

It is going to be a difficult task for United to challenge for the title considering the defending champions Manchester City, European champions Chelsea, a revamped and recovered Liverpool will all be in the queue along with the Red Devils. Still, a trophy is imperative for the manager this season and it would be even better if it was the league title.

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