Manchester United have crashed to a surprise defeat at the hands of Aston Villa. The Red Devils dominated large spells of the match but were undone by a spirited Villa side who took a late lead. Of course, Bruno Fernandes had a chance to salvage a point in stoppage time but the Portuguese international surprisingly blazed his penalty over. Games of these kinds are a must-win if a team wants to win the league. With this marking a third defeat in four games, questions are being asked of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and his managerial capabilities.
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) September 26, 2021
United spent big in the transfer market with hopes of winning silverware. The much-awaited homecoming of Cristiano Ronaldo threw the crowd into a frenzy. The euphoria surrounding his arrival and United’s other signings signalled good things were coming to the red part of Manchester again. Ronaldo, expectedly started his life in style doing what he does best. He scored three times in his first two games but the results were widely contrasting.
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) September 25, 2021
United had since stuttered in all three competitions and it looks like the Old Trafford faithful would have to wait longer for silverware. Despite the bench strength they possess, United were dumped out of the Carabao Cup by West Ham United. With injuries to Harry Maguire and Luke Shaw before the Champions League clash against Villarreal, Ole needs to pull a rabbit out of the hat.
If he fails with this team or is unable to get the best out of this team, calls for his sack might grow louder. Already a section of United fans are sharpening their knives at Ole. Could this be the beginning of the end for Ole Gunnar Solksjaer at Manchester United?
A SKEPTICAL COACHING HISTORY
Manchester United have fallen a long way behind since the legendary Sir Alex Ferguson retired. They endured many false dawns recently. Jose Mourinho guided them to Europa League in 2017 which remained their most recent trophy. But the Portuguese manager was sacked in 2018 following a poor run in the league.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, a bonafide Manchester United legend, was brought as a stop-gap arrangement. When his club called out for him, he answered despite his contract at Norwegian club Molde. Ole’s dubious previous coaching record was ignored as he was just supposed to be a temporary fix.
— BBC Sport Scotland (@BBCSportScot) August 15, 2018
Solskjaer had an eye on coaching since he was a player. His last contract at United signed in 2006 allowed him to become a reserve team coach as soon as he retired. He took up that role in 2008 and ended up winning the Premier League Reserve tournament in 2010 with the Manchester United Reserve team.
Ole then made the jump to his boyhood club Molde and guided them to back to back league titles in his first two seasons. Though Ole impressed as a manager, his playing style wasn’t clear yet. A return to the Premier League materialised when he signed for Cardiff in January 2014. The Norwegian manager was unable to save Cardiff from relegation and was sacked following a poor start in the Championship. Ole had a poor 30% win percentage with the Bluebirds showcasing his lack of a coherent play style.
He returned to Molde and spent three years without winning anything. Despite spending many years at a top side, Ole never had a win percentage of greater than 55. It looked like United were taking a gamble in a rookie manager with very little big-game experience.
THE MAIN MAN AND THE REBUILD
Solskjaer had a wonderful honeymoon period in the league and in the Champions League. He won the Manager of the Month award in his first full month in charge. The job was made permanent following a magical performance in Paris. Manchester United travelled to Paris as massive underdogs after a 2-0 defeat in the first leg of the round of 16.
“Manchester United have always stood up again and bounced back; it’s just in the DNA,” is what Solskjaer always believes. When the time came, the Red Devils had a massive comeback with a 3-1 victory knocking PSG out on away goals rule. Elations followed and Ole was handed a three-year contract to ride the wave.
Ole knew his task wasn’t easy. Despite a wonderful start, he knew that maintaining momentum was a crucial task. Besides he had a lot of work to do with the task. It was stacked with mistakes of his predecessors and Solskjaer had to be harsh to trim it and build his own squad.
He cleared deadwood like Alexis Sanchez, Marcos Rojo and Marouane Fellaini without hard feelings. Plus his signings had to be spot on to have a quick rebuild. First up, he signed Harry Maguire as a leader of the defence. Solskjaer was blessed to have amazing young attackers like Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood. Plus Ole hit it out of the park by signing Bruno Fernandes. The Portuguese international showed his world-class abilities from day one and elevated the entire Manchester United squad.
Still United fell short in the league last term and their owners decided to spend big again. A long term target in Jadon Sancho was signed along with Raphael Varane and Ronaldo. Big things are expected of the new trio from the manager.
OUT OF HIS DEPTH?
Ole always advocates “trust the process”. But in all honesty, with the players and the squad at his disposal, he must compete for all competitions. Within a month of the start of the new campaign, they are already out of the Carabao Cup. Cristiano Ronaldo’s Champions League return was marred by an Aaron Wan Bissaka red card and a lowly defeat to Young Boys. With another humiliation in the hands of Villa, their long term credentials are under doubt. Especially United have tough fixtures in the coming two months as they play Manchester City, Liverpool, Tottenham and Atalanta in League and Cups.
A dreadful week for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. Every time he takes steps forward, often through individual brilliance or excellent new signings, next comes the fall. And it’s not good enough at this club, with these players.
— Daniel Storey (@danielstorey85) September 25, 2021
United didn’t play their best football this season. Despite the opening day thrashing of Leeds, this statement still stands true. Even in the games, they have won, they looked unconvincing. A part of the blame must be put on Ole Solskjaer. Calls have grown louder that the Norwegian is not an astute tactician and thrives on the spontaneous brilliance of his players.
In an age of intricate training drills and pre-set moves drilled by the likes of Pep Guardiola, Jurgen Klopp and Thomas Tuchel, Ole’s system appears far less clear. When facing a low block, the players look lost as they fail to find regular passing options to create chances. Moreover, their defensive shortcomings remain clear as day. Even with the signing of Raphael Varane, no clear signs are visible as to how the players are instructed to defend the man or the space.
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) September 22, 2021
With a super squad and superstars, Ole might be well out of his depth now. This might look eerily similar to Frank Lampard at Chelsea last season before his dismissal. Chelsea appointed Thomas Tuchel and instantly reaped rewards. If Solskjaer couldn’t develop a game plan to win games effectively, Manchester United might look sideways to help their squad.