It says something about the current climate among Manchester United fans that despite the team winning yesterday’s Premier League game against West Brom, the clamour for manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s dismissal just got louder.
Fans were not convinced by the style of football played, the tactics employed, the team selection or the perceived lack of passion among many of the players.
The upshot is that after nearly two years in charge, Solskjaer still has not persuaded the majority of the fans that he is the right man to lead the team back to the glory days enjoyed under Sir Alex Ferguson and Sir Matt Busby.
During the summer, when it became clear that the board was not going to back Solskjaer in the transfer market, many fans predicted that the club’s owners were simply repeating a cycle in which the manager is left high and dry and then scapegoated and sacked, only for another to be appointed and the cycle reset itself.
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And yet despite watching that happen with their own eyes, many fans who initially sympathised with the Norwegian for being the latest sacrificial lamb have found themselves saying ‘yes, but, maybe he does need to go …’, just as they did with Louis van Gaal and José Mourinho.
It seems clear that the Glazer family’s priority is to make money rather than to win football matches, and that executive vice chairman Ed Woodward has too much power which he is abusing with arrogance and incompetence in equal measure.
It also seems clear that as a result of that incompetence and arrogance, millions have been squandered on bad transfers, unnecessary or misjudged contracts and bungled negotiations.
However, when all that is said and done, you just have to look at the talent in the Manchester United squad and say to yourself, surely any manager worth his salt should be able to do better with this group of players.
Compare United’s starting eleven with that of West Brom yesterday, or that of Crystal Palace on the opening day of the season, or that of Istanbul Basaksehir in the recent Champions League match in Istanbul.
On December 19th Solskjaer will celebrate two years as manager of United and for all the board’s failings, it seems inarguable that there should be greater signs of a playing style, a plan, a strategy, a trust in his squad, a unity among his squad and a general belief in the path being followed by now.
Of course, many would argue that if Solskjaer were to be sacked and replaced with someone like Mauricio Pochettino, then the Glazers’ vicious cycle will mean that the new manager will be scuppered in the same way that the previous three have been.
Yet one thing Pochettino has shown us is that he can overachieve with an underfunded squad, playing attractive football and bringing youngsters through. He established Spurs as a regular top four side and took them to the Champions League final with virtually no investment.
The simple fact is that in his nearly two years in charge, Solskjaer has, by contrast, underachieved with a squad that should by any measure be capable of challenging for top honours and playing the kind of football that is in Manchester United’s DNA.
Would his job have been easier had the board signed Jadon Sancho instead of Facundo Pellistri this summer, or Erling Haaland rather than Odion Ighalo last January? Of course. But that does not excuse the inability to bring the best out of what, on paper at least, is one of the strongest squads in the Premier League.
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