ole sack

LIKED BY GLAZERS, QUESTIONED BY THE PUBLIC, DEFENDED BY EX-TEAMMATES: WHY MANCHESTER UNITED WILL NOT SACK OLE GUNNAR SOLSKJAER NOW

Another day, another story on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. It is becoming almost like clockwork. With all the speculation and “gossip” surrounding at the moment, the thought that invariably comes to mind is- what next for the manager?Is Ole going to get sack? The general consensus has been to demand his sacking but all of those observers also know that it is not going to happen.

 

The Glazers have never been renowned for their hiring or firing since they took charge, while the looming figure of has endorsed Solskjaer for quite some time now. Nevertheless, football is a result-oriented sport and those have taken quite a beating this season. Even the important games that United have won were last-ditch victories, requiring heroics from individual players.

 

All of it seemingly points to the last rites of Solskjaer’s time at the club as manager while simultaneously…also not that.

 

NOT JUST A MANAGER

Before diving into why Solskjaer should leave for the good of everyone, it is worth understanding his current standing around the club. He is revered as a legendary player and goalscorer, whose exploits in 1999 will always remain etched in the hearts of supporters no matter the situation or decade.

 

The “Baby-Faced Assassin” was an ace marksman who could impact the game at any stage, most memorably from the bench. During the extremely successful era of the late ‘90s and 2000s, Solskjaer became one of the most trusted lieutenants of Ferguson, remaining a constant at Old Trafford as a bevvy of strikers came and went.

 

He was there when burst onto the scene, as well as playing alongside many of the modern greats like Wayne Rooney, Michael Carrick, Rio Ferdinand, Paul Scholes and others. Suffice to say that he has a lot of credit in the bank which has increased by a lot during his time as manager since 2018.

 

EVERYTHING EXCEPT SILVERWARE

Having been appointed to clean up the toxic mess left behind by Jose Mourinho, the Norwegian started off swimmingly. 14 wins from his first 19 games in charge helped earn the adulation of fans and pundits alike as Solskjaer was handed the reins full time. In his two complete seasons, the Red Devils have finished 3rd and 2nd respectively while making one European final and four semi-finals in cup competitions.

 

He has been rightly credited with restoring the “feel-good” factor around the club while overseeing the integration of “United DNA” amongst the players. There were clear upticks in form, mood, mental wellbeing along with a steady progress. But some warning signs have remained despite all of the good work. The inability to win at inopportune times against rivals derailed their title-run last season, with United finishing a whopping 12 points behind Manchester City having led at New Year’s.

 

However, the most damning part has of course been the inability to win trophies. The loss against Villarreal on penalties, a clear underdog who won their first major silverware, in the showpiece was deflating for everyone involved as it was the clearest chance of dispelling the doubts around Solskjaer.

 

Needless to say, the pressure has only increased this year and with United having a heavyweight transfer window, the performances have looked more lost than ever.

 

THE WRONG KIND OF RECORDS

United have not kept a clean sheet at home in their last 14 games across all competitions. That is their worst form since the late ‘50s. 21% of home defeats that the club has suffered in the era have come in the past three years. They have only won five of their opening 11 games, and have taken just four points from their last six matches.

 

Solskjaer’s organization of his defence has never been the greatest since the 2019-20 campaign, but things have fallen off a cliff this time. The Red Devils conceded 12 goals in their four defeats while scoring only twice. This coming from a defence featuring the world’s most-expensive defender Harry Maguire and four-time Champions League winner Raphael Varane.

 

Granted the Frenchman has had to deal with injury issues but there have been problems across the board. Luke Shaw looks utterly short on confidence, the ‘McFred’ pairing has been ineffective in stopping runners while a congesting in attack has seen Jadon Sancho, Mason Greenwood and Paul Pogba all spending extended time on the bench. The return of Cristiano Ronaldo has papered over the scoring cracks but everything else has been a letdown from the Portuguese’s perceived untouchability in the team.

 

The tactics have been muddied to say the least, with players often confused and unsure as to what their roles are, which have been ruthlessly exploited by their opponents. It is becoming clearer and clearer that Solskjaer’s overdependence on the individual qualities of players is not going to work. With their major rivals all moving upwards, United have now slipped behind Arsenal in the standings.

 

There is no doubt that this is shaping up to be Solskjaer’s most difficult season in charge when it should have been the heralding of a new dawn and silverware. All of it boils down to the most pressing question doing the rounds in recent times.

 

WHY ARE UNITED NOT WILLING TO SACK SOLSKJAER?

The rot starts at the top. Everyone is in agreement with that. The Glazers alongside Ed Woodward have long been accused of treating the club as a business rather than a serious sporting entity. With United’s ever-increasing public persona around the world pumping millions into their pockets, the attention to the club has been lukewarm at best. In Solskjaer, they have the perfect manager who is non-confrontational and does not publicly criticize the board.

 

The Norwegian has always spoken of his squad and players, without ever indicating that he is unhappy with the tools at his disposal. Even during the summer when it was clear that United needed a first-class defensive midfielder who can start attacks quickly, the Glazers turned their attention to Ronaldo and the promise of his global fan-following significantly increasing the profile of the club.

 

Ed Woodward, in his final days with the club as vice-chairman, has come under severe flak for his inaction but truth be told the whole board were waiting for someone like Solskjaer. A coach who has rebuilt the squad back to contention while also not outing their dealings publicly.

 

On the flip side, the well-wishers of Solskjaer have pointed to the same old arguments while asking for his reign to continue. It is easy to unpick all of their stances and here’s how:

 

LONG-TERM PLAN: With Solskjaer, the discussion has often revolved around how he needs more time in working with a young team and leading them to trophies. That he has been hired to oversee the return of United back to the ‘elite’ level gradually. But how long is too long? As mentioned above, United have gotten close.

 

The final hurdles have always been the toughest with the mental fortitude simply not there in most cases. Solskjaer’s over reliance on his players producing some moments of magic to win games rather than actually instilling sound principles of play has finally come to a resounding end. Even the squad has talked of lacking belief, not being good enough and such scenarios happening all too often. The players clearly look out of ideas and it does not bode well for Solskjaer in the long run.

 

SIR ALEX TOOK FOUR YEARS TO WIN: The flimsiest of defences. It is worth remembering Ferguson’s CV when he joined United. 10 major trophies won with Aberdeen, including the two European titles. Solskjaer in comparison has three trophies in Norway along with getting relegated during his time at Cardiff City.

 

Yes, Ferguson struggled to achieve silverware but he did sign some of the most important players for the club in the ‘90s. Steve Bruce, Mike Phelan, Paul Ince, Gary Pallister were all brought in which ultimately led to the FA Cup success of 1990. The times back then were way different than what they are today.

 

An institution like Manchester United going eight years with the Premier League title and more than three years without any trophy is unthinkable given the competition around.

 

NO SUITABLE REPLACEMENT: One of the most pertinent doubts as to who would take the hot seat if Solskjaer leaves. Antonio Conte was considered the likeliest in the aftermath of the defeat to Liverpool. Conte is everything the Glazers do not want: speaks his mind, assesses situations as they are, not afraid to call out people no matter their position at the club.

 

He was clearly never going to a favourite of the owners. Several other names have also come and gone including the likes of Thomas Tuchel, Mauricio Pochettino, and Julian Nagelsmann- all of whom took up different jobs. Currently the market is really thin of options, and with the board clear on the fact that they do not want a caretaker manager, Solskjaer will soldier on.

 

GETTING HARD BEFORE GETTING EASIER

When it rains, it pours. With Raphael Varane already out for a month, news has also emerged that Paul Pogba’s playing time in 2020 is also over after picking up an injury with the France squad. Edinson Cavani is also nursing his way back to full fitness having missed the last match though the main worries remain the alarming drop in levels of coaching.

 

Solskjaer has stressed that he is not worried about his future but it is really concerning as to how much longer fans will be able to tolerate such disastrous results.

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