SOLSKJAER? UNITED ARE TOO INTO HIM. THEY NEED AN INTERIM
Many Manchester United fans are beginning to feel it is time for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to go – but they are wrong.
The time for him to have gone was the summer, when the biggest club in the world could have put in place somebody capable of rebuilding their fortunes under the new “best of British” mandate at Old Trafford.
There is nothing in Solskjaer’s CV to suggest he is the man to complete that task – last-minute goals in the Nou Camp do not count.
Which is why loyalty to a club legend is misplaced. If there was anything to suggest that Solskjaer were on the cusp of turning things around, his status should earn him the benefit of the doubt.
But there is no doubt. Six years after Sir Alex Ferguson left, the whole club still needs sorting out. It needs a philosophy, a vision and a plan. Not somebody who once stuck out his foot to divert a football into the roof of the net.
Ed Woodward could let things drift until the summer again. But that would be another year wasted. It might even take an interim manager to stop the rot and get them through the season.
At least it would signal to all those talented, ambitious managers around the continent that there is an unparalleled opportunity up for grabs in June.
TIME FOR BRUCE TO FOCUS ON THE JOB AT HAND
Delighted for Steve Bruce to have earned a bit of respite this international break with the win over United. And nobody will be more surprised by that endorsement than Bruce himself.
I was the regional Daily Express staff man in Yorkshire when he cut his teeth in management two decades ago. I was also the only national newspaper man at his three-novel book launch – but the less said about that the better.
I got hold of all his contact details – and this was in the days when people had a separate car phone number – because every time he rang me to complain about an article, he used a different line.
He cares too much about what journalists think.
But that does not stop him from being a top-class manager who does not get the respect he deserves.
If he had not had his top goalscorer sold from under him, he would have got Huddersfield promoted 20 years before it even seemed possible.
He could only get Birmingham to 10th in the table. Wigan, he could not get about 11th. He got Hull back into the Premier League when the club had no right to be back there.
After our early years together, I lost track of him slightly while he was at Birmingham, only to be reunited at Wigan. At an introductory round-table, he pretended to forget my name.
“Matt,” I prompted.
“That’s right, he replied. “I knew it was a four-letter word!”
Now he needs to stop giving a four-letter-word about what people think and focus on doing what he does best – getting the best out of clubs embroiled in turmoil. Especially one that he loves this much.
MANCHESTER CITY WORRIES
After two seasons of unparalleled success at Manchester City, nobody will be enjoying Pep Guardiola’s sudden difficulties, one can imagine, than Jose Mourinho.
With the day-to-day intensity required at any successful football club, the fuse is a very short one. Mourinho struggled with that, which is why, wherever he went, his star burned bright, but briefly.
So this is where Pep Guardiola can answer once and for all the argument about the greatest manager of all time.
That other contender, Sir Alex Ferguson, achieved his fame amongst his own in Aberdeen before heading to Manchester United. In a similar way, Guardiola understood every nuance at Barcelona, so he was perfectly equipped for long-term success.
But having briefly kept Bayern Munich’s dominance in Germany ticking over, only some sort of era-defining achievement at the Etihad would set him head-and-shoulders above his peers once and for all.
And yet, right now, it increasingly seems like he is only human after all.
In 2002, everybody felt that Sir Alex Ferguson was leaving and the players at Manchester United downed tools.
A change of heart in February led to 13 wins in 15 games and the following season, they won the league.
By the same token, the orchestrated doubt over Mauricio Pochettino appears to have got under the skin of his players. Doubts prevail.
Pochettino’s commitment to the club has grown throughout his ‘septem horribilis’ – ‘terrible week’ – but a clear pronouncement of his commitment to the club is needed after the talk of “sabbaticals” and eyelid-batting at Europe’s biggest clubs over the summer.
Because right now, there is no common cause. For six minutes, the Spurs players stood separately at the Amex Stadium while Hugo Lloris got treatment. In recent seasons, you would have expected some sort of huddle, perhaps around the manager in the dugout.
Just now Tottenham’s problem seems to be there is no common cause all the time the future of the project is so far up in the air.
One game away from a Premier League record–equalling 18th successive victory – how appropriate that it should be against Manchester United.
This current success is all down to Jurgen Klopp. We live in the era of the culture of the manager and there is a reason for that. Single-handedly he has built on the momentum when he arrived at Liverpool.
Brendan Rodgers had turned the corner but there were plenty of signs that Liverpool needed more than that. Klopp provided it.
But before Rodgers arrived, the club was going nowhere under Kenny Dalglish.
It brings us straight back to United. To bring ultimate success to your club, you need to be brave enough to ditch your legends.
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