The Ole Gunnar Solskjaer conundrum: Should Manchester United stick with their man and trust in the process, or would making a change now get the best out of Cristiano Ronaldo and Co?
- Pressure is mounting on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer after a dip in Man United’s form
- Saturday’s 1-1 home draw with Everton saw Cristiano Ronaldo storm off
- Some fans and pundits believe Solskjaer can’t take United any further
- Ripping up three years of steady progress for a new manager would be a risk
Has Ole Gunnar Solskjaer taken Manchester United as far as he can?
That’s the question many United fans are asking after a worrying dip in form that has seen defeats by Young Boys, West Ham and Aston Villa in quick succession.
Other games, such as last week’s late Champions League win over Villarreal, and the draw with Everton at the weekend, have seen unconvincing performances.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is once again under pressure following a dip in Manchester United’s form
Bruno Fernandes and Cristiano Ronaldo look dejected after Everton score at Old Trafford
As Solskjaer approaches three years in the job, some feel it is time for him to be moved aside and a manager with a better trophy-winning pedigree to take United to the next level.
Solskjaer has yet to deliver silverware at Old Trafford and, as plenty of pundits and former team-mates constantly remind him, that has to happen this season or he will face the consequences.
So should United keep faith in their club legend or be ruthless and replace Solskjaer with a more accomplished manager?
Manchester United have rewarded Mike Phelan (left ) with a new contract to stay until 2024
In truth, it seems as though the cards are falling in Solskjaer’s favour, with his trusted assistant Mike Phelan being handed a new contract until 2024.
The decision is a major show of support for the Norwegian amid a turbulent start to the season, and it now seems very unlikely that the trigger will be pulled any time soon.
Here, two of Sportsmail‘s writers argue the case for and against keeping Ole…
THE CASE FOR OLE GUNNAR SOLSKJAER
BY ADAM SHERGOLD
Remember that dance track ‘Music Sounds Better with You’ from around the time Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was in his pomp as a Manchester United player?
It comes to mind because, to United fans, wins always feel more special with Ole at the wheel.
A late smash and grab win or a thrilling comeback in Fergie time are so much better with Solskjaer as manager than they were under Louis van Gaal or Jose Mourinho.
The heart can easily overrule the head when it comes to club legends but even putting emotion aside, those calling for Solskjaer to be sacked following United’s recent blip are just daft.
Solskjaer embraces Cristiano Ronaldo after his 95th-minute winner against Villarreal last week
Solskjaer himself accepts that United need to win a trophy this season – he isn’t deluded, thinking he has all the time in the world to restore success to Old Trafford.
But it was ever thus at a club where the silverware polish used to be delivered by the crate-full.
You have to trust in the process under Solskjaer, who has done so much to restore standards at United and has unquestionably taken the club forward again following over five years of regression.
That progress may have seemed slow at times but a complete overhaul was required following the doom and gloom of Mourinho’s final few months and that was never going to be an overnight fix.
Solskjaer marks three years in the job in December and United’s team looks so much better now than it did back then. The negative football under Van Gaal and Mourinho was banished, a more swashbuckling style restored.
Victories – especially late ones in Fergie time – mean so much more to United fans with Solskjaer at the wheel than they did under Van Gaal or Mourinho
These conversations over silverware just wouldn’t be happening if not for a couple of penalty kicks at the end of last season’s Europa League final with Villarreal.
The chat would be about pushing on to win the bigger prizes rather than the Sword of Damocles hanging above the home dug-out at Old Trafford.
Those against Solskjaer speak as though this season’s title race is already done and dusted. But United are level on points with Manchester City, one behind Liverpool and two behind leaders Chelsea. Hardly a sackable offence, is it?
The Carabao Cup exit to West Ham with a rotated team was disappointing but let’s remember United would almost certainly have two wins from two in the Champions League if not for Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s red card against Young Boys.
The whole debate over Solskjaer and trophies wouldn’t even be happening but for a couple of penalty kicks in last season’s Europa League final against Villarreal
United have made a far better start to this season than the last two and summer arrivals Cristiano Ronaldo, Raphael Varane and Jadon Sancho haven’t fully bedded into the team yet.
The fact United’s hierarchy sanctioned over £130million of outlay on these three players shows they’re backing Solskjaer.
So where is the logic in getting rid of Solskjaer now, ripping up all the progress of the past three years and starting all over again with a manager supposedly better equipped to deliver trophies?
And who might this magical manager who can click his fingers and conjure instant success be? The bookmakers list Mauricio Pochettino as their favourite to be United’s next manager. Why exactly would he leave PSG?
Then come Leicester’s Brendan Rodgers followed by Zinedine Zidane, who has a top pedigree and is out of work but there are zero guarantees what worked for Real Madrid will work for United.
There are absolutely zero guarantees someone like Zinedine Zidane could deliver the same success to United that he achieved with Real Madrid
Far better, for now at least, to have a manager who understands the DNA and culture of the club and who has grafted to put together a winning team.
It seems this is the hierarchy’s thinking, given they have just rewarded Solskjaer’s trusted assistant Mike Phelan with an extended contract through until 2024. He too is a man with that same understanding of the DNA and culture at Old Trafford.
The arrival of Ronaldo and Varane, each winners of the Champions League on multiple occasions, will ensure the dressing room mentality Solskjaer knew from his playing days at United is restored.
The famous resilience of the Alex Ferguson years, when opponents were left floored by late goals, has been a feature of Solskjaer’s tenure.
Take the 95th-minute winner by Ronaldo against Villarreal last week or Jesse Lingard’s goal and David de Gea’s penalty save at West Ham.
It’s also illustrated by the extraordinary record 29-match unbeaten run away from home in the Premier League that Solskjaer has overseen.
Solskjaer has also attempted to recreate the bunker mentality Fergie thrived on, moaning about fixture schedules and penalty awards, proving he does have a steely edge to go with his soft features.
Solskjaer’s United have rediscovered the knack of snatching victories in the closing minutes
There is a tendency to believe Ferguson’s era at United was all sunshine and roses. People only remember the trophies rolling in, they filter out the miserable home defeats to a Bolton or a Middlesbrough, or the last minute goal required to overcome, say, Sunderland or Birmingham.
Given those glory years are the yardstick by all United managers for the rest of time will be judged, allowance should be made for the off-days as long as the general direction is forwards.
The reaction in the social media age is too knee-jerk. One defeat – or even a draw if it’s United – and #Oleout is trending.
In the late 1980s, plenty of United fans were calling for Ferguson to leave. He was afforded the luxury of time and it came right in spectacular fashion.
That isn’t to say Solskjaer will get anywhere near that level of success but so long as there is faith in him and a feel-good factor around the club – as Ronaldo’s return has ensured – he is the best man for the job.
After all, true United fans just want to see that beaming smile on Solskjaer’s face as he salutes the Stretford End after another great win. The music sounds better with you, Ole.
United’s fans want nothing more than Solskjaer to bring back the glory years to the club
THE CASE AGAINST OLE GUNNAR SOLSKJAER
BY BEN NAGLE
I’ve got the easy job here, surely? It’s quite simple: Solskjaer is just not good enough to manage a club the size of Manchester United.
Historically they are one of the biggest, most successful, teams in the world and they now have some of the best players on the planet too, but their manager has been thrown in at the deep end after spells with Molde and Cardiff City.
Yes, it could be argued that he has stabilised the club after the fallow post-Ferguson years, but if you want to challenge at the very top, then you need a top manager.
The truth of the matter is: if you take away his history as a player, there is no way a name like Solskjaer gets the top job at United.
After a huge summer spend, with the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Raphael Varane and Jadon Sancho coming in, the board have done all they can to help him out, but there’s only so far Solskjaer can take them.
It’s all very well filling his bench with a blend of experienced coaches and bright young talent, and bringing in £130m worth of new players through the door… but if he can’t cut it, then it is all for nothing.
Solskjaer arrived at Manchester United with his only experience coming at Molde and Cardiff
The real question should not be ‘Is Solskjaer good enough?’ but instead ‘Why are a club like United sticking with him for so long?’
Take Chelsea, for example. Frank Lampard took charge, in much the same situation as Solskjaer after a spell at a second-division club, but with the unconditional love of the fans due to his time there as a player.
At first, things looked rosy, but when they started to turn, Roman Abramovich and Co knew they needed to make a change… and change they did.
In came Thomas Tuchel, and low and behold they are now Champions League holders and will be fighting right at the top of the league with Manchester City and Liverpool this season.
At Old Trafford, Solskjaer has been in the job for three years and they still haven’t won a single trophy. Not a League Cup, not a Europa League… nothing.
Chelsea took action and sacked Frank Lampard (pictured) – and are now European champions
At the weekend, the Norwegian was pictured on the sidelines laughing just seconds before the final whistle in a 1-1 draw with Everton.
Shortly after, mentality monster Ronaldo stormed down the tunnel, giving the sort of reaction the fans perhaps would have expected from their manager, not the star player.
Could you imagine the legendary Sir Alex beaming on the sidelines after his side struggled to pick up a home win against a side who have recently been languishing in mid-table?
Ferguson (left) appeared to tell Khabib Nurmagomedov (right) that he disagreed with Solskjaer’s decision to bench Ronaldo last week against Everton
And on the subject of Ferguson, the clip that has since emerged of him slamming Solskjaer’s decision to put Ronaldo on the bench is telling. ‘You should always start your best players,’ were the words of the legendary boss.
At a club like Manchester United, there’s only so long you can ‘trust the process’. It’s already been three years, so why keep kicking the proverbial can down the road? It’s time to pick it up, chuck it in the bin, and buy yourself a new one.
It’s all very well Solskjaer accepting that he must win a trophy this season, but surely he would have thought that last season? When May rolls around and the cabinet is still gathering dust, does Ole admit that he *knows* next season must be the one?
With the likes of Varane (left) and Ronaldo, they have a whole host of world-beaters in the team
It’s all ifs and buts when you look at the reasons to keep him in charge. We would have beaten Young Boys if Wan-Bissaka didn’t get sent off, we would have won the Europa League if Villarreal had missed a couple of penalties. Well, he did and they didn’t.
After a huge summer overhaul of the playing squad, they still can’t beat Everton. Or Aston Villa. Or West Ham. Or Young Boys. Or Southampton.
The players, quite clearly, are good enough – but the manager just isn’t.
From here, it doesn’t get any easier either. There are some vital Champions League matches coming up with a must-win double header against Atalanta, while in the Premier League, Leicester, Liverpool, Spurs and Man City are the next four games.
For every month that passes with Ole at the wheel, United’s rivals are putting in quicker lap times. The board must act now before the wheels fall off entirely.
Ferguson’s mentality wouldn’t have seen him laughing on the sidelines in a draw with Everton
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