View from the terraces

Man Utd: Solskjær saga and lack of strategy defines the Glazer era

The owners have organised the club ‘as poorly as Solskjær drilled the defence’

Ole Gunnar Solskjær is a “thoroughly decent man”, said Martin Samuel in the Daily Mail. But it has long been clear to virtually everyone that he is simply not an “elite-level” manager. Everyone, that is, aside from Manchester United’s board, who “plugged away” with the amiable Norwegian even when he was “plainly drowning”.  

Star players deteriorated under his watch, the team never developed a consistent identity, and he prioritised vainglorious signings – Cristiano Ronaldo being the most glaring – over building a coherent squad. All this resulted in the current run of five Premier League defeats in seven games, including humiliating losses to Liverpool and Manchester City. Even then, United stuck with Solskjær, seemingly accepting his assurances that better results were around the corner. In the end, it took Saturday’s 4-1 drubbing by Watford to convince them that Solskjær’s departure was necessary.  

The faith United showed in their former player is at odds with the current trend in the Premier League, which is to dismiss managers at the first sign of trouble, said Jim White in The Sunday Telegraph. Watford are a case in point: no fewer than seven men have sat in the managerial chair at Vicarage Road during the three years Solskjær has been at Old Trafford (Claudio Ranieri is the current incumbent). As one wag tweeted during Saturday’s match: “had Solskjær been at the wheel at Watford, he’d have been sacked three times before half-time”.  

United’s loyalty to Solskjær is hard to explain, but Alex Ferguson’s legacy probably has something to do with it. Having once stood by Ferguson when he “went on a run of defeats three years into his career at Old Trafford”, United’s board perhaps felt that all would “inevitably come good” if only they stuck with Solskjær – an optimism that now looks comically misguided. 

The worst of it is that by waiting so long, United have made it far harder to find a replacement, said Daniel Taylor on The Athletic. Earlier in the year, Antonio Conte was “fluttering his eyelashes in their direction”, but they failed to sign the Italian and Tottenham have snapped him up. With no other suitable candidates available, Michael Carrick has been named caretaker manager – with the expectation of a permanent appointment at the end of the season.  

The whole saga illustrates the lack of strategy that has defined United since the Glazers took over, said Henry Winter in The Times. Yes, Solskjær wasn’t right for the job, but the club’s problems won’t magically disappear now he’s gone. Compared with their biggest rivals, United are abysmally run: over the years, the Glazers have organised them “as poorly as Solskjær drilled the defence”. It will take more than a new manager to change that.

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