Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solksjaer has been treading on thin ice for what seems like an eternity. However, despite continued poor performances and results, the Manchester United hierarchy seem reluctant to pull the trigger – but the time has come for the baby-faced assassin to go.
Lay of the Land
Since his position as manager of Manchester United was made permanent back in March of this year, things haven’t been going well. United are averaging just 1.35 points per game, a huge drop from 2.32 in the period Ole was interim manager. They’re also scoring an average of 1.35 goals per game (41 total), compared with 2.11 (40 total) in the interim period.
United are currently 9th in the Premier League, a whopping 22 points behind rivals Liverpool at the top of the league. Winless in their last three (all comps), they’ve picked up just four wins in the league, drawing six and losing four as well. Interestingly, on 18 points, United are closer to the relegation zone (6 points away) than they are to the top four (8 points away) at this point in the season.
The strange thing about it all, as I alluded to in the statistics above, is the sheer drop off in fortunes since United handed Ole the job on a permanent basis. As interim boss, he won 14 of his 19 games in charge. His side looked a real threat to the top four, scoring goals for fun and not really conceding either – United had no qualms in entrusting Ole to take over. However, since that moment, it’s been nothing but frustrating for the legions of United fans the world over.
So, what’s gone wrong for United?
To be perfectly honest, Ole was never a good enough manager to coach Manchester United. On pure coaching ability alone, Ole wouldn’t have been in the top 50 candidates for that job if he hadn’t been a United legend from his playing career. His one experience in English football so far saw him fail drastically at Cardiff City – so why would this have gone any different?
His period as interim boss saw positive results because he brought the feel good factor back to the club – but not through anything he actually did. It was the sheer presence of a club legend at the helm that united the fans behind the team, and the players behind the cause. As well as that, the pressures of the job on a temporary basis compared with the pressures of the job on a permanent basis are worlds apart. You can read more about that here.
This season, it’s not even just been the results that have been the issue – some of the performances have been appalling. You can accept a few negative results here and there IF the performances are decent and spirited – but a lot of the time this season, United have looked like a team who have simply given up. The Europa League campaign to this point epitomises that perfectly – particularly in the away rounds. Results at Astana last week and away at AZ Alkmaar earlier in the competition show that the willingness to give their all in every game just isn’t there.
It’s not a question of quality – not even slightly. United have got more than a few outstanding footballers in their ranks. The likes of Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial can make even the best defenders look pedestrian on their day – but with the odd exception here and there, we’re yet to see the best of those two on a consistent basis. There are too many games this season wherein the players look like they’ve gone into it with a “We’re Manchester United and we have a right to all three points here” attitude. Underestimating teams, overestimating themselves and getting punished for it.
As far as I’m concerned, if the United hierarchy want this season to be anything other than a middle of the road, bang average season then they have to act immediately. There’s a busy Christmas schedule coming up, and as it’s sacking season, there are a few very decent managers without a club. It kinda feels like a now or never deal if they’re going to do this…
Who would replace him?
As I mentioned above, it’s sacking season in the world of football right now with the likes of Mauricio Pochettino and Niko Kovac both recently out of work. If you’re Manchester United and you’ve just seen one of your former top managerial targets in Pochettino become available, surely you have to be at least tempted to pull the trigger on Ole.
Pochettino did a great job with a very young Tottenham squad over the last four or five years, and I fully believe he would do the same at Old Trafford. You’ve got a talented squad with mounds of promising youngsters just ready and waiting for Poch to get his teeth stuck into them. The likes of Mason Greenwood, James Garner and Brandon Williams would benefit no end from a coach like Pochettino helping their development. Don’t believe me? See messers Harry Kane, Harry Winks and Ben Davies for proof.
I also think Pochettino would be able to get the best out of some of the players who are more on the fringes of the squad. The transformation of Moussa Sissoko in the last 18 months alone is testament to the Argentinian’s ability to change the course of a players career. For example, Jesse Lingard, who has threatened to be a decent player for years now, could be benefit majorly from Poch’s man management skills.
It’s reported that if Pochettino takes another Premier League job this year, he may have to pay back his £12.5million payout from Spurs. If I was Ed Woodward right now, I’d be offering to pay that for him and doing every in my power to make sure that by the time January rolls around, you’ve got a world class manager sat in the dug-out rather than a bang average one in Ole Gunnar Solksjaer.