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Why Manchester United must summon the spirit of 1990 and keep faith with Ole Gunnar Solskjær

  • Manchester United fans may be calling for change, but now is the time to stick and not twist...
Matty Paddock
Modified 30 Jan 2020, 22:21 IST
Manchester United won the 1990 FA Cup replay against Crystal Palace at Wembley
Manchester United won the 1990 FA Cup replay against Crystal Palace at Wembley

It’s 1990.

Manchester United are in big trouble. Their manager faces the sack, heckled with derision from the Old Trafford stands.

Alex Ferguson still not knighted, has been at the helm for three seasons already, plucked from Dundee with the hope of bringing silverware to a trophy-hungry Manchester who were eager to knock rivals Liverpool and Arsenal off their perch. But with nothing to show for his three terms in office by this point, the knives are out for Ferguson who, it was felt, was simply not up to the job.

The form prior to their FA Cup meeting with Nottingham Forest in the Third Round was a rotten seven games without a win – hardly the basis on which to travel to the City Ground for what was a clearly a must-win game, knowing fully well that a defeat would end their hopes of any trophies for yet another term.

Of course, Ferguson’s legacy at Old Trafford is well established – and that’s an understatement. Mark Roberts netted what was arguably the most famous goal of his career to steer United to a 1-0 win, and advance them in the FA Cup which they went on to lift after a replay win over Crystal Palace.

Chop and change has done more harm than good

Ferguson went on to win 13 Premier Leagues as United boss, five FA Cups, four League Cups – and a couple of Champions League trophies, too… and that doesn’t even complete the loot he managed to gather during a glittering managerial spell that ended with his retirement in 2013.

The reason for the trip down memory lane? Simple – United need to cast their minds back, remember, and learn.

They have been in a state of flux ever since the Scot, now 78 departed, and have frankly never looked close to lifting the Premier League title again, with Liverpool now set to retake their position at the top of English football within a matter of months.

Including a brief spell for Ryan Giggs as caretaker chief, United are currently on their fifth manager since Ferguson’s exit, with David Moyes, Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho all trying and failing to elicit former glories before the current incumbent, Ole Gunnar Solskjær, took the helm.


Mediocre fare has become norm and theme

The problem, once again, is that patience is wearing thin. Tolerance is on the wane, and the former baby-faced assassin, as he was known, is teetering on the edge. The 46-year-old has United in fifth in the Premier League – standard fare, really, in recent years – and still in the FA Cup and Europa League.

Manchester United under Solskjaer have not been consistent
Manchester United under Solskjaer have not been consistent

Always afflicted by short-termism, though, top-flight football in England runs to the beat of the form drum, and United’s inconsistency is too much for some to bear. Beaten in their last two Premier League games against Liverpool and Burnley respectively, the men from Old Trafford have struggled to really nail down a run of results. But with the constant changing of management, is this ever going to be possible? Calls have been made from many within the support base for the hero of their 1999 Champions League winning campaign to be dispatched.

But there seems to have no real method or logic behind such demands, other than the fact that those asking for it think it will solve the issues of the team like a magic pill.

The truth is of course that sacking Solskjær would likely do nothing of the sort. What, realistically, would be the use in parting ways with a fourth permanent manager in barely seven years?

A happy medium

In my view, United fans need to summon the spirit of 1990 and keep faith with Solskjær. Would doing so win them the FA Cup and start a trophy-winning spree that sees them dominate English football again for a generation?

The win of 1990 set the ball rolling for a decade and a half of dominance
The win of 1990 set the ball rolling for a decade and a half of dominance

That’s highly unlikely, but that also has to stop being the aim, because it in turn becomes the problem. Conversely, there’s nothing to suggest that sticking with the Norwegian will leave them in the Liverpool spot of old; decades without a league title and forever in the shadow of those around them. Fans need to be satisfied with a happy medium. A subtle compromise, for the greater good. Keep things as they are, build steadily, take a FA Cup here and a League Cup there, in the knowledge that by keeping a long-term plan in mind, they’ll reap rewards.

Long-term thinking, of course, is not what the modern-day game is known for. Back in 1990, Manchester United showed some resolve and stuck with Alex Ferguson, and went on to win the equivalent of the footballing lottery as a result.

Some 30 years later, that resolve again needs to come to the fore. For once, it’s time to stick and not twist. Leave well alone – you might well be surprised by what follows...

 Also read: 7 reasons for the decay at Manchester United 

Published 30 Jan 2020, 22:21 IST
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