Why Ole Gunnar Solskjaer should get the permanent job at Manchester United
Manchester United’s season has been a tale of two halves. In the first few months under Jose Mourinho, their form was appalling, with the Portuguese coach only managing 26 points in the first 17 games. That points tally was the lowest the club ever managed at that stage of a Premier League season. Mourinho’s anticipated departure came in December following a Champions League humbling in Valencia and the embarrassing 3-1 defeat against their bitter rivals Liverpool.
Imminently, former Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane was linked to Old Trafford. It was assumed that the club wanted a marquee manager to take the helm. However, several eyebrows were raised when the Manchester United hierarchy decided to appoint former player Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as caretaker manager.
Fondly nicknamed as the “baby-faced assassin”, Solskjaer scored a remarkable 126 goals in his 13 years at the club including that famous stoppage-time winner against Bayern Munich in the 1999 Champions League final. Whilst journalists and pundits were left scratching their heads, Manchester United fans were ecstatic at the arrival of their beloved Norweigan.
Solskjaer’s previous Premier League managerial adventure came as a brief stint at Cardiff City where he was brought in to replace Malky Mackay. The Norweigan was appointed a manager in the midst of controversies and disputes circling the Welsh club.
Club owner Vincent Tan reportedly fell out with Mackay and Solskjaer was appointed with the aim that his predecessor’s defensive approach would be replaced with an attractive brand of football. However, the Norwegian found himself knees deep in a relegation battle with Cardiff finishing rock-bottom of the Premier League 2013-14 season.
Managing in the Eliteserien in Norway and getting relegated with Cardiff does not make an ideal resume for a job at the Theatre of Dreams. But the Manchester United board had other ideas. Barring Solskjaer’s managerial pedigree, he is someone who has played at the club for more than a decade. The fans will back him not only because of his affiliation with the club, but also because he understands and respects the core traditions and values on which the club is built. And they were right.
Under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Manchester United are playing a different ballgame altogether. Before their latest defeat at the hands of Arsenal, the Red Devils were unbeaten in the previous 12 Premier League games under their new boss. Solskjaer has completely turned around United’s dismal season with the club now aiming at the FA Cup, the Champions League and also a top-four finish in the Premier League.
Paul Pogba has been let loose from his defensive shackles which severely hampered his game under Mourinho. The World Cup winner has finally found form in his attacking role under Solskjaer banging goals left, right and centre.
Marcus Rashford has become the main man up front in place of Romelu Lukaku. But the latter also has had telling contributions in United’s stunning comeback victories against Southampton and Paris Saint-Germain. Ander Herrera has been solid in midfield while Anthony Martial has also benefited from the new system deployed by Solskjaer.
It is evident that Manchester United haven’t been the same since the legendary Sir Alex Ferguson announced his retirement. Decorated successors like Jose Mourinho, Louis Van Gaal and David Moyes failed to even remotely replicate the Scotsman’s achievements at Old Trafford.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has surely lifted the spirits at his boyhood club, but his managerial experience is still a big question mark. Manchester United fans must be looking across town from the corner of their eyes where Pep Guardiola has completely revolutionised the club which was once under their shadow. Solskjaer’s raw hunger and gusto might just be the key for Manchester United to once again paint their picture on the front page of English football.