The Norwegian has not been perfect by any stretch of imagination, but he has given me more reasons to believe in the club.
The Mauricio Pochettino to Manchester United story has gained steam in recent weeks, with both parties flirting with each other, desperate for the other’s attention. However, in all the clamour surrounding the Argentinian’s potential move to the club, we all seem to be forgetting one rather important individual – Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
As a Manchester United fan and quite a passionate one at that, its baffling to me how fickle the average football fanatic has become over the years. Hence, I have decided to explain on record, why I am for ‘Ole in’ and why I will remain so until I am shown evidence to the contrary.
When Ole Gunnar Solskjaer took over at the club in December of 2018, an air of magic slithered its way down the spine of all those involved with the club. We all knew that it was just a fling and was never to be forever, but it felt so very good. The man who had done it for us in 1999 was back to do it again.
Players at the club suddenly found themselves moving extra couple of yards and we seemed to score with every shot we took. Life was good. Then, the Norwegian was given the job permanently. The club made promises of riches to its legend and the fairy tale continued.
However, the intensity of the season eventually got to the players and the results began to decline. But typical of Solskjaer, he never let his head drop, because he knew or rather, he trusted that a change was coming in the summer.
The Norwegian was promised a squad overhaul, he wanted the deadwood and the players who did not possess the United mentality out of the squad. The latter happened, Ole was short changed on the former.
Alexis Sanchez, Romelu Lukaku, Ander Herrera, Ashley Young, Marouane Fellaini, and Chris Smalling were allowed to leave the club. I would argue that the only one that I would have liked to keep would have been Ander Herrera. The Spaniard bled for the club during his time at Old Trafford but it was just not to be.
Ole allowed this to happen on the assumption that he would not have his hands tied by the people in charge of our football club. Further, the “squad overhaul” turned out to be three signings and a net spend of around £75m. If you do the math, without Mason Greenwood, Tahith Chong and Angel Gomes, that left the manager with barely a matchday squad when everyone was fit.
No manager in the world can be expected to pull up trees with a squad that thin. But what Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has done is that he retained a core of players at the club who want to play for the shirt that they are wearing. Say what you will about Paul Pogba, the boy plays when he is on the pitch and he does so without a complaint.
I’ve been asked what I believe the identity of Manchester United is, if there is indeed an identity. The usual claim is that Jurgen Klopp’s teams have a signature way of playing. What is Ole’s? To that I say, “Fair enough.” Klopp does have a very clear style of play. But I would argue, what is Pochettino’s? What is Allegri’s? What was Ferguson’s?
A style of play does not directly equate to the identity of a football club. If Jose Mourinho’s style of play was purely to sit back and wait for the opposition to make a mistake, some of the most scintillating title winning sides of the last twenty years would have been a true bore to behold. I would argue that great success can be found by tailoring a style of play to the squad of players that you have at your disposal and that the identity of a club is the spirit that the players show when they’re down and the will they show to fight for the shirt.
Every time United step onto the pitch, I see an immense lack of quality, stemming from the injuries and the paper-thin squad but I also see something that I have not seen in over seven years – a desire to play for the badge. I see players who want to be at the club giving their all for it and players who do not seem to care are shipped off not long after.
These players may be pulling up trees in different leagues but the fact remains that despite their footballing prowess, they did not have what it took from a mental perspective to stay at Manchester United. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has started a process and he needs to be allowed to see it through, a squad that young is bound to be inconsistent but there are signs of progress. That is what I have been looking for.
People clamouring for Pochettino, let me ask you this. Is he truly an upgrade to what we have right now? Over his time at Tottenham, Pochettino spent over £350m on 27 new players, meaning he was practically allowed to buy a whole new squad, but they never really challenged for anything, did they? The same squad of players that he brought to the club stopped playing for him. That does not sound like an upgrade to me.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has not been perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but he has given me more reasons to believe in the club than any other manager has, since Ferguson’s departure. That’s worth something to me. As for the people at the top of the club, I have words that I will not be permitted to print. United need a change, just not a managerial one.
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