Ole Gunnar Solskjaer took charge of Manchester United in December 2018 as caretaker, replacing Jose Mourinho, who left the team with moral at an all time low and the club lacking any real identify. The club was a shadow of its former self going from a European giant to now a sleeping one. Long gone were the days of Sir Alex Ferguson when the club had a strict ethos that everyone bought into developing that winning mentality and the never give up attitude, when clubs would fear playing at Old Trafford and most importantly they knew what they wanted in the market, didn’t just throw cash at names and hope for the best.
With the lack of identity and the fact they had already gone through most of the big managerial names in Europe, The Red Devils turned to Ole.
He seemed like the perfect caretaker, a fan favourite and a big part of a treble winning team, scoring the last minute winner in that unforgettable 1999 champions league final. He embodies that ethos that took Utd to great things and the board were hoping he could install that back into the team and then get another big name in the summer.
When he arrived (still with an agreement in place to go back to Molde in the summer) he really wasn’t seen as the long term manager for the club but after taking 26 points in his first 10 games, fans started calling for a contract and it gave the board something to think about. Not to take away form an amazing start but the team was full of superstars that had all been downtrodden by Jose and played in the wrong position for the last 9 months, he simply took off the shackles and let them play freely, but this new energy when a manager arrives has a sell by date and doesn’t last forever. They decided to give him a 3 year contact and almost immediately results started to drop off and so started the roller coaster that has been Man Utd for the last 2 years.
Under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer Utd seem to be a club of mini cycles that starts with a patch of good form playing really exciting football then to looking lacklustre and the defence looking clueless, which is followed by a Pogba wanting to leave, he’s agent slating the club publicly, then him changing his mind and the good results come back. Utd would finish Ole’s first season 6th after having plenty of opportunities to grab 4th, what started so well for Ole felt a bit of a disappointing end to the season.
Next season was much of the same, going through the same mini cycles until Bruno Fernandes was brought in during the January window, which helped the team become much more creative and consistent. This helped them finish 4th and get back to the champions league where such a big club belongs.
Before the start of this season I was trying to work out if Solskjaer was the right man for the job or even if he was a good manager. In his first 18 months he done nothing to show me he was a great man manager like Klopp being that there always seems to be a player wanting to leave the club. Nor was he a great tactician like Jose and Pep making some questionable changes to the starting line up and getting ripped off in transfers market, with the add fact of being so inconsistent I couldn’t work out what type of manager he was. Then it hit me, United over the last 2 season have been the perfect representation of Solskjaer’s playing career. Solskjaer was a super sub, a man who rarely started a game but almost guaranteed you a goal when he came off the bench, I remember the game against Nottingham Forest where he came on with 12 minutes to go with orders from Ferguson to take it easy and he scored 4 goals!
How many points did he nick for United with last minute goals, a hero in Barcelona after only being on the pitch for 6 minutes. This was the type of player he was, when Fergie's team were in trouble he was the man they turned to, to come on a grab a goal. If things were going well you probably wouldn’t see Ole make an appearance.
He’s no different today as a manager, he only seems to excel when their back against the wall, just when you think his times up he pulls out a string of results that puts them back in contention and then as i said, the cycle starts again.
This year has been pretty similar, the start of the season wasn’t amazing and then they crashed out of the champions’ league not even making it out of the group stage. At this point United were sitting mid table (with games in hand) and now facing the gruelling challenge of games on a Thursday thanks to being in Europe’s 2nd tier completion. This was Solskjaer first back against the wall moment of the season and look what happened, ever since then they seemed to have won every single game and don’t look like stopping, now sitting joint top and replacing Spurs as Liverpool's main title contenders. It all feels like the good old days have returned, two huge rivals fighting at the top once again. The way Ole's boys have been playing this season also further proves the point, it seems United don’t get going until they are 1 or 2 down, or have to nick a last minute winner... the Solskjaer way.
As a Liverpool fan I'm praying this part of the cycle finishes sooner rather than later and the challenge of Europa League makes them drop off later in the season, but as it stands they are real contenders and playing some of the most exciting football in the league. Is Solskjaer the main to bring a title back to Old Trafford? Probably not as he is too inconsistent but he is starting to give the club some kind of Identity which we haven’t seen for the last 8 years. The Liverpool fan in me wants to see Solskjaer fail but the football fan in me is loving the excitement his side are bringing to the league, either way this is the first time since Ferguson retired that Manchester United fans can dream of a league title again.
Written by Danny Williams - Liverpool Supporter and contributor to REAL FANS NO FILTER!
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