Ole’s at the wheel, tell me how good does it feel… It’s the chant that’s captivated the Man United faithful. Following the doom and gloom of Jose Mourinho’s reign, there’s an optimistic feel to Ole Gunnar Solksjaer as interim Man United manager.
Longevity has been key to Man United’s success. Both Sir Matt Busby and Sir Alex Ferguson benefited from time and support to build the club. In return, Man United enjoyed unprecedented trophy-rich reigns and cemented their position as one of the world’s biggest football clubs.
A temporary manager goes against Man United’s long standing traditions. Perhaps it’s inevitable in the post-Ferguson era and modern football – some would even argue short-termism is to be expected with Ed Woodward, a former corporate banker, at the helm.
Either way, it’s vital that Man United get their next managerial appointment right.
Man City and Liverpool, the club’s rivals historically and in proximity, show no signs of slowing down. Another Moyes, Van Gaal or Mourinho esque hire will see Man United fall even further behind the pack.
Despite winning all seven of his opening games, there’s still scepticism of Solksjaer’s credentials. Critics point towards his stint at Cardiff and lack of top-level managerial experience in comparison to attainable alternatives – most notably Mauricio Pochettino, Zinedine Zidane and Massimiliano Allegri.
Here are four key reasons why Solksjaer deserves to be appointed Man United manager.
Solksjaer has Man United’s stars firing
We’ve got Sanchez, Paul Pogba and Fred… In his final months as Man United manager, Mourinho was like a broken record with his constant complaints about the club’s lack of transfer activity.
Like a spoilt child not satisfied with his toys, his frequent public outbursts were confusing. In just two and half years at the club, Mourinho spent £360m on 11 players – he was hardly working with a shoestring budget.
The problem wasn’t a lack of investment, it was Mourinho’s failure to get the best out of the players he’d signed.
Paul Pogba was the main target for criticism under Mourinho. Maybe with good reason as after all he’s a world-cup winner and has four scudettos – so there’s high expectations for Man United’s record signing. Whilst playing for Mourinho it never really clicked for Pogba, he often looked restricted and seemed to be selected in a role which highlighted his weaknesses.
Unlike Mourinho, Solksjaer is building his team around Pogba.
Simplicity is genius – and the Norwegian has opted for the most obvious solution to the Pogba conundrum. Solksjaer has deployed Pogba in his preferred role as a left-sided central midfielder in a 4-3-3 system. Partnered alongside the experienced duo Nemanja Matić and Ander Herrera, the French international benefits from their defensive stability and is given a license to roam in the attacking third. In return, Pogba has delivered five goals and four assists in seven games for Solksjaer.
It’s not just Pogba who’s profited from Solksjaer’s arrival. In just two months as interim boss, the Norwegian has revitalised Man United’s squad. Most notably; Victor Lindelof looks a bargain at £30m, Anthony Martial is developing into a top quality winger and David de Gea is showing his world-class talent.
Developing young players
Marcus Rashford is Manc born and bred…Marcus Rashford is the latest academy graduate to make his stamp on the Man United first team. Along with attacking football, developing youth players is in the club’s DNA.
Did you know that since 1937 Man United have named an academy graduate in every single matchday squad?
Man United’s academy is famous for consistently developing world-class talents such as George Best, Sir Bobby Charlton and Ryan Giggs. And the current crop of academy graduates aren’t too bad either – with the likes of world cup winning Paul Pogba, England international Jesse Lingard and wonderkid Marcus Rashford developing through the ranks in recent years.
Having played with the iconic Class of ’92 and managing the reserve side for two years, it’s safe to say Solksjaer is well aware of the importance of Man United’s academy. In his current role as interim boss, he’s already handed a debut to exciting Dutch winger Tahith Chong, in the FA Cup third round tie against Reading.
But it’s Marcus Rashford who’s benefited most from Solksjaer’s arrival. Under Mourinho, Rashford was criticised for lacking composure and missing ‘easy’ goals, prompting this controversial reaction from his former manager.
With Solksjaer at the helm Rashford is in the form of his life – scoring five goals in his last six Premier League appearances. The Norwegian is passing on his goal scoring know how. His guidance is helping Rashford to develop into the perfect modern forward; with scintillating pace, intelligent off-the-ball movement and unstoppable tenacity.
Solksjaer brings a buzz to Man United
The greatest of English football, we’ve won it all… After scoring the treble winning goal against Bayern Munich, Solksjaer’s name was eternally etched in Man United folklore.
A club legend managing the first team is always a romantically charged affair. It worked wonders for Barcelona with Pep Guardiola and for Real Madrid with Zinedine Zidane. So, why should it be any for different for Man United with Solksjaer?
Solksjaer embodies what it means to manage Man United. There’s an aurora about this club, and he gets it. He leads by example. His passion, positivity and belief are virtues that are a perfect fit for this club.
The baby-faced-assassin wasted no opportunity, in his first press conference as interim boss, to remind the world that it’s an honour to play for and manage Man United – a stark contrast from his predecessor.
Cast your mind back to this time last month. Man United were at their lowest point, having lost 3-1 to a top-of-the-table Liverpool side. It was boiling point. The fans and media had grown tired of watching England’s biggest football club serve up cowardly and uninspiring performances under Mourinho. He had to go.
Cue the arrival of Solksjaer. Instantly the cloud of doom disappeared. Through his conduct, demeanour and personality, the ever-smiling Norwegian has got us all excited to watch Man United play again.
Ole-ball is taking over the Premier League
Attack, attack, attack… is often a chorus heard from the Stretford End when Man United are chasing a winning goal. There’s an expectation for Man United to win every match, but equally important there’s a demand for the club to excite and entertain.
Attacking football is at the heart of the club’s identity – Sir Matt Busby laid the foundations and Sir Alex Ferguson solidified the style-of-play. However, in the post-Ferguson era, Man United have failed to maintain their philosophy. At times the football served up has looked cautious and unimaginative.
But with Solksjaer it’s different.
Man United fans have coined the term Ole-ball to describe the Norwegian’s attacking philosophy. Ole-ball refers to Solksjaer’s preference for a quick possession based system; focusing on ball retention, rapid counter attacking and high intensity pressure to win back the ball.
Through powerful wingers, box-to-box midfielders and precise counter attacking, Ole-ball is electrifying. It’s refreshing to see Man United attack the opposition’s weaknesses rather than set up to defend against their strengths. It’s naive to play the same way against every team. The best football managers are willing to adjust their tactics to win. Against Tottenham, Solksjaer demonstrated his tactical prowess – opting for a 4-4-2 diamond, rather than his preferred 4-3-3 system to exploit Tottenham’s weaknesses in wide areas. The game plan worked a treat, with Man United winning the game 1-0. It was also a personal triumph for Solksjaer as he was able to mastermind a win against Mauricio Pochettino, arguably his biggest competition for the permanent Man United job.
It’s a head over heart decision
Ole, Ole, Ole, Ole… Like most Man United fans I love the idea of Solksjaer managing our club.
Few, if any, candidates understand Man United the way Solksjaer does. His predecessors have often looked overwhelmed by the task at hand. But not Solksjaer. His confidence and bright personality are a breath of fresh of air. There’s no doubt he’d behave the way a Man United manager should.
Football is a results-based business, and that’s where Solksjaer is excelling. He’s won all seven matches as interim boss. Ole-ball is helping Man United rediscover their identity. And it’s also delivering sustainable results – a rarity in the post-Ferguson era.
It’s likely that Solksjaer’s chances hinge on Champions League qualification. A club of Man United’s stature need to play in Europe’s elite football competition. A top four finish, in the Premier League, should be enough to give Solksjaer the job permanently – especially when considering the mess Mourinho left behind.
Regardless of Champions League qualification, Solksjaer has revitalised this broken Man United squad. He’s the perfect remedy for the toxic atmosphere Mourinho left behind. The players are happy, the fans are happy and we’re winning again – surely Ed Woodward can’t ignore it… Ole’s playing the way United should.