20le Legend

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

The “Ole Factor” has really ignited my fellow Manchester United fans after our third consecutive win yesterday since our Norwegian Super Sub took interim charge of us following the inevitable departure of his predecessor, the self-proclaimed “Special One,” Jose Mourinho. Mourinho’s fall from grace, which in sporting terms mirrors how the American people fell out of love with one of the greatest ever American Football players to have ever played Grid Iron, O. J. Simpson (nicknamed “The Juice”), was accused of a double murder in 1994.  O.J. was subsequently acquitted, but Jose’s jurors were not so lenient when delivering their final sentence on his reign in charge of the world’s most famous, and historic, football club, Manchester United. The Glazer Family, long before time, decided to bring down the hammer to quash Mourinho’s juice on 18 December 2018.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is a Manchester United Legend.  But having a Legendary status at a football club does not guarantee longevity as a manager of a club you once played for.  Just ask Kenny Dalglish or Kevin Keegan for their considered opinion having taken charge of clubs they so rightfully enjoy “Hero” status at.  In Dalglish’s case, Liverpool, and in Keegan’s, Liverpool and Newcastle United. 

Our caretaker manager has done extremely well (in comparison to Mourinho’s inept management this season) but he is far from being the saviour of Manchester United.  And let’s face it, even if he does the unexpected and wins a trophy this season or achieves a Champion League Top 4 finish, he is unlikely to take charge of the United team for our opening game of the 2019-20 season.  Harsh?  No, not really.   Very few players make a successful progression to managerial status.  Recently, Zinedine Zidane has done the latter with Real Madrid as a player and manager and the greatest ever?  Well, that has to be Johann Cruyff. 

Cruyff’s Playing career: 3 x European Cup, 9 x Eredivisie, 1 x La Liga, 7 x domestic cups, 1 x UEFA Super Cup, 2 x Intertoto Cup, 1 x Intercontinental Cup.

Cruyff’s Managerial career: 1 x European Cup, 2 x Cup Winners’ Cup, 4 x La Liga, 5 x domestic cups, 1 x UEFA Super Cup.

Sir Alex Ferguson, the most successful manager in the history of English football, celebrates his 77th birthday today (incidentally Steve Bruce who captained United to the inaugural 1992-93 Premier League title is 58 today), but if The Boss was asked by Ole who should he sign, and who should he let go, how do you think our former Soothsayer would suggest?  Well that all depends on what budget will the United Board afford Ole for the January transfer window which opens tomorrow.  Depending on what media source you regularly access, some football writers say that Ole is to be given £50 million to spend whilst others claim that United’s executive vice chairman, Ed Woodward, told Ole that the coffers were empty and if he accepted the caretaker role he would have to bring in loan signings.  Personally, I think Ole will be given money to spend in an attempt to push United up the table in search of a Top 4 finish which in itself will generate huge funds.  But there is no doubt in my mind that Ole will not be handed a blank cheque book, and instead he will be asked to balance the books by off-loading a few players before unveiling a new signing at Old Trafford.           

In his own words, Ole needs to sign “players who will take pride in wearing the United shirt.”  This will not be his first venture into the transfer market to try and turn around the fortunes of a Premier League club.  During his spell as the manager of Cardiff City FC (2 January 2014-18 September 2014) he signed 18 players for the Welsh club and the vast majority of those were failures.  Football critics referred to Ole having a scattergun approach in the transfer market.  Some football fans and pundits went further saying that Ole gave the impression that he was indulging in a real-life version of Football Manager, the computer game he said he liked  playing before making the transition from former player to manager.  Needless to say, Ole’s gamble in the Principality did not pay off and The Bluebirds nosedived into the Championship at the end of the 2013-14 season and following a poor start in the Championship the following season, 2014-15,  Ole was asked to pack his bag and leave. 

Ole is still unproven as a manager.  He knows that better than anyone and that is why I believe the appointment of Mike Phelan as his assistant will prove to be a huge asset to him over the next five months.  Phelan played for United for five years (1989-94) and has 17 years’ experience at United as an assistant coach and first team coach.  Phelan, like Ole, knows what DNA the Manchester United fans expect their players to possess, but more importantly the 5 years he spent as Sir Alex’s trusted lieutenant (assistant manager 2008-13) should prove invaluable when advising Ole on who should stay, who should go and who should come in. 

Players Who May Leave United in January
Matteo Darmian
Phil Jones
Juan Mata
Andrea Pereira
Paul Pogba
Alexis Sanchez
Luke Shaw
Chris Smalling
Antonio Valencia

My Wish List
Gareth Bale (Real Madrid)
Ivan Perisic (Inter Milan)
Ivan Rakitic (FC Barcelona)
Alex Sandro (Juventus)
Willian (Chelsea)

Preferred Alternatives: Kalidou Koulibaly (Napoli), Diego Godin (Atletico Madrid), Eder Militao (FC Porto), Mesut Ozil (Arsenal), Arjen Robben (FC Bayern Munich)

In many ways United need a sticking plaster approach until the end of the season because, if as I suspect, Ole will not be our manager next season, the United Board will be stockpiling cash between now and May, building a huge war chest to lure a “Big Name” who will be expected to not only win trophies but do so in the United way. 

Carlo Ancelotti are you listening?

John White
Author of 15 books about Manchester United
Branch Secretary, Carryduff Manchester United Supporters’ Club, Northern Ireland

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