A big week for Manchester United and another chapter in Ole Gunner Solskjaer’s audition for the permanent role of Manchester United manager. It started off with the big game at home against Liverpool, then a tricky trip to Crystal Palace on Wednesday.
So, Liverpool up first for Solskjaer and I know it is written every week about how this game will be the biggest test and he has passed almost every test with flying colours. But for the fans this was the biggest test, we all learned the news of Nemanja Matic’s injury and his loss is pivotal as he is vital to United playing well under Ole. Scott McTominay was chosen to deputise, and a lot of collective panicking then occurred on social media when the team was announced but he played well.
Ole has passed his previous tests against the other big teams so far in his reign winning away at Tottenham, Arsenal and Chelsea but with all due respect, they are not challenging for the league. Liverpool are on the verge of ending their long wait to win a league title and have built a team good enough to challenge for the title, so there was more to this game than just the rivalry at stake here.
The first half was very disjointed to say at best, with United having to use all three substitutes in the first 45 minutes. Ander Herrera was replaced by Andres Pereira, then after a crucial tackle to stop Mohamed Salah, Juan Mata needed to go off. Jesse Lingard came on to replace Mata and Lingard was himself a big doubt to be involved after his injury against PSG, but sadly he hurt himself after almost putting United in front, so Alexis Sanchez replaced him.
The half time whistle couldn’t come soon enough for Solskjaer as he got the team in and regrouped, this was the biggest test for him to not only motivate the team but also cope with the impact on the team the injuries would have and the fact he wouldn’t have been able to make any more changes for the rest of the game.
In the second half, chances were scarce as both teams lacked that creative spark needed to win the game, United were lacking players who could produce that bit of magic and Liverpool just seemingly lacked the killer instinct to win the game.
Ole didn’t have anything his own way in this game but one thing that I will say is that every player who played put the work in and did a shift and no more could have been asked for by any fan. Now certain players will garner more praise and certain players will draw more criticism, but they all had good points and bad points, however, they all worked hard and got a massive result.
Next up Crystal Palace.
With 10 players injured they travelled to Selhurst Park for a midweek league clash and there was a real sense of nerves as this was another test for Ole in how would he cope with a serious injury crisis?
Most people, including myself, thought it would be very tight but United walked out comfortable 3-1 winners, Romelu Lukaku scored 2 and then Ashley Young sealed the win. The result was great but the fact that United still played the same way, going forward, playing possession football with a makeshift team and beat a Palace team who were in very good form.
With our rivals for the top four places also winning with Arsenal beating Bournemouth as well as Chelsea beating Tottenham, a win was desperately needed. Also, James Garner got on for his debut against Crystal Palace as Solskjaer had no reservations about playing him and continuing to trust in youth as all United managers should do.
Ole has got the fans onside and completely changed the atmosphere around the club, going to games isn’t a chore anymore and the clamour for tickets especially away from home proves something is happening. With Mike Phelan as his number two as well as Michael Carrick and Kieran McKenna in coaching roles, the back-room team is starting to take shape and they are putting down foundations about what the club means and what the club expects from the players.
If this is Ole’s audition, then he is close to getting the part but what he has done and what does he need to do to get the role full time.?
Ole Gunner Solskjaer at Manchester United:
- Winning games
- Play attacking attractive football
- Beat rival clubs
- Implement tactical game plans to win games
- Coach players to give great performances
- Conduct himself in a manner befitting the club
- Promote youth/young players
- Understand fans/history of the club
- Get results in midst of an injury crisis
Ole has done all these things and then some but only a few things are missing from this list and win trophies as well as signing players now trophies will depend on the games against PSG and Wolves and signing players comes if he gets the job.
The club has gone outside to appoint managers to bring it back to former glory with Messer’s Moyes, van Gaal and Mourinho but maybe Ole being someone who understands the club and what it means might be the best way to go, Ruud Gullit made this point on Match of The Day 2 about maybe looking at someone from inside the club.
Ole had to adapt to setbacks all week in the biggest possible game against Liverpool then midweek against Crystal Palace but came out with 4 points out of 6. The fans want him, players do, pundits and ex-players want him to get the job and this week for me was just another couple of tests that Ole passed with flying colours. With Ole going from strength to strength and the other candidate for the job in Mauricio Pochettino starting to succumb to the annual bout of Spursy then it seems Ole is our man.
Surely it won’t be long until Ed Woodward give Ole the keys to the kingdom and gives him the permanent job and it will be well and truly deserved.