“You used to be good but now you’re s**t” [23/01/2016]
You’d be hard pressed to find a more uninspiring period, Post-Fergie, than during the tenure of the massively accomplished Louis van Gaal. Despite amassing an impressive 52.4% win rate, and adding our last successful campaign in the FA cup, the football was drab, the attacking intent non-existent and the stands subdued. In fact, more often than not, it was a chorus of the opening line that would echo throughout Old Trafford – as Southampton let us know on that particular day.
We then move to the Christmas period of 2018 and United have parted company with the enigmatic José Mourinho. Now, there is no doubt that this particular tenure yielded the most successful Post-Fergie results – both in win percentage (58.3%) and trophies obtained (EFL Cup & Europa League). To his credit, Mourinho came quite close to Sir Alex’s 59.7% success rate. However, as any true fan will testify, statistics do not paint a categoric picture on style and, like the Dutch tactician beforehand, United simply failed in delivering any sort of attractive football.
United fans are a tough bunch to please. Many of the clubs global fan-base were raised on a diet of trophies, doubles and a tasty treble. As well as the results, the football was attractive and based around the ball hitting the back of both nets. It was completely fitting that in Sir Alex’s final game in charge, United played out a chaotic 5-5 draw at the Hawthorns. It was this unique sense of attack that truly endeared the public toward the mighty reds. As a result, each passing manager is held to the highest standards and expectations imaginable.
Fast-forward to present day and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has amassed a century of games in charge. Evaluating his tenure is cause for great debate amongst the United faithful. A win rate of 55%, guidance into the last four of three separate cup competitions and a return to the Champions League, deemed unacceptable for some. Also, following a suspect start to the 2020/21 campaign, the reds find themselves with 7 points from 6 games and are yet to register a home league win. This, coupled with the continued cries of inexperience and a lack of tactical prowess, continually prompt a large proportion of fans to favour a move for a certain Argentinian.
If you are one of the ‘#OleOut contingent’, it is at this point I will ask you to stop, comprehend the period between Fergie’s departure – present day, and realise that a conveyor belt of managerial decisions is not proving effective.
We’ve started with an experienced Premier League manager who, on paper, was leaps and bounds above our Norwegian leader. Despite what he may have you think, the position was far greater than his ability would lead you to believe and, without question, yielded the worst period of our post-Fergie transition.
We then move to an absolute legend of the game. The Dutchman achieved over a dozen domestic honours throughout the continent – with several different teams, gained multiple European successes and, the ultimate achievement – in guiding his Country to a 3rd place finish at the World Cup. More so than Mr Moyes, his CV was completely superior to that of Solskjaer. Yet, despite this, van Gaal was unable to achieve the admiration of the United faithful and his time, as above, is deemed unsuccessful.
Finally, we touch upon Mourinho. The man who won it all and values a 2nd place title above anything else. One of the greatest managers to ever grace a football field and, despite this, found himself swept aside like those before. His successes are real and he added European silverware to our cabinet. A perennial winner who valued a result over any sort of fluid attacking play. In truth, his tenure was adequately summed up with his final game in charge – an awful display in defeat at the hands of Liverpool.
In Solskjaer, we have a man that has inherited a mish-mash from the above. He has had to develop the squad, create an ethos that will allow the players continuity with one managerial vision and, has done so- fully aware – that each and every error will be scrutinised. There is no greater example than the defeat to Arsenal on Sunday. Admittedly, United were poor and we deserved what we got on the day. However, had we to have collected our 1st home win of the season, we would have been 3 points from 4th position with a game in hand.
My key issue in replacing managers stems with the general age of our squad. We are a young team and that in itself is fundamental for the ethos that Ole is trying to achieve. This is not a side of ‘galácticos’. The very term refers to a superstar who has already achieved a lot in the game. These players are not fazed in having to deal with multiple managers and the conveyor belt is irrelevant to them. However, when considering the likes of our dynamic trio, an average age of 22 will tell you all you need to know.
The talent within our young squad is more than evident. This talent will switch between moments of brilliance and frustration in seconds. People are quick to point a finger at the manager when the situation is sticky; not so quick to applaud those moments of brilliance. A prime example of this inexperience can be seen in the defensive contrast between Paris and Istanbul. To halt the current managerial vision would be yet another spanner in the development of this young squad.
I’ve always been very vocal in my support of Solskjaer. In saying that, I’m not oblivious to his failings. Tactically, there are better managers available: as I’ve said above, we’ve had better tacticians sitting in the chair beforehand. Many aspects of the role are being developed on the fly and his inexperience can also be seen. However, he has an extremely strong record against supposedly superior opponents and an overall winning record that rivals any of his predecessors. Ultimately, this a defining season in the Norwegians career and judgement, at least for now, should be saved until it has had an opportunity to unfold.
Despite the lack of consistency, there is clear progress and one loss does not disregard this. Ups and downs are inevitable. Stop complaining and just enjoy the roller-coaster.
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