Opinion: What Solskjaer needs to succeed at Manchester United next season

With the season over for Manchester United and English football domestically, attention turns to the Euros but for Ole Gunner Solskjaer his job is only just beginning.

A disappointing end to last season with United losing the Europa League final to Villarreal on penalties in Gdansk, but according to the Athletic Solskjaer didn’t dwell on the result, instead going straight back to Carrington to plan for next season.

A trophy would have given Ole something to silence his critics and would have bought himself some more time but as Manchester United manager you are only a few defeats away from the sack.

All the arguments used by the #OleOut brigade were ramped up after the defeat and even some backing Ole, including myself, did find myself questioning his selections and in-game management.

With no trophy to show for his time so far at the club he will be under even more scrutiny to deliver, but what does he need to do to succeed next season?

Sign the right players

The rumours are that United are organised and diligent this summer in their organisation to the summer window and if and it’s a big if then the Red Devils could mean serious business.

Jadon Sancho and Kieran Trippier are the two names heavily linked and there seems to be a feeling that United can do these deals this summer, also a centre back and a defensive midfielder would make United competitive for next season.

Social media will be full of fans telling Ole who to sign this summer, but the Norwegian has to sign the right players to fit his squad. Everybody seems to think that spending lots of cash will be the answer, but there is no guarantee from previous seasons that the club spend it well.

Solskjaer has pushed for structural reform behind the scenes and with John Murtough and Darren Fletcher taking up their respective new roles, there does seem to be a structure and transparency where in previous windows nobody knew who did what.

United need to be smarter with their signings as their track record of big purchases has not gone too well, if Ole can fix the holes in the squad and those players can improve the team then mission accomplished.

Every pundit and fan will say United need to spend hundreds of millions to get them close to Manchester City but United need to buy players and turn them into the top-class players they need.

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Also United need to make tough decisions on the squad in the long term with the futures of the David de Gea, Paul Pogba and Anthony Martial all of whom are amongst the top earners at the club who all have question marks about their future.

Innovation not stagnation

Previous coaches have claimed in the past that the club has not got their first-choice players, so if this is true then what hope does any manager really have in succeeding at Old Trafford.

The best managers look at what they have and come up with solutions to their problems and I think Solskjaer needs to be a little more creative in his approach.

United’s strengths under Solskjaer have been on the counter-attack and when soaking up pressure and breaking with pace. However, when United come up against a low-lying defence with no space for the pacy players to run into then they struggle to break them down.

A personnel change could help this starting with Dean Henderson in goal might allow United to play higher up the field with him not being afraid to come out of his box to deal with any danger.

This would also compact the pitch and allow United to pin their opponents in their own half, also using Donny van de Beek in a midfield role to keep hold of the ball and keep it moving might allow United to exert more control over a game.

United have not had lots of time with Solskjaer on the training ground to fully develop their tactics as with the sheer number of games and then the players are either in recovery, travelling or preparing for the next game.

United didn’t play a single game at 3pm on a Saturday and only had a full week off in the last few weeks of the season. A criticism of Solskjaer is that other coaches have put their stamp on teams in a shorter time but if that coach has a full week to train and drill his team then that will show a lot faster.

Hopefully with a full preseason with time on the training ground to drill a new formation or style of play and also and I can’t stress this enough to ditch zonal marking on set pieces and go back to man marking.


One of Arsene Wenger’s biggest strengths was his trust in his players, but towards the end of his time at Arsenal became his biggest weakness as he kept playing the same players when they shouldn’t have been playing and when they should have been moved on.

Solskjaer believes in his players so much particularly certain players who play the majority of games as he doesn’t take players off if they are having a bad game as he believes they can still produce a moment and contribute something to the team.

This is prevalent in the Europa League final when Marcus Rashford did not have a great game and probably should have been subbed, but he was kept on as in the past he has produced moments even during a bad game.

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He wasn’t the only one during that game, but he was the most obvious player to come off, this might say a lot about the options on his bench, but he does need to trust his other players otherwise he could have a very bumpy few months ahead.

He has to be prepared to play and utilise the squad as he does have some very useful players, but he needs to rotate otherwise he could run some of United’s better players into the ground.

If Ole can trust his players, then this will give them the confidence to go and play well and hopefully United can succeed but he cannot be afraid of taking players off. Loyalty is a great thing to have so long as the players produce but he has to be strong enough to make the big decisions.

This is a big summer for Solskjaer as a trophy would have given him something to shove in the face of the doubters but instead it intensifies the scrutiny of the manager. Ole outers have become louder since the Europa League final where several people who were on the fence are still unsure as to whether he can succeed.

If he is to be a successful, then he will need to make sure he addresses these issues for next season at least otherwise a few bad results could lead to the pressure building and maybe if it goes wrong then a change of manager, so it is a crucial summer for Ole Gunner Solskjaer and for Manchester United.

Read more: Cristiano Ronaldo breaks silence after links over return to Man United

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  1. “United have not had lots of time with Solskjaer on the training
    ground to fully develop their tactics as with the sheer number
    of games and then the players are either in recovery” – I’m still grappling with coming to terms with the validity of this assertion given that Ole has bn on the wheel for something close to 2 & half seasons now.If he’s still can’t fully develop a team’s tactics in such a length of time then perhaps he’s just not the right man for the job.What else does he need to beat an average team like Villarreal & the Sevilla side that knocked us out of the same competition in the semis last season??My simple advice to the Man U board is-please don’t rush into extending Ole’s contract lest u find yourselves in yet another sticky situation.There’s absolutely no need of doing so at this point. The jury is still out.

  2. “United have not had lots of time with Solskjaer on the training
    ground to fully develop their tactics as with the sheer number
    of games and then the players are either in recovery”

    two words. thomas tuchel.

    1. also just would like to add that this is a decent and balanced article – unlike most we get on united sites.

  3. People seem to forget that this team had been wallowing in mediocrity before Jose came along and then proceeded to undo all his good work. One Word. Foundation. Tuchel came into a Chelsea team that spent over 200m the previous summer and already had a foundation and good players to work with(Kante, Mount, Pulisic, just to name a few). Inter Milan and Antonio Conte lost the same Europa League Final to the ‘Average’ Sevilla team you speak of. Smh!

    1. the point about thomas tuchel is valid cos the article writer mentions that solskjaer hasnt had time to train the players. he’s been there for two years and a half years – it took tuchel literally one week to change the whole system and look where it took them. the lampard parallels with solskjaer are clear for all to see.

      Under jose united got 81 points, two trophies. he did throw it all away -agreed although this was deliberate as the utd board didnt give him the money to spend. they then proceeded to give all this money to an untested ex-player with little experience – and we have no trophies and finished 7 points worse off.

      to me and many others it is quite clear he has no real skills when being manager. is just constant excuses for him from fans – no other manager would be protected in the same way.

      I hope he is given two-three players this summer and then he can have no more excuses – he will have to deliver. this united squad is very talented – it needs a CDM and RW and possibly a CB and then would easily be good enough to make a title challenge imo.

  4. Also, the leaky right back position that haunted Man United for years has been solved. Wan Bissaka. We have a Talismanic Footballer in Bruno Fernandes. Harry Maguire gets alot of stick on how bad he is but the defence is sub-par when he’s out. All of these players gotten by Ole. Shaw just had his best season thus far. Rashford has scored 20+ goals in back to back seasons. I could go on about the progress I see in this team. EVERY FOOTBALL CLUB goes through a period stagnancy. Patience my friends, Patience!!

    1. that mediocre lvg side you mentioned averaged 67.5 points. it also won something – the FA cup. under ole we have averaged 70 and that is with far better footballers added as you point out.

      the very minor progress is down to better investment in players but the problem lies in the coaching. if OGS did a fergy and got better coaches in then it would change everything. lets see if he does. he has this season i’m sure to prove himself anyhow. let’s hope its a good one!

  5. It’s not excuses from fans or Ole supporters. Under Jose there was Ander Herrera. How and why they let him go is beyond me. I can’t state this enough but a defensive midfielder could be the difference between a trophy and bad season. Leicester’s FA cup triumph was anchored by Ndidi(rarely gets the plaudits he deserves). Against United he disrupted every form of attack and was all over the pitch. Fernandinho is indispendable to City and Liverpool’s charge to the title last season was built on Fabinho’s and Henderson’s intelligence. Kante Is favorite for the Ballon’Dor(why is that?). At United, Ole has had to make do with a striker turned midfielder in McTominay, and a player whose positioning sense is both alarming and shocking(step forward Fred).

  6. Nick-u do raise some very valid & interesting points Nick. I can’t agree more with you on the vitality of a good DM in any side for instance.But in practical terms it may not be easy to get a player naturalized for such a position & great coaches have some tendencies of simply making or creating one. U speak very highly of Herrera there. This guy had more of an attacking role at Bilbao for instance. It was Mourinho who fossilized him into a DM.In my estimation Scott is a decent player whom I think is rather underrated.Put aside the fact that he played as a striker in the junior ranks – Wan Bissaka u also highly esteem as a right back was a striker in the junior ranks as well.the list of players who were converted from their previous role & went on to thrive at a different one is long. Mourinho saw a defender in Scott for instance & he gave a decent account of himself in that role too.Having said I’d rather say I’m on the same page with dixon green on many issues.Ole should be given 100% backing in this window & the board must get him the players he wants.that’ll be great for him & the team.but I still feel there shouldn’t be any rush in extending his contract at this moment.it’s much wiser recruiting his preferred players & see how it goes.

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