Manchester United fans are restless. The optimism that greeted club legend Cristiano Ronaldo’s Old Trafford return has dissipated. Every so often, Red Devils’ faithfuls pose a simple question: what is wrong with United?
Their disquiet has been prompted by a lean spell that has seen the world’s most valuable club lose to Young Boys of Berne, Aston Villa and West Ham United in a space of a few weeks. In round robin discussions, most fans point an accusing finger at manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
Tend to agree, but not necessarily because of the current lean spell that’s seen them register just two fluke wins over West Ham and Villarreal in their last six outings.
Only in the game against Swiss champions Young Boys did Solskjaer carry wholesome blame for bungling his line with ill-thought substitutions. Losses to the Hammers and Villa were borne out of their own improvements. And therein lies the first mistake of these diehards.
They’re trapped in a time-warp and tend to judge the club by legendary manager Sir Alex Ferguson’s standards.
Ferguson is undisputedly the greatest Premier League manager of all time. However, for at least half of his time, Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal were his only worthy opponents.
The rest of the teams were clueless. The advent of oligarchs and big TV money has changed the landscape. So, while United could cherry pick the division’s best players between 1993-2004, of late there are at least four other clubs that can match the Old Trafford club’s spending power. Matter of fact, sixty percent of the world’s richest clubs are now the club’s weekly rivals.
Secondary to that, Solskjaer was appointed to the Old Trafford hot seat thanks to his historical links to the club, not because he was the most competent talent available.
The club hierarchy actually ignored men like Jurgen Klopp and Thomas Tuchel. The former Molde boss was supposed to learn on the job. The fact he’s taking longer than expected to master the nitty gritty of managing a club of Manchester United’s ambition is hardly his fault.
The Norwegian can point to annual improvements in the club’s EPL standings as evidence he’s steering the ship in the right direction.
My quarrel with Solskjaer as an independent observer is that he is morphing into a nearly man. A club of United’s stature should never have lost the last two Europa League trophies to second tier European teams. It’s simply not acceptable. Sevilla and Villarreal are not teams that sit at the high table of the continental game.
For example, they weren’t invited to join the aborted European Super League. Which is why CR7’s return will be good for the club. He will help change the team’s overall mentality. They should be going into semifinals and finals to win them there and then; not at some imaginary future date.
To round up, Solskjaer cannot continue promising success without grabbing silverware at the first available opportunity. The time to deliver a trophy of some description is this season.
The key to achieving that silverware is to change the players’ mentality. Uefa Champions League title winning boss Thomas Tuchel managed to do so in record time. Solskjaer must aim for the same as the squad of players he tutors at Carrington Road is at least as good as Chelsea’s.