Okay so before I begin writing, I first need to say something. My name is Tom Clapham and I have a problem, I love writing articles in series’ and I just cannot help myself. Following my Generation Next series (Check it out on our cycling page, only on UndraftedtheNetwork.com) I felt that I wanted to spread my wings and really get down to the fundamentals with some serious journalism.
When that did not work, I started the ‘Let’s be honest’ series!
In the first of what could be a really interesting series to write, I am going to give some frank opinions which are brutally honest. These should create conversation and I absolutely expect some to disagree with me. These statements in essence are saying the things that fans do not want to hear but we all know are true. Without further ado then, let’s get into this.
Ole at the wheel?
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is out of his depth pure and simple. His managerial record is deceptive as on the surface it looks fairly good, but the problems run deeper. He has an overall win percentage for his career of 53.26% which is vaulted by his time at Molde and to be fair to him, he has won 55.05% of his games for Manchester United but to properly analyse Solskjaer as the manager we go to his first failure in management, Cardiff City.
He first foray into management in the major leagues of Europe came with a struggling Cardiff City. Solskjaer having had success in Norway was brought in to right the ship and save the club from relegation. He was unsuccessful in this mission, relegated in 20th place, having only collected 7 wins and a total of 30 points to end the season. Beginning the next season, he did not even make it out of September, being sacked by the 18th after a poor start to the season.
Now back to United and Ole seems to be doing okay, he has won 55% of his games and they finished 3rd last season, which must seem like an excellent return. They have only finished 3rd twice since Sir Alex Ferguson left. This would seem like success, however when you account for him also losing 3 semi finals in that season, the picture becomes a little starker. Add to that a massive 6-1 home loss to Tottenham Hotspur to start this season and you begin to question if Ole can really do this.
How does he keep winning?
Many fans will put forward the argue that while United currently sit 8th, they have a game in hand on everybody above them, the best record in the last five games in the league and they are only 5 points off the top. How then if they United is not working, does this team keep winning? Well, this can be answered by looking at the players that Ole has available to him.
Solskjaer has world class players at his disposal in the likes of Paul Pogba, Bruno Fernandes and Marcus Rashford, which means his team will score. He also has players in the likes of David De Gea, Harry Maguire and Fred who on their day can rival most of the league’s players at their respective positions. This goes to show that if you throw enough mud, some will stick. What I mean by that is these players will win games in spite of the coach giving them the instructions.
If he is winning games, finishing in champions league places and making semi finals of major tournaments, how can he possibly be out of his depth? This can be seen in his tactical play, especially in the big matches.
This season against the top 6, United lost heavily to Tottenham, lost to a floundering Arsenal and drew with Chelsea and Manchester City. Gaining 2 points from a possible 12 is not good enough for a club that still thinks they are the class of the league. This can be brought back to how Ole approaches these games.
The argument for the 6-1 defeat to Spurs is that a player was sent off, however the game was already gone by the 7th minute and once the player was lost Ole failed to adjust. They lost an overall poor game at home to Arsenal, with neither team really showing up. Against Chelsea and Manchester City there was no invention, no urgency and they seemed to be passengers in bought of these games. The worst part of this? All four games were at home!
The Manchester United Way?
Since the appointment of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, he has consistently made one statement when discussing his side and his team, ‘The Manchester United way’. What is this way that he speaks of? Nobody really knows, I know I cannot tell you what it is, and even the most hardcore of United will struggle to explain it at this point. The most important thing to remember is Ole is not Fergie.
Nobody can really pinpoint what this is, so let’s try to see if we can get an idea as to what this could mean. Does he mean playing with passion? Players like Gary Neville, Roy Keane and Ryan Giggs lived for the badge. They lived Manchester United, and nothing gave them greater pleasure than putting on that shirt and representing the badge. Can we say the same for Paul Pogba, Nemanja Matic and Fred? No absolutely not.
Is it making Old Trafford an impossible place to play, showing your rivals that coming to the theatre of dreams would be a nightmare, facing the red devils was hell on earth? It should be, teams back in Fergie’s time at the helm feared Old Trafford, some even lost before they even arrived. This season in the Champions league, 2 of their 3 games played home have been losses, contributing to their drop into the Europa League. Nobody fears the fortress anymore and managers sleep easy knowing they are travelling to Stretford at the weekend.
Okay so if it is not passion, and not home field advantage is it then the open, attacking football they play? Does 5 defenders and two defensive midfielders in a must win champions league game shout of that? Do 2 shots in three of the four games versus the top 6 say dominating football? Not even slightly. United have lost their identity, gone are the days of expansive, charming football and unless something changes, United fans should get used to penalties and tactical naivety.
Does the truth hurt?
In a word, Yes. Is this harsh? Probably. Is it deserved? Absolutely. Will things change? Not with Solskjaer in the dugout copying his mentors homework. Every player who played under Sir Alex Ferguson for a prolonged period of time idolised him, and for good reason. He is the greatest manager to ever coach the beautiful game and although many have tried, he is without equal.
The top brass at United are desperate to return to the glory days, and they have definitely tried some tactics. They appointed his hand-picked successor in David Moyes, that did not work. They tried the maverick in Louis Van Gaal and that did not work. So, what was their solution, bring in a former player, desperate to please his former mentor who would play by their rules and be a Fergie clone.
Manchester United are lost, they have a wonderful team full of talent and coach with absolutely no idea how to use them. They may win games, they might even win trophies, but the sooner they realise that Solskjaer is not Ferguson, the sooner they can really start to turn around this sinking ship.
For this to happen Manchester United need to allow Solskjaer to either find his own identity or replace him. While I personally do not believe Solskjaer is the right man for the job, he has not truly had an opportunity to show his true colours. Weighed down by the past, he is struggling to move into the future, because let’s be honest, the Manchester United way is not working.