Manchester United, the former Premier League champions and sleeping northern football giant has been in a state of decline since the larger than life figure of Sir Alex Ferguson departed. They have struggled to find a successor and it has to be said that only the brave or foolish wanted the impossible job.
United have been beset by problems in the manager’s chair due to a series of clumsy appointments. David Moyes was too David Moyes, Van Gaal was too aloof and insular and Mourinho was too full on.
So once the special one was eased through the door, United tried to go in a completely different direction with Ole Gunner Solskjaer, a Manchester United icon who would be accepted by players and fans alike. Someone with a winning mentality that reflected the Ferguson years and could reconnect the club with its soul. A modest achiever, a good communicator, and someone capable of candour and loyalty.
However, Solskjaer had to manage a broken United crammed with characters undeserving of the jersey. He also had egos to neutralise and deal with the miscast figures purchased during the Mourinho era. He quickly realised Sanchez was an unproductive enigma and that the shit storm he created at Arsenal was going to follow him up on the train to Manchester and act like cancer at the club.
He already had the problematic Pogba to deal with and also had to incorporate the round pegs in square holes left behind by Mourinho such as Lukaku. That was Mourinho’s problem, he purchased players that weren’t a natural fit for the existing team and subsequently paid the price for his belligerent beliefs. Lukaku was only purchased because Mourinho lost out on him at Chelsea. Pogba was drafted in to make a point, that he could succeed where Ferguson had arguably failed.
Solskjaer has appeared enthusiastic and measured during press conferences but as results started going sour due to poor performances, the smile faded and was replaced by a sense of annoyance. It now appears that the affable Ole Gunner Solskjaer has decided to finally get to grips with the task at hand at Manchester United by doing away with the nonsense and bullshit he inherited.
His recent statement underlined a lack of patience as he prepared for the summer transfer window. You can argue that he was referring to Pogba and Sanchez when he recently said:
“I’d rather have a hole in the squad than an a***hole. Personality is so important. We’re a team in a team environment.”
“You want players to have a bit of ego and edge but they have to be able to adapt.”
“In March 2019, players were physically tired, mentally tired and we had injuries. The players started with negative thinking, whereas now it’s positive thinking.”
“There were other things I didn’t like last year, some personal agendas which couldn’t be sorted out until the summer.”
He seemed to warm to the theme when he added:
“There will always be players who want to play more in football, but if a team is to be successful then players have to be available at different times.”
“I feel in this group we don’t have one bad apple.”
I’m not sure he’s right there unless he’s excluding Pogba because he’s almost out the door. Paul Ince, a former United man, shed some light on Pogba’s negative effect when he said:
“What’s disappointing is the way he’s acted, his behaviour and performances reflect that he’s been unsure about his decision.”
“You compare that to Bruno Fernandes, and his arrival at United, and it’s crazy. He’s come in and hit the ground running fairly instantly, winning over the fans in the process. Pogba never did that, and his performances have been inconsistent to say the least.”
He continued with Pogba’s lack of performance by adding:
“Sometimes they’ve been on the border of diabolical, and occasionally they’ve been brilliant. When you cost that kind of money as a player, fans expect you to be consistently great, especially when you’re playing for Man United. Their expectations are very high.”
Another former United player Paul Parker said of Pogba:
“There’s been a lot more lowlights than highlights.”
“I put it down to the unstable running of the football club. Everything from above has been massively negative, which is reflected on the pitch.”
“They’ve been signing the wrong players, not as footballers but as men, mentality-wise. Prior to Ole Gunnar taking over, there were some terrible signings.”
Pogba’s agent has been annoyed by the criticism and claimed that the Manchester United of today would have ruined even the greatest players in the world:
“Pogba’s problem is Manchester United. It’s a club out of touch with reality and without a sporting project,”
“I wouldn’t take anyone there, they would even ruin Maradona, Pele, and Maldini. Paul needs a club and a squad, one like Juventus was before.”
By way of balance, Ferguson said of Pogba’s agent during his reign:
“There are one or two football agents I simply do not like, and Mino Raiola, Paul Pogba’s agent is one of them. I distrusted him from the moment I met him. We had Paul under a three-year contract, and it had a one-year renewal option which we were eager to sign. Raiola suddenly appeared on the scene and our first meeting was a fiasco. He and I were like oil and water”
Of Pogba, he simply said:
“Paul Pogba? He had a bad agent. A shitbag.”
The undeniable tensions behind closed doors have lead Solskjaer casting diplomacy aside to enable him to address the issues at hand. It’s been a noticeable U-turn on his previous politically correct, fluffy statements when Solskjaer said:
“Paul’s very committed to coming back, playing well for us and it is hard when you are injured to go and talk about all sorts.”
“I think his talking needs to be when he comes back on the pitch.”
Which was all a bit wet really, Ferguson would have burst into flames in this situation and it would be raining cups of tea and pizzas. Pogba is a luxury Solskjaer can’t afford and the Manchester United boss seems to know it.