For the first time in Ole Gunner Solskjaer’s career, as manager of Manchester United, the pressure is on.
The initial honeymoon period bought praise and adulation for its former player. Since then, his unbeaten run has gone, his side have been dumped out of the FA cup, they’ve got the sizeable task of a quarter final game with Barcelona in the champions league and their momentum in the premiership has suddenly hit the buffers.
It all looked rather rosy when they were on an unbeaten run of 12 games but as often happens, a loss can bring about an unexpected blip.
However, this is a crucial stage of the season and Ole now has to get his side to regroup for the last hoorah.
None of the targets in their sights are beyond them and there is still everything to play for but it’s how he deals with these difficult circumstances which will make or break the club’s season and how they may impact on his aspirations of taking the job long-term.
In his favour, Zinedine Zidane is now occupied elsewhere and it may cost a fortune to prise Pochettino from his perch at Spurs. Other than that, Solskjaer is in the clear, with few candidates available or with the experience to cope with a job of this size.
It’s not like Ole doesn’t deserve the job full-time. His impact was immediate, his enthusiasm infectious and he managed to turn a dull, uninspired, defensive United back in to an attacking and creative force.
A side that was much more in tune with the established blue print left behind by Sir Alex Ferguson, which had been so harshly and hideously dismantled under Jose Mourinho.
Yet, for a manager, it’s a results business and for a club of United’s size and stature a trophy less season is quite unthinkable.
As with Unai Emery, the Arsenal coach, a decent run of results sent expectations through the stratosphere and some were deluded enough to think that United were back in business.
They are to a degree but they need to reinvest in the summer and weed out the deadwood, to get anywhere close to challenging for the big prizes.
The get out of jail penalty against PSG was remarkable, if not merited and Ole believed that anything was possible but a well organised Arsenal and Wolves, have managed to clear his nostrils and allowed him to smell the coffee once more.
The fight for top four is going to be arduous and brutal and any failure in the run in, is going to cost someone dearly.
It had almost looked a forgone conclusion as United climbed the table by turning on the style where possible, riding their luck on occasion and stealing the odd result.
That’s what top teams do and an United side that is notorious for playing for 98 minutes every game, came out the other side with an impressive clutch of points.
American football coach Vince Lombardi summed up the desire to win when he said:
“ Winning is not a sometime thing; it’s an all the time thing. You don’t win once in a while; you don’t do things right once in a while; you do them right all of the time. Winning is a habit. Unfortunately, so is losing.”
United and Ole are still very much an ideal couple, so much more suited than when it shacked up with the egotistical wrecking ball that was Mourinho.
If they can get to the semi final of the Champions league and fight it out for the third or forth slot, it should be enough to hand him the post permanently.
He may not even need that because United always look to the future, had they not, then Ferguson may have found himself looking for a new post after a few indifferent seasons, early in his tenure.
The smile may be slightly less wide than previously and the rhetoric may be a little less impressive but Solskjær has his and United’s destiny in his hands.
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