Ole Gunnar Solskjaer couldn’t have imagined that the role of manager at Manchester United, a once in a lifetime opportunity, would be such a poisoned chalice. He breezed into Old Trafford with optimism, enthusiasm and a smile as wide as the pitch at the Theatre of Dreams.
Since then, much has gone wrong, none of which is the fault of the Norwegian, but the task of resuscitating the fallen giant looks to be gargantuan, with so many issues and with so little available to him to solve them all.
The most glaring problem is the lack of quality. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has inherited a truly poor squad and if you ignore the fact that Sanchez and Lukaku departed, problems were even present there.
Lukaku wasn’t really living up to the billing and Sanchez was stealing his wages, but the remainder weren’t up to scratch.
But United already knew this, how could they not ?
Yes, they were in the mix for the Champions League qualifying positions last season. But like Arsenal, they fell away badly and if the distress flairs weren’t clear in the sky, it was because someone forgot to pull the cord.
Looking at Manchester United’s current side, it’s obvious that they lack a proven striker who can get them 20+ goals per season and that would make the difference to their season.
If you look at Arsenal, who are currently in a similar position of rebuilding, their reliance on Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang as the get out of jail card is undeniable.
Against United, in a drab 1-1 draw, up popped the Gabonese goal grabber to secure a point and although Arsenal are struggling to find form and consistency, they have two strikers on the books who can grab 50 goals between them.
Granted, it wasn’t enough to finish in top four but they were there or there a-bouts and in difficult games, that could potentially have cost them all three points, they stole a point on occasions. United doesn’t have this and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer knows it, despite his assurances at the painful post match press conferences.
As for Solskjaer, he looks a troubled man. The smile is getting thinner and the defences are up, as he comes to terms with the size of the mountain ahead of him.
Some fans who chanted his name are now doubting that he is the man to turn the tide and there were numerous examples of divided loyalties on social media.
The fact is that too many players aren’t of the standard that is required for the Premier League or that of Manchester United, but this has been the problem for three or four seasons.
It’s not new, it’s not a surprise and Mourinho, for all his faults just managed to keep it together, but even the ‘Special One’ ran out of magic.
Mourinho’s additions to the squad were poor and expensive and the tactics he employed went against the natural attacking philosophy of the club. They were too defensive, too bland and entertainment had become a stranger.
The club hasn’t enjoyed itself since Ferguson decided to hang up his tracksuit and give his hairdryer to an apprentice in a local hair dressing salon.
I don’t agree with Paul Merson often but the Sky pundit declared that in terms of mounting a challenge in the Premier League, they are “a million miles off it”.
It will require a lot of money in the next few transfer windows and because it’s Manchester United, you can start adding naughts to any suggested transfer fee. Realistically, it’s going to cost somewhere in the region of £500m – £700m to bring in the quantity and quality they need.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer needs six top players, but they will have to rip the squad apart with only Maguire, De Gea, Rashford, Wan-Bissaka, James, Mata and Matic surviving. Some on that list will surely remain for their experience in transition and others for their talent and quality, I’ll let you decide which.
In addition, they also need fresh reinforcements for the bench which is also unbelievably poor. If you look at it before a ball has been kicked, it lacks depth and there are very few options available that can make an impact.
Former captain Roy Keane looked uncomfortable and disappointed when performing an autopsy on another abject United performance against West Ham and declared that success was sometime away. He said on Sky “it’s long way back” for United and added:
“I don’t know where to start. I knew they weren’t in a great place but I am shocked and saddened by how bad they are. You can lose a game of football but everything about United was lacklustre.”
He said this at just a feet away from Mourinho, who in all honesty is not in a position to throw stones at United, but the Portuguese manager was refreshingly honest when he said:
“We were bad last season but I do not see any improvements, even with three new players [Harry Maguire, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Daniel James].”
“I have to say they are three new players with a positive impact. I like these three players and they are bringing some good quality but the team, as a team, I don’t like at all. I am not surprised by the result and I don’t think Ole can take any positives from the game.”
Well, since then it’s got worse with a 1-0 defeat against Newcastle, who are certainly relegation candidates this season and should United lose against Liverpool, which they almost definitely will, they will end up challenging in the wrong half of the table – the bottom.
So what should United do ? Change jockeys mid race or persevere with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer ?
I don’t doubt their intentions to support the former United man but before United hit mid-November, they may have no choice but to ring the changes.
It takes experience to dig yourself out of the hole when the sides are caving in and even with the best will in the world, it’s beyond Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
If he does go, it’s United’s fault. There has been no plan in place for years and the fact is, they didn’t replace outgoing players in attacking positions. Sacking Solskjaer won’t hide the fact.