Currently, four teams stand in between Manchester United and their ticket to the UEFA Champions League next season. For United, the gap in points is merely six. Jogging well behind the league’s top teams in eighth place, there is rising controversy surrounding United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer: and it is, perhaps, well-deserved.
He has won only one more match than he has lost this season in the Premier League. Is his job on the line in terms of steering this team in the right direction, toward winning ways? Beyond Solskjaer, is this squad even capable of putting together a substantial run of victorious football in order to finish in the top four?
As it concerns Solskjaer’s future, the club would be wise to revise its history of poorly ‘managing’ all of its previous incumbent managers, post-Sir Alex Ferguson. Solskjaer stepped in as caretaker after Jose Mourinho’s unceremonious resignation from the club last year and, at first, brought back the fast and furious form of football we have come to love and expect from players at Old Trafford.
There have been highs and lows, surely, but the board can’t make knee-jerk decisions any longer in terms of management. It has been a carousel of well-respected managers taking the helm for United since Fergie’s retirement in 2013. The club ousted internationally lauded managers, including Louis van Gaal and Mourinho, in an effort to stick a bandage on a wound that is plaguing the club: a larger issue.
What is that issue? It remains to be seen. The owners, the board, and the chairman (Ed Woodward) are obligated to give Solskjaer his due residence with the club, at least three consecutive years, in order to make his imprint and fully implant his tactics and character.
Since taking the reins, he has seen solidification of his backline from the additions of Harry Maguire and Aaron Wan-Bissaka, alongside the acquisition of the promising young Welshman Daniel James. But apart from bringing in Bruno Fernandes at the death of this last transfer window, has Solskjaer been allowed to bring in players that fit his attacking philosophy? It wouldn’t appear so.
He strides down the touchline with the knowledge of a former United player with a love for the club, and the indelible “never die” attitude that Fergie instilled into his former players. Can top four be achieved? Of course it can. Solskjaer has the good fortune of welcoming back important players like Paul Pogba, Scott McTominay, Eric Bailly, and – soon – Marcus Rashford. Manchester United can qualify for the Champions League this season.
In one scenario, they can subvert the league table altogether and show some mettle by hoisting the Europa League trophy, as they did in 2017 under Mourinho. Conversely, the club can back its manager and acknowledge the growth of its up-and-coming star youth players – balanced by the presence of seasoned and professional veteran members of the squad – and start a streak of victories without looking back.
Written by Christopher Michael Eithun