Ole's got the job - fairy tale or failure?

by Harry Symeou / 28 March 2019, 15:40

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, arguably one of the Premier League’s most loveable characters, has today been appointed as the manager of Manchester United on a permanent basis after an impressive three month audition during which his side suffered just one defeat in thirteen league matches.

At the time of the Norwegian's arrival a Champions League place seemed out of reach but the clubs rich vein of form under his stewardship has turned that ambition into a very real possibility heading into the last eight games of the league season.

Solskjaer, who spent 11 seasons with the Premier League giants as a player, has been rewarded for his efforts with a three-year deal, and told the press:

"This is the job that I always dreamed of doing and I'm beyond excited to have the chance to lead the club long term.”

Nobody can question the impact Ole and his team have had since their arrival back in December but it remains to be seen whether handing him the role permanently will turn out to be a master stroke or eventually tarnish the reputation of a man who's name has been engraved in Manchester United folklore ever since that goal in the Camp Nou back in 1999.

Whilst many feel Solskjaer has proven his managerial credentials in recent months I have a slightly different view on it. The sudden up turn in form goes to show just how much this very talented squad had been under achieving under Jose Mourinho and the sudden shift is more of a reflection of the Portuguese manager’s decline than it is of Ole’s rise.

This may sound like a bit of a cliche but in order to succeed the working environment needs to be right, the players and staff need to feel valued, as though they belong and particularly when at a club of this size its vital those coming in understand the ethos and what the supporters expect. Get that right, and you’ve created the ideal platform on which to build.

Ole arrived and stripped things back to basics instantly, putting a caring arm around the likes of Paul Pogba for example, reassuring him of his importance to the side and making a point of putting any bad press regarding the individual and his reported disagreements with the previous management behind them.

I use Pogba as the example because the upturn in his individual performances has been remarkable since Mourinho was given his marching orders. There was never any question regarding the World Cup winners ability and since Ole’s arrival there have been none regarding his attitude either. Free from the distractions that come with having an outspoken and at times overly-controversial manager this squad have been able to focus solely on football and as a result have flourished.

 

Mike Phelan, an experienced campaigner who famously assisted Sir Alex Ferguson between 2008 and 2013, has been by Ole’s side since he took over and his value and impact should not be underestimated.

His superior tactical knowledge and fine coaching ability has gone under the radar, somewhat unfairly and I attribute a great deal of United’s success in recent months to the backroom staff, in particular Phelan. Yes, Ole’s the face of this new regime, says all the right things and has the press eating out of the palm of his hand but his previous managerial record leads me to wonder whether he’s ready to steer the ship in the long term.

Time will tell whether or not the club have made the right decision, however in my view Ed Woodward and the powers that be have made a mistake. United stand a great chance of getting back into the UEFA Champions League and if they do indeed qualify there would be a host of the game’s top managers queuing up for what is without doubt one of the biggest roles in football.

Have United shot themselves in the foot by making this appointment before the end of the season?

Perhaps the club were hopeful of landing Zinedine Zidane and have been forced to return to the drawing board following his decision to re-join Real Madrid recently? I guess we’ll never know for sure but my gut feeling is Ole won’t last longer than 18 months due to a lack of experience and ability. Honeymoons don’t last forever and the end of this three year contract seems a million miles away at the moment.

Although the risk is minimal in comparison to if the club had been forced to pay compensation for somebody already in a high profile role it feels as though nostalgia has prevailed over pragmatism. An attempt to temporarily please the fan base rather than a focus on what's best for the club moving forward.

This was the ‘fairy tale’ appointment many fans hoped for but whether this will turn into one of football's great love stories or a nightmare remains to be seen.

 

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