Here's why Manchester United should opt for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer over Mauricio Pochettinoby Colin Millar / 08 January 2019, 11:00Tweet
On Saturday, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer set a new English record.
His Manchester United side defeated Reading 2-0 in the FA Cup and in doing so, he became the first top-flight manager since its 1888 inception to win all five of his opening games across all competitions by a margin of two goals or more.
It was not a vintage display but it was another comfortable victory, marked by daring, attacking football and players expressing themselves.
Of course, it is easy to point to Solskjaer’s relatively tranquil run of fixtures to ease him into the role. Cardiff, Huddersfield, Bournemouth, Newcastle, Reading. None in the top half of the English top-flight and none showing any sort of form.
But who is to say that the opposition should discount such fine form?
In the same time period, Leicester City defeated both Manchester City and Chelsea before losing to Cardiff. Crystal Palace also failed to beat the Bluebirds having defeated the blue half of Manchester.
Chelsea also failed to beat Southampton, while Arsenal dropped points against Brighton and Tottenham lost at home to Wolves. The festive fixture schedule tends to give way to shock results, yet United serenely navigated their run without a hiccup.
It is also easy to suggest that the Red Devils would have won these games under Jose Mourinho, but this would overlook their 1-0 defeat at St. James’s Park last season, their defeat at Huddersfield and requiring a last-minute winner to overcome Bournemouth earlier in the campaign.
In any case, results are almost irrelevant when weighed against the less definitive yet palpable sense of freedom and joy the side are now playing under with the shackles off.
Solskjaer’s biggest test to date will come on Sunday with a trip to Spurs and, if reports are to be believed, the favourite to replace him in the Old Trafford hotseat at the end of the campaign: Mauricio Pochettino.
The Argentine has worked wonders on a budget significantly smaller than Tottenham’s fellow top six rivals and he has been the league’s biggest overachiever from a coaching point of view over a five-year period.
There is little doubt that Pochettino is a supreme tactician who deserves to be winning trophies and to have access to a budget to make the club truly competitive among Europe’s elite.
But that does not necessarily mean United should invest substantial time, energy and money into his pursuit, because they already have a perfectly capable individual already in the job.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is doing special things @ManUtd.— FIFA.com (@FIFAcom) January 5, 2019
He's the first manager of the club to win his first 4 league games since Matt Busby 73 years ago.
???? https://t.co/p0dVgtzqJp pic.twitter.com/hbnmvZknbO
Reports suggest the Old Trafford club would have to pay almost £40 to Spurs to trigger the Argentine’s release, while he would surely be demanding a lucrative, long-term contract into the boot.
United would be throwing all their eggs into one basket, just as they did with their three previous managerial appointments. That is not to say Pochettino would not be a huge success, but of this there is no guarantee. Few would have foreseen Jose Mourinho failing to build a title challenge at the Red Devils despite an unprecedented level of investment in his opening 12 months at the helm.
Solskjaer is the club’s tonic to his Portuguese predecessor. An advocate of attacking, risk-taking football, a motivator and all-round likable guy. He also has a talented – if hastily assembled – coaching team, with Mike Phelan, Michael Carrick and Kieran McKenna all possessing a vast knowledge of the club and offering the right balance.
Maintaining the Norwegian means there is no need for vast change and instead, finally, the chance for much-needed stability and development.
United don’t need to rip up their coaching staff and start from scratch, throwing tens of millions of pounds at the project in the process.
Regardless of the club reaching the top four this season or finding success in cup competition, Solskjaer’s ability to make players happy and forge cohesive, forward-thinking football from talented players is key to him retaining his position.
He has certainly started on the right foot to put himself firmly in the frame.