United board right to not sack Solskjaer, a victim of circumstance

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Manchester United future is secure for the time being. The Times reports that Solskjaer’s job is safe. Heavy defeat to Liverpool on October 20th will not precede another rash decision from Ed Woodward.

It’s the right move from United. The board have rushed so much in these last five years. Most recently, Woodward hurried into giving the Norwegian a permanent contract. It was the wrong decision.

Some have argued, reasonably so, that sticking with Solskjaer is just as much a mistake as giving him the job in the first place. It’s a fair point but it’s difficult to envisage an improved United future without the pain that Solskjaer will take the club through.

Pain of Solskjaer-era necessary to progress

When he arrived in December 2019, Solskjaer changed the mood of Carrington and Old Trafford. In Dan James, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Harry Maguire, he’s brought in three good players for acceptable fees. He has, at least for a short period, showed how well this team can play under him.

The form now is abysmal. It’s worse than any spell under Mourinho, van Gaal or Moyes and is utterly unacceptable. But this is the result of a multitude of woe before Solskjaer’s time. It’s a consequence of the actions, the signings, the words and the training of Mourinho, van Gaal and Moyes. It is a repercussion of the commercial-driven nature of an Ed Woodward-ran Manchester United. It is, ultimately, fallout from the 2005 takeover of the club by the Glazer family.

Solskjaer won’t face the sack

Photo by Robbie Jay Barratt – AMA/Getty Images

Solskjaer is not the man to win United a Premier League title again. In fact, he doesn’t seem to be a very good manager. But he is doing two things that may allow United to regain their supreme status.

The first is his deliberate changing of the culture. The signing of young, British players is a technique out of the Sir Alex Ferguson handbook, much like most of Solskjaer’s best attributes. He’s positive and confident in how he speaks and he’s created a better atmosphere at the training ground. He’s solidified United’s defence and they’ve conceded fewer goals than City, Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham.

Non-controversial Solskjaer leaves blame at Glazers door

But simultaneously, he isn’t winning enough games. His team can barely score, to be frank. That is shining a light on the inadequacies of Woodward’s management of this elite-level club.

Unlike Mourinho, Solskjaer is not going to paper over the cracks because he’s not one of the game’s greatest ever managers. He’s also utterly non-controversial. He’s likeable, affable, friendly and a dream for the club’s media team. He says nothing out of line. The media, therefore, have no one to blame except the people at the very top.

Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images

Mourinho was right to criticise Woodward and the Glazers. Ultimately, though, it didn’t work. He’s far too big a character to avoid the blame himself. Solskjaer’s style of management is bringing the spotlight onto the way the club has been run for the last 10 years. Many United fans are all too aware of this. But now it’s in sharp focus from all corners. It’s becoming impossible to ignore the consistent problem that has plagued United for the last decade.

Solskjaer appears to be staying. He will try and build something long term. If he fails, the blame won’t fall at his door. Fans have seen it before, and they’ve watched fantastic managers walk through the doors of Old Trafford and leave a failure. Now any misgivings are directed where they should be, at the feet of Ed Woodward and the Glazers.

It’s not exactly a resounding approval of Solskjaer’s abilities as a manager. But that’s what things have resorted to at England’s largest football club. Sticking with Solskjaer is what’s needed. For good or for bad, United should come out of this period for better. And if they don’t… we know who to blame.

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Life-long Manchester United fan with a strong interest in the club's academy. Host of the Manchester United Weekly Podcast and United Through Time. First game at Old Trafford was the 7-1 rout of AS Roma in 2007.