Monday 14 October 2019

John Aldridge: 'Solskjaer clearly the wrong man for Man United - and there is a good option waiting to replace him'

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was left to face up to another defeat (Owen Humphreys/PA).
Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was left to face up to another defeat (Owen Humphreys/PA).

John Aldridge

OLE Gunnar Solskjaer is NOT the right man to revive Manchester United’s fortunes and the club might as well make the change now ahead of the game against Liverpool at Old Trafford in two weeks time.

I remember Rio Ferdinand banging the table on BT Sport telling the world Solskjaer needed to be handed a long-term contract and declaring ‘United are back!’ after they beat Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League last season.

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Rio is among many who now look very foolish for that rush to judgement.

Look at the teams United beat in the first few weeks of Solskjaer’s reign – most of them were lower-ranked Premier League clubs, with a lucky win against Tottenham at Wembley courtesy of some incredible David de Gea series saves papering over plenty of cracks.

Since Solskjaer was given the job permanently, United have struggled to pick up victories and their defeats at West Ham and Newcastle in the last couple of weeks have plunged them into a crisis that will cost them a lot of money to get out of.

Mauricio Pochettino clearly wants to get out of Tottenham after their disastrous run of form and he could be a good option for United to turn to.

But the question is – will they pull the trigger on another manager right now or wait for a few more weeks to confirm what we already know?

United’s team is a million miles away from challenging for trophies and even though they claim they will be better when Paul Pogba, Anthony Martial and a couple of others return, I just don’t see it happening.

The team Solskjaer sent into battle for the 1-0 defeat at Newcastle on Sunday was young and inexperienced and there is no chance he will field a line-up like that in United’s next game against Liverpool at Old Trafford, with experience certain to return for a game that will always be one of the biggest in the Premier League season.

Yet I just don’t believe the squad Solskjaer is working with has enough quality to go on a winning run that will keep him in a job that has become one of the toughest in football since Alex Ferguson’s retirement in 2013.

Naturally, Liverpool fans are loving United’s demise because our club lived through this ourselves in the early 1990s, with the comedown when you are the top club in the land and then have to get used to scrapping for the crumbs with the also-rans hard to accept.

I don’t believe United have hit rock bottom yet, because Liverpool have gone almost 30 years without winning a league title and the big decision-makers at Old Trafford must be fearing that scenario is about to befall them now after a succession of managerial flops and some disastrous signings. It doesn’t help that United’s demise has coincided with Liverpool’s revival, with Jurgen Klopp’s men heading to Old Trafford in a couple of weeks’ time riding high at the top of the table.

With only eight games played this season, it is ridiculous to suggest the title race is anywhere near over, but there is no denying that we are seeing vulnerabilities from Manchester City that were not there last season.

Their 2-0 home defeat against Wolves on the back of the away loss at Norwich shows that this City team have cracks that are being exposed, with their defensive frailties in evidence yet again on Sunday.

John Stones will come back soon, but I don’t see him solving defensive problems that are stemming from the reality that Nicolas Otamendi is not up to the job of holding that back-line together in the absence of the departed Vincent Kompany and the injured Aymeric Laporte.

City manager Pep Guardiola has said he won’t spend any money in the January transfer window, but I fully expect him to spend upwards of £100m on a centre-back as soon as he can because he knows that defence will not be good enough to win the Premier League or Champions League.

I also feel that Guardiola is more focused on European success than chasing more domestic glory now, with his celebrations as City beat Dinamo Zagreb in unconvincing fashion in the Champions League last week suggesting his sights are targeting Europe  this season.

He was jumping up and down on the touchline in that Champions League clash and has been urging City fans to create the kind of atmosphere in home matches that drove Liverpool to European glory last season, but that just won’t happen.

Anfield on European nights is a unique experience and, try as they might, City fans will never be able to repeat it at their Etihad Stadium, so they face a tough challenge. They will need to keep buying their way to success if they are to conquer Europe.

There are still 30 games to play in this Premier League season, so ignore anyone who tells you this title race is finished.

They are talking as much nonsense as Rio Ferdinand and the rest of the Manchester United old boys when they helped to get Solskjaer the job at Old Trafford a few months back.

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