Saturday 21 September 2019

Kevin Moran: 'Man United fans need to know two things about Solskjaer - and it could be what makes him a success'

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Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is preparing for his return to Old Trafford (Nick Potts/PA)
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is preparing for his return to Old Trafford (Nick Potts/PA)

Kevin Moran

SO, for the second time in a month, a football manager has been appointed to a top team knowing the day he will leave the job.

Well let me put it to you like this, if either Mick McCarthy or Ole Gunnar Solskjaer makes a success of their jobs, they won’t be going anywhere.

Why, because the supporters of neither Ireland nor Manchester United will allow a manager to be let go, simply because there was a set date when they were supposed to leave.

Let’s say Solskjaer works a small miracle, lifts the club, and gets the Red Devils playing like Manchester United should play. And, say, that the Norwegian takes them to fourth in the Premier League by May. Do you believe he could leave the job and then Manchester United move on to someone else?

It’s madness, and I know that United’s top brass have already agreed the compensation fee with Molde should they want to keep Solskjaer on a permanent basis. So someone at the top of Old Trafford is clearly planning for a good next six months for the club.

Here’s two things you might not know about Ole. The first is that you should not judge him by the babyface. Like all the best managers, he can be ruthless when he has to. If any of the players start acting up with him, Solskjaer will deal with it – and deal with it his way. And he’ll have the fans on his side in that. Manchester United’s supporters did not enjoy the football Jose Mourinho served up.

So that is a reason that players got away with some of their recent behaviour, at least in terms of fan loyalty. Try that stuff on with a United legend – the man who scored the winning goal in a European Cup final – and there will be no sympathy at all. The second thing about Solskjaer is that he is a brilliant reader of the game.

Remember all those times he came on as a sub for United? Well Alex Ferguson never had to explain to him what he had to do. 'Get a goal' was the obvious task, but Ferguson admitted he never had to tell Ole how to do it. His striker would turn to him on the touchline and say, "Yes, I can get at their left-sided centre-back because he steps out a stride later than the rest of the back four".

That was how well he read the game as a player. You’d hope that ten years as a coach and manager since has only improved that skill. The only worry would be, ironically given his first game, that Ole’s one previous foray into the Premier League with Cardiff City did not end well. As for Jose Mourinho, well being 19 points off the top of the table, when we are not even halfway through the season, did for him.

As did the fact that all the mumblings coming out of the dressing-room were that the players had lost faith in him. 'Losing the dressing-room' is one of the great football phrases. Some people say a manager can never get it back, once lost.

I don’t believe that, but I accept it’s hard for a manager in that position. You win back the players with hard work, good coaching, good tactics, but you don’t do it, as Mourinho did, by attacking your players or moaning about signings that did not come to pass. Football moves on, it always does. And what was so successful for Jose at Porto and Chelsea a decade ago, and Inter Milan in 2010, just doesn’t work any more.

We’ve seen managers arrive at Manchester City, Liverpool and Spurs and play a totally different game to United. Different, more attractive and, above all, more successful. You could say, for instance, that neither Liverpool nor Spurs have won anything yet. But there is progress. Each year those clubs are taking a step up. In Jose’s first year, United won a domestic cup and the Europa League, and got back into the Champions League. In the second season they finished second in the Premier League and lost the FA Cup final. But this season things were just going downhill and there was no sign of hitting the bottom, so something had to be done.

Will Jose ever work in the Premier League again? His CV is studded with trophies so who wouldn’t want him? But he’d only want to work with a big club with a big budget. You could never seem him doing a Rafa Benitez and staying with a club that had been relegated to bring them back up. I wonder have we seen the end of him in England?

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