Wednesday 18 September 2019

Stephen Hunt: 'Solskjaer will have his sights set on claiming the permanent post'

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Interim Manager of Manchester United. Photo: Stu Forster/Getty Images
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Interim Manager of Manchester United. Photo: Stu Forster/Getty Images

Stephen Hunt

The clearest sign that Jose Mourinho's tenure at Old Trafford was never going to last the full five years of his contract was in his living arrangements.

If you are trying to encourage players to move to a new city and embrace your club, the supporters and the region, how can the manager of Manchester United live in a hotel? His kids have grown up and his partner could surely have moved north in the last three years. It is totally unacceptable.

Why on earth did the Manchester United board give him a contract extension? You have to give his agent a lot of credit for persuading the powers-that-be to do that. Mourinho has since done enough to secure his pay-off.

By the looks of it, Mourinho lost the United dressing room a while back, but the alarm bells were ringing ahead of the defeat at Anfield last weekend. I mentioned last week that the lack of urgency from the players in the Champions League defeat at Valencia was all too apparent and way below what is expected from a Manchester United team. At least under David Moyes they had a go. Against Liverpool, every Manchester United player will have a go because the fans demand it. The defeat at Liverpool was coming and a better result last Sunday would have just prolonged the agony for Mourinho and United supporters.

Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino is the current favourite to take the job at the end of the season, but anything could happen between now and then. What happens if Tottenham win the Champions League? Or Real Madrid come calling? What happens if Tottenham finish fifth, behind Manchester United? Or Ole Gunnar Solksjaer leads United up the Premier League table and they finish above Spurs, or to Champions League success?

Pochettino might be fashionable now but there is absolutely no guarantee he will be in six months.

This is a fantastic opportunity for Solksjaer to put his name in the frame and a chance for him between now and the end of the season to get the job permanently. I doubt he has gone into the Old Trafford hot seat intending for this to be a temporary appointment. He will want the job full-time and is in a position to claim it.

It does raise serious questions about United's recruitment in January and whether they can bring in the calibre of players they need to get them back into contention in the Premier League and Europe.

Solksjaer will soon discover that there are no natural defenders or strong leaders in the squad he has inherited. They have defenders but no leaders. If Ashley Young is the biggest leader in your squad, then we all have a chance of playing for Manchester United. Young is a good, reliable player, who started his career as a winger and has done well as a full-back, but this is Manchester United we are talking about.

Solksjaer was a disaster at Cardiff after coming in from Molde in Norway with a very good reputation. Yes, there were difficult circumstances in the background, but he was brought in to avoid the drop and they were relegated from the Premier League under his watch. His recruitment of players was really poor as well.

Now he is manager of one of the biggest clubs in the world. It can't get any worse for Manchester United but if he wins some games quickly and the football is better to watch, he will be seen as a good manager. He is already at an advantage with United fans because of the legendary status he enjoys.

The United players can give themselves a lift now that The Special One has gone. We are not talking about limited players, but some very talented ones who have clearly been looking for a change of direction. Any release from the Mourinho reign will be welcome.

Which brings us to Paul Pogba. No doubt he has been full of life, energy and smiles, laughing and joking since Mourinho left. It was clear the relationship was toxic and neither man has come out of the last few months with any credit. But Pogba's social media post in the wake of the manager's exit was really poor. There is a line and he crossed it.

I am sure it was a relief to him to see the manager go. I am sure he has spent the last few months whispering under his breath. We have all been there. But you don't have to show your feelings publicly. We all know how Pogba feels about Mourinho. We all know he will be overjoyed at his demise but he really didn't need to show the world in such a crass and unprofessional manner.

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