Monday 14 October 2019

Richard Dunne: 'If Solskjaer doesn’t get the job now, he never will - the job he has done there is incredible'

Manchester United caretaker manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer celebrates the Champions League win over PSG with Eric Cantona and Alex Ferguson
Manchester United caretaker manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer celebrates the Champions League win over PSG with Eric Cantona and Alex Ferguson
Richard Dunne

Richard Dunne

Friends of mine, who are from Manchester and were at United’s game in Paris on Wednesday night, said it reminded them of the United side of old.

One of the big achievements by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in his time as manager there is that he has brought back a lot of the things that made the club great. They play football with freedom, the players express themselves while also working hard, that was all successful under Ferguson and it’s bringing success now.

And he can take them on to another level, once United decide to actually appoint him as long-term manager, as there’s no reason why he can’t turn them into contenders for the Premier League title next season.

It would be good for the Premier League overall if he did get the job as he can drag United back to where they were, have a side capable of going for the league.

When Pep Guardiola came into the Premier League, the title was meant to be about Pep versus Jose and that never materialised, so maybe with Solskjaer in charge, and with the financial backing of the board, they can keep up the belief the players have right now and make this a United side capable of challenging City.

There’s not much more he can do to get the job long-term. If he doesn’t get it now he never will. The job he has done there is incredible.

And the best thing he has done as a manager is to restore the belief that they always had under Alex Ferguson, that as long as there were even seconds left in the game they had a chance.

There was no negativity from Solskjaer before the PSG game, he seemed to say ‘you know what, we have loads of injuries but so what, we have good young players and I’ll give them a chance’ and everyone drew confidence from that, those young players came in with no fear.

And you can’t overstate the influence of Mike Phelan there. When Alex Ferguson retired, his one piece of advice was to keep Phelan at the club but right away, David Moyes got rid of him and none of the other managers wanted him.

Moyes, van Gaal, Mourinho: they were all saying ‘forget about United’s history, I will do it my way’ and it didn’t work for him. Solskjaer knew from his time there that history was important, that someone like Mike Phelan had real value, and he brought him back.

It was an incredible result and one thing it showed up was the complete lack of backbone that PSG have. Living in France I get to see them a lot and to me they are just a bad bunch, they’re not bad footballers but they have a bad mentality. For all the money they have spent, if you work hard against PSG and put them under pressure, there’s every chance they will crumble.

I don’t think there was ever any doubt about his ability to do the job at United but no one predicted how good it could get for them. I look at that squad now and I see players who are smiling, who are happy to play for the club and play for him.

If there was a question over what Solskjaer was at game management, he proved himself beyond all doubt in the PSG game.

He made decisions that were crucial: substitutions, tactical switches, four or five changes and decisions that won them the game. The players had the belief, from the manager, that they could win it but his tactical work helped make that come true.

VAR played a big role this week and it’s a problem for me. I don’t think anyone who knows the game would say that the handball for the United penalty really was a penalty.

Strikers have become clever and copped onto the fact that, once they get into the box, if they hit the ball up towards a defender there’s a good chance it will strike his hand and it will be impossible for the defender to get his hand or arm out of the way.

I don’t think the people in charge have a clue how to deal with it.

We all know what a blatant one is, and that incident in the PSG game was not blatant. You need someone who has actually played the game at a professional level to be in that room for a VAR decision to say, yes, that is a penalty. if you leave it down to just the words as they are written in the rule book, and the interpretation by officials of those rules, it will be utter chaos.  

VAR seemed like a great idea when it started but it’s not worked out that way.


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