Ole’s at the wheel, but where’s he headed?
By Jason Severiano Lampkin
Were Manchester United right to hand Ole Gunnar Solskjaer the reins after just 19 games in charge as caretaker-manager?
Having won 14 of those ties and therefore boasting an impressive win percentage of almost 75%, most football fans would agree with the Norweigan’s appointment to take over at Old Trafford and — looking at the statistics — I wouldn’t argue against them.
Ole’s at the wheel and he’s steered the Red Devils back in to the hallowed top six Premier League spots. What’s more — and perhaps more importantly — his hire has also helped to lift the mood of the players, staff and supporters concurrently. So much so that he’s earned himself a new chant.
What I could debate, however, is that the Red Devils might’ve jumped in too soon.
On 19 December last year, the boardroom bigwigs had initially decreed that The Baby Faced Assassin would return to the club on a temporary basis to see out the remainder of the 2018–19 season, following the unflattering yet foreseeable dismissal of the now Not So Special One — Jose Mourinho.
This probationary period would allow the club legend to ride the storm, steady the ship, and then either set sail back to his full-time employers, Molde, in his native homeland or command a position as captain.
It was a mutually beneficial agreement; Solskjaer would be afforded the freedom and relative security of this unprecedented managerial loan, and the club would (hopefully) regain some buoyancy toward the top end of the Premier League table whilst they continued their search for a worthy successor capable of bringing the glory-days back to the red side of Manchester.
Upon the completion of his deployment in late May, his performance would then be reviewed and a conclusive decision would be made. So why did United jump in at the deep end so soon? Yes, the swiftness shows a sign of boardroom confidence, but arrogance is also a noun that has been attributed to the guy that sits at the head of that table — United’s executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward.
It also puts unnecessary pressure on the relationship; like a besotted teenage boyfriend declaring his undying love to his summer fling.
It’s these types of rash decisions that Manchester United used to avoid, but has come to characterize their decision-making process in recent times. The silver-lining, of course, is that none of Solskjaer’s predecessors had the blistering start — or the impressive record — that he has.
Chopping and changing managers can yield immediate returns as the players are boosted by the change of command, but I can’t help but feel that Manchester United should have stuck to their guns and let things play out a little while longer. Ole’s second permanent game in charge, for instance, culminated in a 2–1 loss at the hands of Wolverhampton Wanderers in the sixth round of the FA Cup.
Does anybody remember Roberto Di Matteo’s heroics as caretaker-manager of Chelsea in 2011–12? After replacing under-performing Portuguese boss André Villas-Boas mid-way through the season, the diminutive Italian went on to win the UEFA Champions League and subsequently earned himself a full-time contract at the end of the triumphant campaign. He then lasted just 8 months in his permanent role, being relieved of his duties sixteen months before his contract was set to expire.
There’s an all too foreboding feel about Ole replacing an enigmatic, egotistic, yet ultimately failing Portuguese gaffer despite a promising start.
A message to clubs: don’t sack managers too early and take your time selecting the right one in the first place. Businesses: follow suit. Source the right talent, then give them the time to flourish.
It’s hard to imagine it now, but four years in to his fledgling and by no means fully-formed legacy at Manchester United, it was reported that Sir Alex Ferguson was set to be shown the door.
It is thought that a Mark Robins goal which secured Ferguson’s side a victory in a third-round FA Cup tie versus Nottingham Forest ensured the Scots survival. The subsequent 24 years of unparalleled success under Ferguson’s stewardship is precisely why January 7, in Manchester United’s calendar at least, will always be celebrated as Mark Robins Day. The boards decision to stick by him through those trying times paid dividends.
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