Has Ole Gunnar Solskjaer ticked off some of the main tasks on his list since arriving in December 2018? And could failure to qualify for the Champions League this season spell danger, with Manchester United currently sitting on just seven points from six games?
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s 100th game in charge of Manchester United didn’t go according to plan, and we ask: has his time at Old Trafford been a success or failure so far?
Has Solskjaer ticked off some of the main tasks on his list since arriving in December 2018? And could failure to qualify for the Champions League this season spell danger, with United currently sitting on just seven points from six games?
Solskjaer’s start at Manchester United was electric, winning 14 of his first 17 games, including a dramatic turnaround in the Champions League last-16 second leg at Paris Saint-Germain. But that was followed by eight defeats in 12 games.
And last season, United won just three of their first 12 games, but later in the campaign went on a 19-game unbeaten run as they somehow forced their way into the top four.
Streaky may sum up Solskjaer’s time at United best.
“Did I expect him to get this far? Probably not at the very start, but with the two big streaks that he’s had as United manager, at the beginning of his time and at the end of last season, it’s no surprise he’s lasted this long. Those streaks keep you going and really they’ve kept everyone dreaming that this Manchester United side can reach the heights of the Fergie days, under a man that knows those days so well.
“But this Manchester United side are streaky, both in the good and bad sense. You can’t become a successful side that way.”
United’s streaky form
|Solskjaer games||Win rate|
|Games 1 to 17||82%|
|Games 18 to 41||20%|
|Games 42 to 65||54%|
|Games 66 to 84||68%|
|Games 85 to 100||43%|
“Manchester United have shown some signs of positivity under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, and in those streaks, they’ve looked fantastic.
“He’s had two great runs of results, with wins against big teams amongst it. The way they finished last season had me really excited about what we were going to see from United; they had real creativity in the attacking third which we hadn’t necessarily seen before.
“Bruno Fernandes was brilliant pulling the strings, Mason Greenwood, Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford looked like dangerous front players, and all of a sudden, those combinations looked to be working, even against teams with a compact system, United had the answers. This year that has gone away.”
What has Ole ticked off the checklist?
Solskjaer’s main aim would have been to get Manchester United back into the top four, which he achieved last season. But what else has the United boss ticked off, and what has been left unresolved?
“So 100 games in, let’s look at it a bit closer. In terms of Solskjaer’s main tasks, he’s delivered on some, and not on others.
“Has he brought a style of football to the club? In parts.
“Has he brought through youth and got the most out of Marcus Rashford? Yes.
“Has he got a good relationship with fans? Yes.
“Has he won a trophy? No.
“Has he solved the Paul Pogba conundrum? No. But has he shown courage to drop him? Yes.
“Has he qualified for the top four? Yes, just. But if he doesn’t this year, that’s when the real pressure comes from above. On current showing, they don’t look like top-four contenders, and he’s already got some catching up to do.”
Solskjaer has always insisted that although he cannot help but be influenced by Sir Alex Ferguson’s techniques, he is doing things his own way at Old Trafford.
One aspect of management Ferguson tempered was player power, but with the game in a different place now, does Solskjaer have the presence to succeed?
“Something Sir Alex Ferguson did which so many people remember fondly today is that he ensured no player became bigger than the club. That enabled him to have this unspoken power of the players, it’s a power not just driven by fear but by respect, a superiority feeling and a will to run through brick walls. It’s fair to say that was an easier task, even 10 years ago.
“Football has changed, and player power has changed. While I’m sure that Solskjaer’s intentions of creating a winning culture are real and valid, I’m not certain he has that presence, that prowess – do these Manchester United players want to run through walls for him? Does his history at the club matter? How many current Premier League sides would swap their manager for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer right now?
Similar fates – United since Fergie
|Manager||Win rate||Goals per game||Conceded per game|
|Louis van Gaal||52%||1.5||1.0|
|Ole Gunnar Solskjaer||55%||1.8||1.0|
“Saying that, people will argue that this is also a Manchester United problem. Looking at all the statistics of the four managers since Fergie, they’re not too different. All had different styles of play and a different presence, but all had win percentages in the mid-50s, similar goals per game, similar goals against, at times had similar problems in the transfer market, and had similar problems in games as what Ole is experiencing now.”
Arsenal’s masterplan perfectly stifled Manchester United on Sunday, and despite showing some signs of a distinct playing style over his 100 games in charge, Solskjaer’s midfield in particular looks lost at present.
“It showed on Sunday, Mikel Arteta had a set tactical system to play towards, which he’s had now for just under a year, but Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is not quite there yet. I think he needs to find a way to get these players playing, and he needs to get a system.
“The fact Arteta had that success – winning an FA Cup – all of the players in that dressing room can buy into what you’re doing. Solskjaer hasn’t had that success yet, that trophy moment. They had three semi-finals where they fell short on all of them, but we’ve seen those highs, beating PSG twice, beating big teams.
“I do wonder whether he’ll stumble across a system – he thought he’d done it with the diamond – but I wonder if he’ll find a blend that will once again catapult them up.
“I think it’s too early to write them off. The one thing United have is strength in depth, particularly in midfield. If they can find a way of rotating them in a system that works, that could be a real asset for them this season.”
Will he reach 150 or 200 games?
“I think, true to form, they will hit a streak again, and he’ll get to 150. But I’m not sure he’ll get to 200. Manchester United are too results-driven these days not to drop the axe if that top four doesn’t come.
“However, I think European football is changing, and it might suit teams like Manchester United. If they had a good run in the Champions League, that could change everything for Solskjaer, and I wonder if they’ll get to a point this season where they actually prioritise it.
“To sum up – it’s been such a streaky 100 games for Solskjaer – but the next 10 or 20 are probably the most vital. He has some big decisions to make over some square pegs in round holes in that side; he either solves it, gets in a position to challenge for top four, or he doesn’t and he may well lose his job.”