How far can Ole Gunnar Solskjaer take Manchester United?
Background Image Via: Wikimedia Commons/Andre Zahn. Used under Creative Commons
Manchester United have begun a new era. Defensive-minded coaches like David Moyes, Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho are in the past. Edward Woodward has taken a huge gamble by appointing Ole Gunnar Solskjaer on an interim basis.
Although the Baby Faced Assassin will likely remain in charge until the season's end, there is the potential for the 45-year-old to stake his claim for the job on a permanent basis. The question I'd like to ask is, how far can he take United? What would be regarded as a successful season for Solskjaer?
First and foremost, it's worth noting that it'll likely take some time for the players to adapt to a new system. Solskjaer's job has been made even harder due to the fact that he's taking over mid-season, meaning he doesn't have the summer to develop tactics and ideas in training and over the pre-season period. However, fortunately for the Old Trafford club, their fixture list has been extremely kind. Over the next seven games, they only play one team in the top six, and a further one side who sit in the top ten, leaving five games against bottom-half opposition. This is the period where United need to start pushing up that Premier League table if they stand any chance whatsoever at finishing in the top four.
There can be no settling in period, the players have to start grinding out results almost immediately. The title is gone, but the race for a spot in the Champions League is underway. It's going to be tough, but with Arsenal faltering recently, the Red Devils can smell blood.
As for Solskjaer, he loves this club. The Norweigan legend will be giving his absolute all in his 'dream' managerial role. One thing is for certain, the fans will have his back whatever happens. The Old Trafford crowd have been a forgiving bunch since the post-Sir Alex Ferguson era got underway, this is by far the most popular appointment United have made since. All the supporters demand is a willingness to fight for the badge, giving that 100% each and every time you cross that hallowed Old Trafford turf is all that needs to be done. If the results don't follow, then so be it.
For the budding manager, this is a win-win. He could become successful and put his name in the ring for the job on a long-term basis, but if not, Solskjaer can head back to Molde where he's regarded as a local hero. It was a chance that, he simply put, could not turn down, regardless of whether it's too early in his career as a boss to undertake such a huge job.
In terms of this season, it's tough to gauge what's going to happen. I think United will eventually come up short of a Champions League spot, probably finishing fifth or sixth. As always, they will have a great chance at winning the FA Cup, which is without a doubt their best shot at silverware. Then, you have the huge European game against Paris Saint-Germain, which will undoubtedly be one of those brilliant European nights at the Theatre of Dreams. Who knows, if the Reds start playing some attractive football while scooping the FA Cup or making it to a European semi-final, who knows, Edward Woodward may hand the job to Solskjaer, but it is a huge ask...