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Solskjaer easy but wrong target at Manchester United

Sunday 26th January 2020
After the Burnley defeat, protests against Manchester United's chief executive and owners set their sights on the manager again.
After the Burnley defeat, protests against Manchester United's chief executive and owners set their sights on the manager again.

Stickmen: Carlos Sardena

Reasons aplenty exist for Manchester United fans’ frustration with the 2-0 home defeat to Burnley.

  • History backed the Red Devils for 59 years.
  • It denied Clarets boss Sean Dyche in his nine previous efforts.
  • Both Anthony Martial and Juan Mata fluffed their lines from directly in front of goal on playable crosses that would have put the home side up 2-0 before Chris Wood opened the scoring.
  • Like the Burnley forward, whose patchy face resembled an MMA star’s more than a Premier Leaguer’s after suffering a broken nose in the Chelsea match, United continue to be given black eyes when defending set pieces.
  • With Marcus Rashford lost for the season, the board drags its heels on potential deals for Bruno Fernandes and Edinson Cavani.
  • It was also the first time this season United suffered back-to-back defeats.

That last is a reason supporters should stop calling for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s head. Irrational expectations plague the club more than an unproven manager. When Sir Alex Ferguson retired, the club appointed three managers with progressively better pedigrees than the Norwegian. None could handle the job.

Madness is defined as anticipating different results while repeating the same failed experiment. Thus, United changed direction, opting for a boss who understood the club ethos rather than one who’d accomplished great things elsewhere. Somehow, fans expected Solskjaer to solve the club’s problems like simple maths.

Many disgruntled Red Mancs blame ownership and their man Ed Woodward. The Glazers’ silence on all matters perpetuates the notion they’re in it only for the money. On the other hand, who knows what they really think? Supporters made the Americans unwelcome from day one. Why would they try to reason with unabashed haters? Meanwhile, Ed’s efforts to reach the masses only serve to reinforce the belief he’s in over his head.

Those supporters who argue nothing will change until the club installs a proper football man are probably right. But if that’s the case, why hire another gaffer until such a man is found? Not when Solskjaer’s early work appears to be a solid cornerstone for the future.

His three signings, Harry Maguire, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Daniel James are universally greeted as positive. Teenaged academy players Mason Greenwood and Brandon Williams push for places in the starting XI. Scott McTominay established his before going down injured. Now, Fred makes his case with a run of games in the lineup after being unused by the boss who signed him, Jose Mourinho. Even Nemanja Matic looks reinvigorated. In Mourinho’s final days, fans beseeched the Portuguese to put the Serbian’s old, tired legs out to pasture.

If fans were realists, there wouldn’t be such a fuss. Deep cup runs domestically and a crack at the Europa League were always United’s best hope for 2019/20. A Champions League place, not out of reach just yet, represented a pleasant surprise.

Yet, there are those who don’t want to give Solskjaer the time he deserves. They say it’s a flawed argument to compare him with Sir Alex Ferguson or Jurgen Klopp. Both managers won trophies and did well in Europe before taking their time to build at Old Trafford and Anfield. Solskjaer’s CV lacks silverware and includes a relegation campaign. That argument forgets Mauricio Pochettino, however. The Argentine, with nothing spectacular in his past, received five years at Spurs, ultimately taking them to a Champions League final. Ole is in his first full season.

Nothing guarantees Solskjaer will match Pochettino’s achievement. Nor is there irrefutable proof he cannot. To be judged fairly, he deserves another summer window and the subsequent season. It’s a matter of faith and patience.

Spoiled by Ferguson, few United fans possess either. They’ll tell you Manchester United isn’t Tottenham Hotspur, Arsenal or Liverpool a few years removed. Not true. For the past six seasons since Sir Alex retired, the Red Devils have been a side on the fringe of the Champions League places, their best season still well off the title pace. Believing you deserve better means nothing. Supporting those who put you on the right path, even in trying moments, does.

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Martin Palazzotto

The former editor of World Football Columns, Martin authored the short story collection strange bOUnce. He appeared in several other blogs which no longer exist. Old, he likes to bring out defunct. If outdated sport and pop-cultural references intrude on his meanderings for It's Round and It's White, don't be alarmed. He's harmless.


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