Fergie the Man Utd problem amid Solskjaer ‘Oslo Syndrome’

Keep your mails (maybe some not on Solskjaer) coming to theeditor@football365.com.


Oslo Syndrome
I read a book about Stockholm Syndrome once. I hated it to start with but by the end I loved it.

I was wondering whether we should start thinking about a new syndrome, and name it after football fans, and whilst the hot topic is “nice guy” Ole at the moment, why don’t we dedicate it to him and call it Oslo Syndrome? I’ve had it several times. When Roy Hodgson was appointed Liverpool manager, I convinced myself that what the club needed was a safe pair of hands. When we signed El Hadji Diouf and Salif Diao, I thought that the league was won. Ince and Kewell were the missing part of the puzzle, and even when the evidence was stacking up against all of the above, I looked for ways to spin some positivity.

I’m watching countless United fans stand by their man, and whilst I understand their thought process and even admire their loyalty, I wonder what it will take for people to take off their tribal goggles and finally read the writing on the wall.

I saw someone in the mail box say  “ I’ll start by saying I’ll always back the manager. I’ve never called for a Manchester United manager to be sacked and never will.”, which immediately makes everything he subsequently says redundant. I know he is trying to do the right thing, but I think this is Oslo Syndrome in action.

Someone else also managed to find the “logic” to defend Pogba, somehow seriously suggesting that Pogba had two choices – get sent off for a reckless tackle, or pull out of the challenge. He even argued that the spherical nature of the ball was more culpable than Pogba.

It appears that football can make all of us a bit mental.
Mat (riding the crest of a wave knowing that it will come crashing down at some point)

MEDIAWATCH: Forget Pogba…what happened to Solskjaer’s ‘body of work’?


Sir Alex the problem
The biggest problem I find at Man Utd is not Woodward, Glazers but Sir Alex.

The reasoning is as follows – He is a Man Utd legend and still influences the decisions. No matter how the decision would turn out – he certainly has an influence in choosing the next manager or players needed for the squad. This certainly ties the hands of people who are managing the club.

He should follow Wenger, move away from the club decision making and should just enjoy the sport just like another fan.

Conte, if the next manager, would certainly won’t like such a personality around in influencing decisions. I sense even Mourinho would have had such a situation.
Regards, Arun N

Conte sticks
Long time reader, first time writer.

I struggle so hard when reading so many of these ‘opinions’ regarding Conte. I use the quotation marks as for the most part, these feel like lazy comments being regurgitated rather than actually being informed opinions which have been arrived upon by an individual.

Firstly let’s address the sticks which are commonly used to beat Conte with;

1) He favours/is wedded to a very particular system (namely the 3-5-2) and this means he needs his own men in order to be successful. Whilst United have an abundance of players who would not work in this favoured system, you could argue they have not been working in any other system. Unless you bring in a manager who strikes gold and finds the system to bring the best out of all the existing players, there will be some turnover of personnel. Conversely, Conte’s Italy side was one of the worst squads in Italian football history and yet (despite not being able to purchase players) he managed a team to within a penalty shootout of the Euro 2016 semi finals – a team containing Giaccherini, Pelle, Eder, Zaza, need I go on? See also Moses, Young.

2) He has consistently underperformed in Europe – absolutely bang to rights here, this is fact – Conte has been a failure in European competition hands down. But this brings me on to my point, shouldn’t United be first focussing on becoming a solid, consistent challenger and (dare I say it) winner in the Premier League before having designs of being Europe’s elite? Tell me which other manager is going to turn Man United into Champions League contenders overnight?

3) He will walk if he doesn’t get his own way – is this really a bad thing? Is it not better that if promises aren’t kept or assurances aren’t made in regards to the direction of the club/transfers etc that the manager leaves of his own accord rather than flogging a dead horse for longer? I get that after Mourinho, fans are wary of having a negative influence on the mood and attitude around the club but save for a half season at Chelsea, this has never been an accusation of Conte.

There is so much negativity around Conte and I do not understand for the life of me where it can stem from! He is arguably on of the top 5 elite managers in world football and not only that – he is available! Just last week I heard an ex pro (admittedly on Talksport) saying how Steven Gerrard is a better proposition as Newcastle manager than Conte as he ‘knows the league’. Tell me how a man who won the league AT A CANTER in his first season in the league doesn’t ‘know the league’. Tell me how a man who led a side starting Victor Moses at wing back to an easy title against the likes of Guardiola and Klopp might be overlooked as a suitable coach for Man United who currently couldn’t even dream of doing the same. Antonio Conte is a serial winner, he made winning the title look easy his first year at Chelsea, his Juventus sides were among the most dominant Serie A has ever seen and then his Inter side swanned to the title last season playing entertaining and stylish football.

I will wait for the inevitable discounting of Serie A achievements and Italian football in general from people who have watched a Ronaldo highlights reel of the last few years…
Marco (Conte would probably turn Phil Jones into a World Class RWB), Manchester

Conte stinks
There’s been a few comments in the mailbox and F365 generally about United appearing to echo Liverpool’s  mistakes of the past. Was Mourinho United’s Souness? Is the joint manager thing a possibility? That would be awesome.

But the real similarity is that Liverpool of the past were wedded to their playing style and the ‘boot room’. A nursery of coaching bringing through coaches from former playing staff who ended up being managers. It won them european and league titles. But towards the end it was out of date and Liverpool eventually moved on and spent years in the wilderness. The modern Liverpool is a very different animal. The old style and methods were superseded by more modern coaching, off field management and changes to the rules of the game.

For United it’s not the bootroom but it looks pretty similar, people call it the United DNA. What is that? Liverpool learned the hard way, you need the best forward thinking coaches not locally promoted ex players. Similarly the United way or more correctly Fergie’s 4-4-2 is obsolete these days. It wouldn’t work and the current United don’t have the players for it. It needs a new system. But a lot of United fans are still living in the past, what’s their version of ‘next year is our year’?

Is Ole the man for it? Not really, he instigated a counter attacking system to steady the ship which is pretty simple to coach and worked short term. But now it needs a step up, a new system to challenge for the title and the current coaching team don’t appear equipped to do that. A much more detailed coaching plan is needed which currently doesn’t exist.

Conte’s a quick fix, a shot of adrenalin for a dying patient. The established names like Brendan or Ten Hag won’t take this poisoned chalice so you need to look further down, that lad at Nice looks about the level United can attract. All this rubbish about getting better players or signing Mbappe and others is the usual United fan nonsense. Under a normal scenario it’s tough to make happen but with players struggling to get a game already that cost more than £50mil, who’d go to United? It’s  even being suggested Ronaldo might be benched. Who ever fixes this needs to assume they make good with what they have.

Can’t say I see this being resolved quickly. I’ll get the popcorn.
Rob (can’t believe I got dragged into this), Gravesend

Who’s to blame?
Whilst I am throughly enjoying the agonising of man utd fans, as they go through the excruciating process of watching their club completely fail to mount a serious title challenge, I am still somewhat confused by whose responsibility this is.

Reading through the mailbox over the past few weeks, blame is being laid at several people’s door. It would be helpful if the mailbox could clarify this by choosing from the following list, so that I know who I should pen a little thank you note to.

(I appreciate that it could be more than one person/group, so feel free to rank them in order)

1) Ole’s at the wheel
2) Ed Woodward – either for not recruiting the right people or not recruiting anyone, or spending too much on the wrong ones, or for recruiting/failing to sack Ole
3) the Glazers – not spending enough/too much money and for the super league thingy
4) Paul Pogba for whatever it is that he does or doesn’t do and asking for Loads of money whilst he is at it
5) Ronaldo for only scoring goals,standing around looking moody and failing to sign a contract with Man City
6) Alex Ferguson for undermining Ole from the stands by being the greatest manager ever
7) Mourinho,Van Gaal and Moyes for being the previous managers and building a crap squad
8) Maguire and Wan Bissaka and the puzzling case of the defence that can’t defend or attack
9) Mcfred and the puzzling case of the midfield pivot that couldn’t defend/attack
10) Marcus Rashford for helping deprived children eat a square meal (bastard!)
11) Anthony Martial for being crap/not being sold
12) Jandon Sancho and Van De Beek for accepting a contract offer, thinking they were quite good footballers and then having some magic Man U fairy dust sprinkled on them to turn them into a less than functional doorstop
13) the fans for supporting Ole – #olein
14) the fans for not supporting Ole -#oleout
15) the media pundits who support Ole and therefore keep him in a job
16) the media pundits who undermine Ole and make his job impossible
17) Man City for being good at football only  after a oil fulled cash injection, long before anyone knew what sports washing meant
18) Michael Carrick – not sure what he adds but apparently he smells nice though and does a mean iPad prod
19) Liverpool
20) Paul Scholes for being a toe biting Nostradamus

I’ve probably missed a couple, so do let me know!

Cheers Muchly
Paul, AVFC in Norwich

Time for the Chelsea revolving door
Don’t worry, I’m not back for good, I just need to vent. I’ve been done with Ole since the defeat to Sevilla in the Europa League in 19/20. Maybe a tad early, but it was at that point that it became painfully clear to me that no matter who we signed Ole was not the guy to get us through the self-created class ceiling and to win a trophy. Anyway, here are my reasons on why he’s got to go:

1) Any time that he can’t play his favoured (only) tactic of counter-attacking football, we struggle. This includes any opposition with even a vague semblance of a plan, those who simply pack the defence and counterattack us, or those who can genuinely control possession for most of a game and simply take their chances – in short, those who are worse than, as good as, or better than us.

2) Speaking of tactics, the actual quality of football is appalling. I’ve said before that there are three ways to win games: high risk attack (concede goals but outscore your opponent), low risk defence (don’t score many but keep clean sheets), or best of both (keep clean sheets and score loads of goals). While option three is obviously the dream, fans will put up with either one or two for a while, with option one the more favourable. If you’re playing shite football but grinding out results, then you can get away with it but we’re not even managing that. Our main way of winning games is hoping that the opponent falls asleep in the second half, or that one of our attackers does something spectacular. That’s neither wise nor sustainable. United are, simply put, terrible to watch, and we’re not even getting results to sustain us.

3) Each area of the team has regressed under his stewardship. What is basically last year’s defence (save for a Varane cameo), can now not keep a clean sheet – we conceded 4th fewest goals last year (44) while after 1/4 of the season we’re already on 15 (which would average out to about 63 goals if we keep this up, good enough for 14th “best” last season). The midfield, well, that needs it own point. And the attack, which even the most subjective fan would have to had admit is, on paper, one of the best going, aren’t scoring – nine of our league goals came in two games so in the other seven we’re averaging one a game, which is pitiful considering both the players available and the fixture list so far.

4) Nobody is saying that van de Beek is the answer to all our problems, but the real issue is that we’ve just no idea what he’s capable of because of this inexplicable marginalisation of him. Four Premier League minutes this season is nothing less than an insult, especially when you look at those keeping him out of the team. Similarly with Sancho – three Premier League starts for a £79m player who we chased incessantly for two years is bizarre. He must now be looking at van de Beek and thinking he’s made a mistake.

5) Then there’s the ill-deserved faith in others: Wan-Bissaka, Maguire, Fred, Pogba, even Bruno this season have all looked way off the pace, yet they all start every game when fit. I think McTominay is better than he’s looked this season because I think he’s hamstrung by having to cover too many players – Fred, Pogba, the entire frigging defence – so he often finds himself in no man’s land trying to do too much. Arguably he wouldn’t be starting if we had the top-class player we need in that position, but I think he’s a good squad player in a similar mould to Fletcher and Park – not necessarily the most talented but ridiculously hard working and with a great engine.

6) He’s spent an absolute fortune and there’s no tangible improvement in anything. If you gave £400m to Klopp or Guardiola now, then you’d not see the Premier League trophy for a decade; we’re struggling to make a go of top four right now.

7) Finally, and the most damning part for me, is that he seems to believe that he’s on to something good. This is, by far, the worst we’ve looked since Ferguson left, yet with the best squad we’ve had since (maybe even including) Fergie’s last title winners. If we’re “so close now” to his vision, then I want no part of it. Is there any manager out there who couldn’t do better with this squad?

People question who we would get to replace him but, in truth, it almost doesn’t matter at this point. Conte, who I don’t really want as manager, is not ideal but he would at least make us more respectable than we are right now (i.e. not at all). I would say that maybe the time to adopt Chelsea’s revolving door policy is at hand, but the difference there is that Chelsea have a much better football management and directorial structure than we do, and I wouldn’t trust our lot to make those decisions right every couple of years. Managers that have recently been available yet passed up on because of faith in Solskjaer: Flick, Nagelsmann, Tuchel and Galtier – and that’s just in the last 12 months. I’m not saying any of them would have definitely joined but theoretically at least.

In any case, in an ideal world Luis Enrique or Diego Simeone would be high on my list but those are both pipe dreams at this point. I would avoid Zidane and Blanc like the plague, and as I’ve said, I don’t think Conte is the right fit. I would have included Rodgers or Potter but the former seems better off at Leicester (I don’t think the ex-Liverpool thing matters), and Potter would probably be seen as another Moyes. Whatever happens with Solskjaer, I have no faith in the powers that be to get the decision right, and even if they do make the right call, the footballing structure of the club will always be the thing that holds us back. Unfortunately, I think that this malaise is here to stay for a good while longer, at least until the Glazers leave, which doesn’t seem to be happening any time soon. At least Mrs Ted’s Blackpool are playing well at the moment!
Ted, Manchester

PE teacher
In response to Paul McDevitt, Ole’s ‘philosophy’ in his own words is “football is a simple game and it’s about making good decisions and being in a team… sometimes we look too much into the all intricacies and it’s passion, it’s desire … you can talk about all sorts, it looks nice on paper.”(September 2021). So just like an actual PE teacher, he’s telling the lads to “go out and play football. Run hard a bit and show a bit of pashun. Get stuck in.” Which is fine for an actual PE teacher on paltry teachers’ salaries with no expectation to compete for and win trophies, but I’d expect more from someone coaching in the National League let alone at one of the biggest clubs in the world.

To be fair when I saw the quote I was incredulous but it actually explains a lot.
Daniel, Cambridge


Next steps
When it comes to the next steps for Man United, the manager or board need to learn the lessons of before.

For Ole, that means giving up on McFred as a lost cause. It means stripping the non-captaining captain of his captaincy, and possibly a starting place. It means keeping Pogba dropped (although he basically did that himself now). It means possibly giving up on his current tactical approach. (I get that people don’t know what that is, and that’s fine – like I said the other day, it doesn’t have a cool name like Gengenpress or TikiTaka so therefore it doesn’t exist to some – and the players may not be delivering it; Ole certainly said he wanted to see pressing when he started.)

For the board, they need to learn that being a big name doesn’t make it automatically work, having a clear tactical style doesn’t necessarily work, being a club legend doesn’t necessarily work.

Maybe it’s time for a relative unknown who is a good tactician. My choice would be Ten Hag or Christophe Galtier (as mentioned in the earlier mailbox). Someone who is doing it under the radar, but who plays football the right way.

If they even think for more than half a heartbeat that a manager who failed with the team that just spanked them is the right choice, they should be shot. Actually, can they just be shot? Would solve a lot of problems.


Excusing fan behaviour
Interesting article on homosexualty in football whereby you state that the crux of the issue is that there is a wider problem in society with homophobia and therefore football is just a reflection of that.

I largely disagree with this point. Mainly because F365 is taking a similar view to a number of other football media outlets in excusing the specific behaviour of fans because “it’s part of a wider issue”. I’m not denying that homophobia doesn’t exist in society but the scale of the fear of reprisals for players coming out is way out off the chart compared to coming out in wider society.

Let’s really address the elephant in the room. Football culture is totally and utterly toxic. Grown adults acting like pathetic children in and around football grounds because “it’s tribal”, “all part of the game” or “banter”. This behaviour is not a reflection of society at all, its the strange parallel football universe where any abuse is fine so long as it’s directed at the opposition.

Granted, steps have been taken to remove racist chanting from grounds of late. It is definitely better than it was if still a long way from perfect. But more or less any other chanting or gesturing is seen as fine. Calling opposition players pedophiles, singing about their partners or what animal they look like is all good. In fact anything goes.

A couple of years ago I took my 9 year old daughter to her first Premier League match. We sat in the “family enclosure” which happened to be right next to the away fans. We lost the game with the opposition scoring late. This provoked tens of “dads” to stand up and move towards the away end gesturing, swearing and abusing stewards. I asked the stewards if this was normal for the family enclosure and they told me that was mild. I decided after that that I wouldn’t take my kids to a game until they were much older.

Frankly it’s ridiculous. Until “passionate support” is separated from boring yob mentality you will never have an improvement in the homophobia debate. It seems to me that most football fans can’t cheer on their team without abusing the opposition. This fact is pretty sad and toxic when you think about it.

Next time you see an away goal on tv and the camera pans to the fans celebrating, look at how many are cheering their team and how many are looking at the home fans and goading them. This is the root of the problem.


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