Why Solskjaer is the Glazers’ perfect Man Utd manager

We have more views on Manchester United and their manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer after the 2-2 draw with Atalanta as well as some thoughts on VAR and more. Send mails to theeditor@football365.com


Solskjaer is the Glazers’ wet dream
Solskjaer is only a symptom of the Glazer illness at Manchester United.

Anybody with half a clue about football knows that Solskjaer is well and truly out of his depth.

He was brought in as an interim manager. A stop-gap. Lee Sharpe would have been a breath of fresh air after the stagnant Mourinho football. Solskjaer was a surprise as interim, but it highlighted Manchester United’s lack of planning that he was given the role. There was no contingency plan, no good one anyway, should Mourinho get sacked. Even though it seemed inevitable to almost everybody. The last group of people that the penny drops for is always the Board at United.

As much as a surprise as it was that Solskjaer was appointed interim, it was scandalous that he was appointed to the permanent job.
When I say “scandalous”, I mean that if Solskjaer had been appointed permanent manager immediately after the sacking of Jose, I think there would have been uproar from Manchester United supporters. A former Molde/Cardiff (relegation) Manager appointed as United boss? That would be insane.

Unfortunately, because the shackles were off, and the players collectively exhaled after the departure of Mourinho, the performances improved enough to make an argument against Solskjaer’s appointment as permanent Manager, far less convincing than it should have been, when objectively considered without the emotion of his ex-player heroics, admiration of Ferguson, and “United DNA” nonsense. Culminating in Rio Ferdinand’s “Peace in our time” Neville Chamberlain impression. (I wonder if people watching that Chamberlain clip back in the day knew that it would not age well and that time would leave him on the wrong side of history. I certainly knew it as I watched Rios “Oles at the wheel” histrionics. This should not be mistaken as “The influence of Solskjaer”. It was very much “The lack of influence of Mourinho” that enabled a solid twelve game or so run in which United played and performed quite decently. Sadly, this was enough to convince the clueless about football board at United to appoint him permanently.

A board’s job is to act without emotion. To not be caught up in Hysteria. To make smart decisions to ensure the long-term development of the club. Here is the point. I am not certain that is the goal of Manchester Uniteds board. If it was, Solskjaer would not be at the helm, and perhaps never would have been at all, and rightly so.

The Glazers, and those with the power to replace Solskjaer , but choose to persist with him, do not have the good of the football club at heart. They have the good of the business at heart. If United continue to get top four, spend some money, make some big name signings in a scattergun approach with no real director of football to plan and structure the football operations at the club, then the Glazers and the money men maintain control. That is what Solskjaer’s time at United is about. Control. The Glazers know that he knows that he is lucky to have ever been given this opportunity to manage a huge club that he loves. Therefore he will never rock the boat. Never question the hierarchy and the shambles that is the football operations side of the club. Solskjaer is a buffer between the board and the fans. A shield.

Whatever bile is fired by supporters during Ole’s reign would be 20 times worse under another non associated with the club manager. Solskjaers legendary status protecting the board from abuse by supporters is what the board counted on. You see this is the thing. People think United’s board are idiots for persisting with Solskjaer. You have to remember, they are only idiots from your football success as a priority perspective. They are not idiots from a “maintain control by keeping our puppet and shield in charge” perspective.

Solskjaer was, and continues to be, the Trojan Horse that the Glazers used to sneak into the hearts and minds of Manchester United supporters. The ones who believe loyalty is backing the manager no matter what (especially as he is a legend of the past). Even if you see that manager hurting the ambitions of the club. Even if you know deep down that he will not succeed. “Yes but he brought back our identity. A connection to the success under Sir Alex. United Dna”. That is exactly what the Glazers hoped you would feel. They are not idiots. They are far more clever than you give them credit for. They saw this. They have their shield, and continue to milk the club behind it. They spent 300+ million you say? Yes. Of the club’s money. A club they bought with debt. A debt serviced by money generated by the club. They’ve taken dividends and serviced debt and interest on debt to the tune of 1 billion of the clubs money.

Only when the structure of the club changes and football is taken seriously as a priority at United, or even to be on a par with finances would be an incredible achievement, but until that happens, any success at Manchester United will be by luck rather than by design. Solskjaer was no stop-gap. Solskjaer was, and remains, the answer to the Glazers’ prayers. He is only a symptom of the disease that is the current ownership and hierarchy at the club.
Edwin Ambrose


Beating Spurs was basically a defeat
If ever there was a case for Ole to retain the United job, that case has effectively been dismissed. Having the league’s leakiest defence while fielding 7 defensive players, despite being with the team for over 3 years, despite having the world’s most expensive center back (Maguire), despite having arguable one of the best center backs in the world (Varane), is grounds for dismissal at any club in the world. Even Arteta is feeling like an upgrade at this point.

But it all came to the Tottenham match. Conte might be the only world-class option available right that. And Conte wanted to go to United. And he seemed to know Ole was on borrowed time. And Conte was willing to wait it out till then. Oh the fates had lined it up so perfectly.

But, the dreaded match changed it all. United won by a canter and suddenly, Conte realizes, Ole may actually stick around much longer. Enter Tottenham, reeling from a loss, with an upgraded offer that Conte can no longer turn down.

Spurs get a manager that had jilted them not long ago. And United, suddenly left with no suitors, are stuck in a marriage that they no longer want.


How do you fix a problem like Ole?
Ah Ronaldo, scoring late on again to get all the (deserved) plaudits for his continued insistence on scoring vital goals at vital times in vital games. I should be delighted but I am not. Ronaldo seems to be on a one-man mission to keep Ole at the wheel of a bus that he does not have a licence to drive. That performance last night was beyond dreadful. Harry Maguire is in utterly rotten form, slow, out of position, his attempted tackle on Zapata for Atalanta’s second goal was bizarre, threw himself at ball and man and made contact with neither – £80m? Jesus.

Pogba was horrendous in a formation and match that should have been made for him. Ronaldo scored two excellent goals but contributed nothing else. Bruno was largely kept out of the game by De Roon’s man-marking. Rashford did not look fit at all and United’s best player in a disjointed performance was arguably AWB – which is odd.

But it can all be put down to the “manager”. I’m sorry, Ole is a genuine hero of mine from his playing days and seems a lovely guy but to have two subs standing at the side of the pitch in the 80th minute (according to the commentary team the two players had not warmed up – Sancho and Van de Beek) and not make the change then have to wait til the 86th minute for the ball to go back out of play was negligent at best. But then to hear the £73m winger, one of the most promising young players in world football have to ask his coach, after 5 minutes of standing chatting on the sidelines remember, “Which side am I on” and for the TV mics to pick up the manager saying “Either, doesn’t matter” is utterly shameful. How can he have been discussing things with Sancho for that length of time and not told him where he wanted him to position himself to influence the game?

Sancho has excelled at Dortmund and (presumable) at youth level at City while working under proper coaches. He has looked a bit aimless (much like Van de Beek does on the rare occasions he gets to play) during his appearances so far and is it any wonder? If the players are not being given direction either as a team or as individuals then it is chaos – as evidenced last night on more than one occasion in the first half when you could see that Fernandes, Rashford and Ronaldo were all over on the left hand side so there was literally no-one in the middle (two strikers in this formation don’t forget) and Wan Bissaka was the only option on the right. It was an absolute mess. Again.

Starting to firmly think that the Spurs performance on Saturday was no accident and that insipid, pathetic showing was a means to an end to get Nuno out and Conte in before United grew a set and sacked Ole. I genuinely cannot put into words how frustrating it is. Since Fergie left United have either passed up on or waited to long on the possible appointments of Klopp, Pep, Poch, Tuchel, Mourinho (in 2013 when he would have been a good appointment) and now Conte as well. It literally doesn’t matter who they sign or how good the individual players are when we have a manager who tells a world-class player coming on at a vital time in a vital game that he doesn’t know where he should play. Just confirms the tactic of putting talented players on the pitch and hoping they do they business with a moment of brilliance. Good tv at times but woeful management of a football club.
Mangor United, Belfast


A new point
A day before United completed the Ronaldo transfer, Atalanta signed Teun Koopmeiners for less money, lower wages, and far more potential resale value. A positionally intelligent defensive midfielder who can break a press with intelligent passing, in a position where United have needed to recruit for a few years, available for remarkably little. But instead United throw money at Ronaldo because #welcomehome.

Not hard to tell which club is an intelligently run and recruited football team, and which is a glorified content creator for owners more interested in commercial revenue than winning.
Chris MUFC


The Pogba conundrum
Amid all the teeth gnashing in the mailbox this morning about Pogba in particular this morning, one important aspect of getting a tune out of him seems to have been overlooked.

When does he look world class? It’s playing for France but never Man Utd. He needs Kante next to him. Hell, even Drinkwater looked a player when he had Kante next to him and we all know what happened there.
Lee, Hornsey
PS. As an aside I was thinking about the “best” transfers clubs have made between each other in the PL and Drinkwater has to be nr 1 in terms of money for old rope. I think Brewster is 2


Fanmail for the angry Mailboxers
Based on his brief rant, I’m worried about Paul Murphy’s mental health, if he finds Sarah’s article that “offensive”. Probably wise to take a break from football if it’s getting him this upset.
Graeme, SFC


…Just to reply to the two babies Man United fans this morning who called the, admittedly often yet entirely justified, criticism of Solskjaer “offensive” and “sick”; do yourselves a favour and grow up!
Neill, Ireland


…I was just wondering if badwolf could give us a little more information about the ‘sick’ campaign to get OGS fired? Questions that interest me include-

-who is orchestrating it and why?
-where does the funding come from?
-what is the end game for the campaign itself?
-what is F365’s role? are they leading it? or just part of a global network of crab people who are running a ‘relentless campaign’ to make sure one Norwegian bloke is sacked?

Your letter was not at all unhinged so I’m anticipating some compelling answers.

Maybe Paul Murphy can expand on his mail as well. He seems like the sort of person I want to hear more from…
NorthernSoul NUFC (we had a couple of days of really interesting mails about Saints, WHU, Palace etc. how come we are back to this shit?)


…I’ve been reading since the mid 2000s and this is my first time writing in! Hope you’re all doing good in these strange times.

I just wanted to ask my fellow readers Paul Murphy and Badwolf to cool it with the hostility towards Sarah Winterburn! I watched the game last night and read the report, and while watching football can be a subjective business, I can’t see any real issue with the summary. Atalanta have had more heart and better organisation over both matches, and United are fortunate to have any points at all from these games, let alone 4. Ronaldo did save Ole – he scored three goals across 180 minutes, all of them in stoppage time in game-changing circumstances after limp team performances. Calling those situations ‘a player bailing out a manager’ feels like the sort of open goal even Ronnie Rosenthal couldn’t miss! Of course Ole doesn’t bear total responsibility for individual player failings on nights like this, but he’s been there multiple years now and it’s his environment producing this mediocre nonsense and turning expensive elite-level players into bench-warming wantaways.

To be honest though, even if that wasn’t the case, firing off bullying emails referring to a “bitter woman” feels like a mixture of kneejerk misogyny and misdirected rage because your team struggled. I see plenty of other United fans in the mailbox with more reasoned views, capable of absorbing a little criticism of their team without resorting to playground insults.

As for my views on Ole… Well, I’m a Liverpool fan, so I certainly am partisan, and all I can say is give the man a lifetime contract.
Tom, Brighton


…It was interesting to see Paul so angry at F365’s reporting on the Man U v Atalanta match. I thought it was quite on-point with the troubles at the club right now. Personally I was also going to write in asking for similar, thorough, blow by blow reports for all the matches, many articles tail off and lazily change the subject to other recent news on the clubs or post game quotes but I thought this match in particular was very well delivered here on F365. While I’m not a Man U or Atalanta fan I enjoyed the read, keep it up Winty & co.


…Thank you for publishing the repugnant email from Paul Murphy, Manchester in this morning’s mailbox.

Hopefully he receives the admonishment he deserves from fellow mailboxers in the afternoon mailbox.

Let’s just hope his close female family members don’t share the entirely legitimate (and 100% accurate IMO) view – who knows how that could end up.
J (Belfast)


On Newcastle cocking things up
Emery turns down Newcastle because of poor forward planning and media leaks…

They’re now looking at Eddie Howe instead who got relegated because his defence was awful and he had no idea what to do about it.

This raises two wonderments for me…

1. Newcastle’s ownership sounds a bit more like Man Utd than Man City which might mean they’re money and chaos…not a recipe for certain success but definitely one for hilarity and drama.

2. Newcastle might have the richest owners in the world….next season in the Championship.

Frankly the latter possibility would be very funny and if they’re still 19th/20th when January comes around it’s hard to see many clubs being willing to sell any players (even those with 6 month contracts) for less than ludicrous fees because the club can afford it and will be desperate.
Minty, LFC


Explaining VAR acceptance
Johnny Nic seems a little perplexed that the initial animosity towards VAR has subsided and people are largely just getting on with it. What he’s hit on though has nothing to do with the pandemic (although the pandemic is another example of the same phenomena) and can be summed up rather succinctly in two points:

1. People don’t like change.

2. People are very adaptable.

As such, in almost every walk of life, football included, any change at all is greeted with some level of hysteria. This hysteria is roughly commensurate with the scale of change. However, over time hysteria subsides and acceptance comes in. Seemingly a bit like CoVid, people have just got used to it and are carrying on as if it was always thus. The same can be seen in politics, businesses, public services and everywhere else.

It’s not that it’s any better or people are now happy with it. It’s just that people can only be arsed shouting about stuff for a limited period of time before they get bored and start shouting about something else.
Alex, Ayr


…Just read John Nicholson’s latest “angry grandpa shouts at clouds” piece about VAR…

Some thoughts:

1) the lack of anger may be because of a combination of the novelty wearing off and the implementation improving. It’s still not perfect, but where the waits were once uniformly painfully long, most are now quickly resolved.

2) the argument getting raised repeatedly about not knowing whether you can celebrate or, conversely, people not liking celebrating only to realise they were wrong is played out and stupid at this point. Yes it’s annoying when it happens to your team, but that is nowhere near an adequate justification for letting an incorrect decision stand when people know it was wrong within seconds. Its a stupid argument – if VAR shouldn’t overturn a goal because someone has started celebrating, then by the same logic the referee shouldn’t be allowed to rule out a goal after consulting a linesman who had a better view – something that has always been a part of the game. The flip side is that the team/fans of the side that has benefitted then get to celebrate plus, you know, that the right call has generally been made… also, when it doesn’t adversely affect my team, I can’t be alone in enjoying the schadenfreude of watching the realisation dawn on people that the goal won’t stand.

3) I concede that video assistant referees do make inconsistent decisions. What’s John’s point though? On pitch referees make inconsistent decisions and always did, which is why Johnny Evans will play next weekend and Aymeric Laporte won’t. That is not an argument in favour of ditching VARs, it’s just yet another inditement of the poor quality and inconsistency of refereeing in England. It is PGMOL doing their job badly that is the issue, not that one of those individuals has access to a replay… giving them an extra tool to get the decisions right is not a bad thing.

4) I don’t doubt that games in empty stadia was driven by commercial considerations first and foremost, but to say that was the only reason, and/or preferable to there being no football is just wrong-headed. It wasn’t quite the same (in fact, I’d go so far as to say that it was so different that Liverpool’s league title should have an asterisk*). But to say that is the only reason, that there was no value in it at all, is clearly just being deliberately obtuse. It wasn’t quite the same, or as good, but I watched plenty of football that I enjoyed during that period and, what’s more, the return of football at the weekend was really helpful in restoring a bit of normality and structure to my week during a stressful time. Also, it wasn’t just paying the wages of the players comrade – it was paying the wages of a great many rank and file employees who also work at football clubs (apparently, even Liverpool didn’t end up putting their people on furlough). For a guy who seems to have such strong values, John is taking an oddly puritanical and, dare I say, unkind stance there.
Andy (MUFC)
*That’s just a joke – it is acknowledged Liverpool’s league win was basically already secured before lock down and well deserved – please don’t write in shooting this point down.


Why needs a VAR coach?
Aidan, LFC’s email got me thinking; could I make a decent living by becoming a VAR-coach for a Premier League team? The VAR plays such a massive role in the modern game, surely it would be money well spent for somebody to make sure the players benefit as much as possible from this technology? Must be more worthwhile than Liverpool’s throw-in coach. As Aidan says, never stop playing to appeal for offside. Wait until the danger has subsided or a goal has been scored until you appeal. Also, if you receive the ball and you are 100% certain you are offside, don’t continue to attack as you know a goal will be disallowed anyway. Turn back and set up a new attack, intentionally create a ‘new phase’, and hope the VAR doesn’t bother with the previous offside. Or try and gain a corner. Score a goal from an offside position and the goal will be disallowed; gain a corner and the VAR lets you play on. Indeed, doesn’t make sense, but I’ve seen it happen several times.

Now, the most important one: if you receive the ball in the penalty area, always go down after any sort of contact. The VAR will always check and because they always check in slow motion, the contact always looks worse than it actually is and a penalty will be the most likely outcome. On the other hand, never ever dive if there was no contact at all. You might spoil a chance to score or create a goal and the VAR will always catch you out and the ref will show you a yellow card. Handball’s a tricky one, I would need to study the rules again (and again and again and again etc.), but the main rule regarding handball is: make sure everybody screams ‘handball’ as soon as the ball comes anywhere near an opponent’s hand or arm. The VAR will check and you might get lucky. I knew I’d make it to the Premier League one day.
Thomas, Breda

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