In the end, the main emotion was resignation. Some managerial reigns end in acrimony, others in anger and recriminations. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s at Manchester United comes to an end amid sadness. After Man United’s 4-1 defeat at Watford, Solskjaer admitted that his team had been “outmatched”, that they had not been mentally well for the game, that “we are ashamed to lose like we do”, but remained relatively defiant. . until the final question. When asked, “How low are you feeling right now?” He gave a great sigh, and at that moment he seemed broken. “A lot,” he finally answered.
He had just been booed by a section of visiting fans, who had so far supported him. His injury time goal in the 1999 Champions League final will excuse many humiliations, but not this one. Getting hit by a side quarter from the bottom of the table and seemingly sinking fast was too much of an embarrassment.
United have collected four points in their last seven league games, a streak that saw four goals in at Leicester and Watford, was beaten 5-0 at home by Liverpool and, against Manchester City, suffered one of the most humiliating and one – They gave 2-0 losses imaginable. Players have started to make terrible individual mistakes. On Saturday it was Harry Maguire, who conceded possession with a strong touch and then lunged after the ball and picked up a second yellow card to make a possible comeback difficult. They are a staff devoid of trust and faith, and that ultimately stems from a lack of structure.
Solskjaer was the perfect interim manager when José Mourinho left three years ago. Mourinho left a legacy of toxicity, and Solskjaer, club legend and decent man, was the perfect person to clear it up. He was remarkably successful in doing that, which tempted the United board, demonstrating his familiar lack of football judgment, to give him the full-time job.
There were bright spots. There was a race towards the final of the Europa League. There were a series of somewhat disconcerting victories over Man City. There was a 29-game league unbeaten away streak that only ended against Leicester in October. But until the start of this season, there was a recurring problem, and that was United’s inability to bring down teams that were deeply against it. Sometimes he would, if you have great individual forwards you will score goals, but all too often his attacks failed against players like West Brom and Sheffield United and, perhaps most tellingly, against Villarreal in the Europa League final. That ability to build a coherent attack, rather than simply relying on great players to improvise, is what sets the best coaches like Pep Guardiola, Thomas Tuchel and Jürgen Klopp apart from the rest in modern football. That, more than anything else, was the reason why the feeling persisted among so many that Solskjaer was not cut out for the United job.
All of that has been complicated this season by the arrival of Cristiano Ronaldo, a desperate and misguided move by a board enslaved by nostalgia and the notion that United, more than a football club, is primarily a content producer. Former players and even Sir Alex Ferguson insisted that it was unthinkable that Ronaldo would be allowed to go to Manchester City and that United have to face a player who scores late goals in droves, which has kept the campaign alive at the very least. Champions League, but whose lack of pressure unbalances the entire squad and puts enormous pressure on the rear of the midfield, the area where United is weakest. (Ronaldo still has his apologists, but he makes the teams unruly: in the last three and a half years he has surpassed Zinedine Zidane, Max Allegri, Maurizio Sarri, Andrea Pirlo and Solskjaer.)
Compromising defensive structure on a team that already lacks offensive structure has had predictable consequences. United’s performances this season have been worse than at any time since relegation in 1973-74. The last coach before Solskjaer who lasted so long and won nothing was Dave Sexton, who was fired in 1981.
And that is an accusation against a board increasingly characterized by inertia. By not acting, Mauricio Pochettino, Tuchel and, perhaps the most unforgivable of all, Antonio Conte have been lost. Had he acted three weeks ago, he could now be at Old Trafford instead of Tottenham. Scattered reports on United’s interest in Zidane, Pochettino, Brenden Rodgers and Erik ten Hag make clear what had been building for weeks as Solskjaer staggered and was judged from game to game, each looking like a audition: there is and has been – there is no long-term plan. United’s regrettable statement on Solskjaer’s departure reads like a club desperately wishing for him to be the answer, and now they are left fighting for another, again.
United, which installed Michael Carrick on an interim basis while looking for another interim coach to watch the season and then a long-term solution, now faces an uncomfortable road ahead. It is a wealthy club with a large fan base and high expectations. But it has always been a difficult club to manage, only three coaches have won the league there, and this team, unbalanced and oppressed despite the investment that has been invested in building it, is combined with a board that is wrong due to a crisis of his own creation. the next, it means there is a huge rebuilding job to do.
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Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.