55-21-24. No, this is not a code to my bank lockbox. Rather, this is the record of Manchester United’s 3rd winningest manager in their first 100 appearances, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. That doesn’t sound so bad when you say it, huh? Based on your perception of the previous ~24 months, you may have a very different idea of what his record is.
Is Perception Reality?
An intriguing proverb to ponder. Is perception reality in the case of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer? Without being dull and boring, the answer is kinda. Perception is reality to whom it matters most, and the perception of the Ed Woodward is chief. Translation: If you aren’t in the good graces of our wonderful CEO, you don’t have a future with this Club. But back to the first sentence of this blog.
Solskjaer is third among win rate, so the natural question that follows is of comparison; who is fourth and who is second? They are none other than our previous two managers, Louis Van Gaal and Our Dear Leader Jozay, at 52% and 62%, respectively. Life isn’t fair, but life as a Manchester United Manager is exceptionally cruel. Jozay may have run a kangaroo court and feuded with superstars, but 62% is damn impressive when you consider Sir Alex boasted only a 48% win percentage.
Where Does This Leave Manchester United?
So where do these numbers lead us exactly? Surely with Ferguson’s 48% win percentage, we would be calling for our manager’s head in this climate. Manchester United and senior management are in a tough position. Cash is non-existent on our latest balance sheet, the Company’s liquidity and solvency ratios are maxed out, and the Company’s potential revenues are lackluster at best given the prolonged return of fans in stands.
With the looming financial demise of this beautiful Club and poorly run Company, what can Ed Woodward do to right the ship? The past can’t be changed, and the present is happening, so what about the future? Ed needs to find a way to make money, and fast. If this club lose out on domestic and international competitions, does Ole face the same fate as his previous counterparts? Will the halls be haunted with yet another managerial soul gone perhaps too soon?
The issue Woodward has at hand is complex. He has to keep this club relevant by any means necessary while also siphoning cash out the back door. Alex notably wants Ole to stay until the summer at least, but is that a viable reality? Since I solely speak in hypotheticals, let’s play pretend.
If United finish 7th and don’t win the CL, surely fans will rioting throughout the city and commit arson on a certain CEO’s house. Ed Woodward sucks, but he follows the universal human rule: self-preservation. When you are fresh meat; kill and throw fresher. Another proverb, baby. 7th and no Europe is impossible with the same manager, but if you change managers during the season? You guessed it; he just bought himself more time.
Where Does This Leave Ole Gunnar Solskjaer?
Ole Gunnar Solsjkaer inherited Our Dear Leader Jozay’s Frankenstein after Jozay was forced out after a tumultuous and ugly breakup with Ed Woodward. I didn’t read the book (not a nerd), but the synopsis is that the doctor is the monster, and not the creation. For my sake, I hope this metaphor applies Jozay and his team. Since Ole took over, he has slowly begun to re-imagine and re-build the squad that he envisioned to dominate for years to come. I believe the general consensus from fans is that this team has some real talent and quality within it.
Knowing no team is perfect, we must applaud Ole for his accomplishments. In a never before seen landscape, Ole managed to steer his team to third in the league by using (read: abusing) the world class talent that is Bruno Fernandes. There are only ~8 players, inclusive of 5 starters, on that team sheet of 16 from that that fateful night in Paris that are seeing glimpses of the first team today. Considering this, Ole has had time to get some players in and out, and the squad is not the same from that night.
Given Ole has had time to get some players in, what is wrong? Robbie Kean has most recently said these players would get the manager fired after a poor showing against Arsenal on Ole’s 100th managerial appearance. The team is far more valuable than any manager in any sport, save for Sir Alex Ferguson and a few other anomalies in their respective sports, so then why can’t the team perform?
There’s been some rotation due to the number of games, but our most trusted XI is often the following players: DeGea, AWB, Lindelof, Maguire, Shaw, Matic, Pogba, Bruno, Martial, Greenwood, and Rashford. At some point in their careers, all of these players have made their respective national teams. I don’t know personally, but that seems no easy feat as a professional footballer. So then what is Ole missing?
This is a results based league, and comparison to Sir Alex Ferguson is not fair to anyone. He was manager in a completely different time. Manchester United’s worldwide fame and access to world class talent through a blank checkbook simply did not exist in his time. SAF had the relative luxury to built the team slowly over the first few years and then started producing unrivaled greatness.
Ole inherited the exact opposite. In the past 5 years, MUFC spend on par with other giants of the game. With enormous transfer budgets, managers are responsible for building a title-contending team in a short time frame. That aforementioned XI, along with a somewhat impressive (and at worst, useful) bench, should be competing for top honors season in and season out on paper.
Give a man enough rope and he will hang himself. Yea, didn’t expect another proverb, did you? I’m on one today. Ole has creative responsibility for how to train and develop this team. He doesn’t have all of his recruits, but doing less with more is a concept as old as time itself. Ole has bought himself time, but just how long of rope does Woodward afford him? In Woodward’s eye, Ole has all the rope in the world, and will choke himself with wildly inconsistent performances. Woodward will hide behind this and say his hand are tied and that the change HAD to happen to save the year.
United are currently 15th place despite there being only 9 points that separate them from the top of the league, but how much longer can bottom half position last before a change is made? The honest truth is the 15th place in the league is not acceptable as a standard for Manchester United. United need improvement quickly within this campaign or else the consequences will be dire. I don’t want to envision a scenario where United miss out of Europe altogether come May or whenever this season ends.
The Definitive Verdict
Sike, I don’t have a verdict on Ole. Yup, you read this all for nothing. My bad. One minute, Ole excites, and the next he depresses. It’s not easy to give a verdict on Mr. Inconsistency himself. My hypothetical verdict would mean nothing anyways. The fact is Ole and this team are in sole control of his fate. Is the vicious managerial cycle manager destined to repeat itself, or does Ole have what it takes to lead this team to success? I am afraid only time, and results will dictate what Ed Woodward’s latest decision will be.
Don’t let this blog distract from the real issue at hand; Ed Woodward and the Glazer family are dirty, detestable sewer rats. #greenandgolduntiltheclubissold. Get your merch here.