By Danny Wyn Griffith
“We can’t change the whole squad but it’s one step at a time. I’m going to be successful here and there are players there that won’t be part of that successful team, but there are many of them that do have it.”
These were the words stressed by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer following a 4-0 humbling to Everton back in April. The summer transfer window has since been and gone. Out went Romelu Lukaku, Alexis Sanchez, Antonio Valencia, Ander Herrera, Chris Smalling and Matteo Darmian. In came Harry Maguire, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Daniel James.
Manchester United thumped Chelsea on the opening day. Smiles were spread around Old Trafford. Spirits were high. Expectations had been raised. What has since followed has seen Solskjaer’s Manchester United limp to a lowly 12th place after eight games. They now sit two points above the relegation zone.
“Ole out!” cries have been aired on various social media platforms.
“Back him to the hill!” the hardened reply.
“Ed Woodward, specialist in failure!” they justly shout.
“Focus on the Glazers and the £1billion taken out of the club!” they rightly lament.
Manchester United are approaching a cliff edge. This is a squad short on quality, numbers and confidence. A recipe for disaster is quickly being concocted.
The shortage in numbers has been underlined by the growing number of injuries to key players. This week, David de Gea was the latest to be struck down whilst on international duty with Spain. He joins Paul Pogba, Luke Shaw, Anthony Martial, Jesse Lingard, Diogo Dalot and Eric Bailly on the ever-growing injury list.
In true Manchester United fashion, the squad has been bolstered by a quartet of youngsters. Mason Greenwood, Angel Gomes, Tahith Chong and Brendon Williams may one day make it in a Manchester United shirt. Yet to expect them to thrive in this floundering Manchester United side is delusional. They might have talent in abundance, but now is not the time to throw them to the wolves. Mooted January loan moves would be the correct call.
In the stands and online, the fan-base is quickly fracturing. Match-going supporters are ready to back the manager and squad through any further turbulence which awaits. The growing number of supporters who tend to voice their opinion online without ever setting foot in the stadium would happily push the eject button on Ole.
Liverpool awaits this Sunday. The current European Champions and Premier League leaders. They visit Old Trafford striving to stretch their perfect start to nine games as they continue their search for that first league title since 1989/90.
“That’s a perfect game for us.” Solskjaer told the BBC following the 1-0 defeat to Newcastle.
It remains to be seen whether he believes this or whether he stubbornly kept a confident front when fronted by the media. Nevertheless, one thing is for certain, Solskjaer requires time to make his Manchester United managerial career a success.
He had a dream start. That night in Paris will live long in the memory of many supporters. It’s all been downhill since, yet not all should be doom and gloom.
Despite the results, he has shown some promise to his thinking. Ridding the club of the likes of Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez took some bottle, especially given the high probability that the board’s incompetence would result in them not being adequately replaced. This squad is made up of players from five different managers. It’s not ideal that some deadwood remain. Still this is a process we’re not even a year into.
David Moyes started his own process when Sir Alex Ferguson retired. That ended in heartache for the Scot, who was clearly out of his depth from the moment he left Merseyside and entered Greater Manchester.
Louis van Gaal brought promise and an FA Cup win. His record in matches against Liverpool was second to none, although dire football towards the latter half of his tenure saw José Mourinho sensing blood.
The Portuguese terrier quickly set about moulding the side into one he could call his own. He brought the League Cup and Europa League in his first season, a second-place finish followed in 2017-18, before the typical third-season Mourinho slump arrived as his vindictive attitude poisoned the club.
Ole now sits at the wheel. He deserves time to see out the job he started over the summer. He might not end up being the long-term solution, but he deserves more than the one transfer window as permanent manager to cure this squad of the ills left over by previous managers.
The switch in thinking back to young British talent bodes well. The three summer signings have been positive on the whole. More along those lines over the next two windows and there might be a half-decent squad in the making.
If not, it’s at that point that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will rightly be questioned. For now though, he deserves to remain. He will remain the manager of Manchester United no matter what the result may be on Sunday. A manager with a behemoth job on his hands.
A job I do not envy.
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