Modern football moves at a breakneck pace, often not giving fans time to feel too deeply about certain results. Manchester United may have sacked Ole Gunnar Solskjaer at the end of the week, but the man in temporary charge – former United player and current member of the coaching staff Michael Carrick – has already registered his first win since Solskjaer. Lee is
Of course, dealing with managerial dismissal is never an easy business. It’s even worse when the man on the receiving end of the decision is a bonafide club legend. But the results had fallen in a flurry and such a decision was inevitable.
Many feel the end could have come sooner, given that United gave them much more time than usual. In fact, it is still clear that there was no such plan on the part of the powers-that-be to make managerial changes in the first place.
Manchester United can confirm that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has left his role as manager.
Thanks for everything, Ole ❤️#MUFC
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) November 21, 2021
It points to a much deeper problem, one that goes far beyond the appointment and firing of Solskjaer. Many critics of the Norwegian would like to believe that things would be better in his absence.
Sadly, United’s current malaise is so deep that they will need a significant overhaul to become competitive again. That was evident – once again – in the way Solskjaer’s departure was handled.
Because, as a look at United’s subsequent history under Sir Alex Ferguson shows, this is not the first time such an incident has happened.
deja vu again
When United appointed David Moyes to replace Ferguson on a six-year deal, eyebrows were raised. United wanted someone to build for the long term but six years was a long time – especially if the club wanted to change managers.
In Moyes’ case, he inserted a break clause that could have started in the first year. And when the results turned bad, he triggered said clause — though even then, he took action a little later than expected.
His successor, Louis van Gaal, suffered an arguably worse fate. Dull football of the Dutchman often includes fans chanting “Attack!” Attack!” at the players, and by his second season most had lost faith in him.
Nevertheless, his tenure dragged on and although it did lead to an FA Cup, some were sad to see him go. In fact, many people would have been happy to have him gone sooner.
Jose Mourinho, who was the Dutchman’s successor, suffered a similar fate. The start of his third season at United showed signs of discontent and stagnation. Yet, surprisingly, he kept until December before being sacked.
Again, this is not meant to advocate quick hiring and firing of managers; This is not a recipe for long term success. But letting a manager stay beyond his sell-by date doesn’t help anyone.
Once ennui sets in with a manager, improvements in results are either difficult to achieve or extremely temporary in nature. At that point, it seems best for all parties to move forward.
Oddly enough, this is a lesson Manchester United didn’t learn then – and still haven’t learned now. Which brings us back to the most recent person to leave a United job.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer – Lucky to stay in the job for so long?
When Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was brought in on an interim basis, he saw a change in mood – and results. A strong run of results led to him quitting the job on a permanent basis.
Given his notable achievements as a manager, including being relegated with Cardiff City and winning the Norwegian league with Molde, Sir Alex Ferguson was not the second coming.
However, United treated him as such. Whenever results went down, the board preached patience and cited Ferguson for time off in the first days of his reign.
Of course, a quick look at the facts breaks down this comparison.
Ferguson, when he arrived at United, had tasted domestic and European success with Aberdeen. This was a major achievement, as prior to his appointment, Aberdeen’s last league success was in the 1950s.
Thus, the comparison made no sense – and many rightly argued that Solskjaer was lucky to get the job in the first place. His survival for so long is nothing less than a miracle.
Even before this season, it seemed at times that Ole’s time at the wheel was up. Various defeats in semi-final matches of cup competition in 2019–20. A 6–1 defeat to Spurs at the start of the 2020–21 season. Europa League final defeat at the end of the 2020-21 season.
But no, Ole beat them all. He was supported every time – both figuratively and literally. Newly signed. Contract extension granted. And even after the 5-0 defeat to Liverpool this season, the idea of sacking him seemed unlikely. Or a 2-0 defeat to City.
However, a loss to Watford proved to be the final straw. And yet, the decision was made so hastily that the direction ahead appears unclear.
Lack of direction points to the real problem
United’s current succession plan for the post-Solskjaer era is… interesting. Carrick is in charge on a temporary basis while United look to appoint an interim manager to take charge until the end of the season. The search for a new permanent manager will begin in the summer.
If that sounds convoluted and long drawn out, that’s because it is.
Compare this to how other clubs have operated this season. Managerial replacements are often announced before the incumbent is fired; This ensures minimum transition time between reigns.
In United’s case, they can find an interim replacement until Carrick becomes somewhat comfortable with the job. This person in turn will only be in charge until May 2022, after which a new manager will be named.
All of this makes you question what are the men in charge doing?
United’s biggest issue since Fergie has been the lack of a coherent structure or overarching vision. Moyes was the stable choice but didn’t work at all. Van Gaal has a record of both attractive football and youth development, but he has gone past his best.
From there he went to the short-lived king himself in Mourinho, before handing over a long-term rebuild to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. It smacks of incompetent decision making at all levels.
Solskjaer’s sacking was a necessity given the plight of the club. But scattergun recruiting, a lack of proper planning and a focus on things beyond the football field are real issues.
Sadly, sacking the manager is not going to solve this. And, unless big changes happen soon, any successor to the Norwegian will grapple with the same issues that plagued his tenure.