The chal­lenges fac­ing Sol­skjaer at Man United

The Myanmar Times - Weekend - - Sport -

OLE Gun­nar Sol­skjaer has landed his dream job as Manch­ester United man­ager after a whirl­wind 24 hours, and it will take some time for the eu­pho­ria to fade.

Once it does, it will quickly dawn on him just how big a chal­lenge he has taken on.

Much of the blame for United’s dis­mal sea­son has been laid at the door of Jose Mour­inho: The dreary tac­tics, the clashes with play­ers, the need­less barbs in me­dia con­fer­ences.

But there are other fac­tors at play, on and off the field, that Sol­skjaer will need to ad­dress once he gets his feet un­der the desk at United’s train­ing ground at Car­ring­ton.

He’ll have to deal with them quickly, too. English soc­cer’s hec­tic fes­tive pe­riod has ar­rived, mean­ing United has five games in 15 days — start­ing with a trip to Cardiff on Satur­day — as the team looks to turn around its worst start to a league sea­son in 28 years.

POGBA’S ROLE United’s mar­quee and most ex­pen­sive player was vir­tu­ally side­lined in the last days of Mour­inho’s ten­ure. Paul Pogba spent more time on the bench than on the field, a waste of one of the world’s best mid­field tal­ents.

Sol­skjaer must find the role that most suits the French World Cup win­ner and get the best out of him.

In a pre­sea­son in­ter­view, Sol­skjaer said he would “ab­so­lutely” build United’s team around Pogba if he was man­ager. Sol­skjaer worked closely with Pogba when he was the club’s re­serve-team man­ager dur­ing the French­man’s first spell at Old Traf­ford.

Seem­ingly as­sured of a place in the team, Pogba must show he de­serves it. He ap­peared dis­in­ter­ested at times un­der Mour­inho, with whom his re­la­tion­ship had bro­ken down, and didn’t work hard enough. Ex­pect Sol­skjaer to bring more joy and free­dom into Pogba’s play, but can he han­dle the ego of one of the world’s most high-pro­file play­ers?

RASHFORD OR LUKAKU? In March, Sol­skjaer tweeted a pic­ture of his tele­vi­sion show­ing Mar­cus Rashford’s face on the screen. A United jersey was draped over the TV, with Rashford’s name on the back. A sign of things to come? As a for­mer striker him­self, Sol­skjaer should have some strong ideas about his pre­ferred for­ward line at United and of most in­ter­est will be who he chooses to lead the at­tack out of Romelu Lukaku and Rashford.

Lukaku is a $90 mil­lion sign­ing who looks short of con­fi­dence this sea­son and is still to jus­tify that huge price tag. Rashford is the 21-year-old who is still learn­ing his craft but has shown to be United’s bright­est spark in re­cent weeks.

It will be a bold call, but Sol­skjaer may choose to put his faith in Rashford es­pe­cially given his pre­vi­ous links to United’s youth team.

SORT OUT DE­FENSE An­other pri­or­ity will fix­ing a de­fense that has con­ceded 29 goals in the league this sea­son, one more than it man­aged the whole of the 2017-18 cam­paign.

Mour­inho seemed to change the per­son­nel in his back­line ev­ery week — there didn’t ap­pear to be a firstchoice cen­ter-back pair­ing, for ex­am­ple. Maybe that partly ex­plains why even David De Gea, United’s best player last sea­son, has been mak­ing un­usual er­rors.

MAN-MAN­AGE­MENT Sol­skjaer has es­tab­lished a rep­u­ta­tion for be­ing a coach who talks up his play­ers, telling them how good they are. At Molde, the Nor­we­gian team he has left tem­po­rar­ily to move back to Eng­land, Sol­skjaer of­ten com­pared his mem­bers of his squad to United’s play­ers.

Maybe that kind of pos­i­tiv­ity is what is needed to lift the gloom around the United squad, which ex­ec­u­tive vice chair­man Ed Wood­ward said needed to “unite” in the wake of Mour­inho’s de­par­ture.

Few es­caped crit­i­cism or the pub­lic wrath of Mour­inho dur­ing his 2½ years in charge. Sol­skjaer ap­pears more likely to put an arm around play­ers’ shoul­ders, while still im­ple­ment­ing the strict stan­dards that he learned from his for­mer man­ager at United, Alex Fer­gu­son.

“Sir Alex taught me how not to be­come com­pla­cent and al­ways keep the stan­dards up,” Sol­skjaer has said. “Ev­ery­thing I know about man­ag­ing top foot­ballers I learned from him.”

TRANS­FER FUNDS The Jan­uary trans­fer win­dow is fast ap­proach­ing, and Sol­skjaer needs to get as­sur­ances over whether United will make funds avail­able to spend on new play­ers or whether he has to stick with what he has.

Given he is only on a short-term deal, it is un­likely that Sol­skjaer will be given much in­flu­ence on any sign­ings — if United choose to make any.

Just last week, Mour­inho said he was un­aware if he would be backed in the Jan­uary win­dow, adding “it de­pends on the club.” He said he didn’t see United sign­ing more than one player.

United spent al­most 400 mil­lion pounds ($510 mil­lion) on play­ers un­der Mour­inho’s watch and he was de­nied the cen­ter back he craved in the off­sea­son. That still ap­pears to be the po­si­tion the team needs strength­en­ing next month. – AP

MY SPORTS is a new sports ser­vice in Myan­mar ded­i­cated to de­liv­er­ing in­ter­na­tional and do­mes­tic sports and life­style en­ter­tain­ment in­clud­ing the Myan­mar Na­tional Foot­ball Team. All matches from the MNL sea­son and the Gen­eral Aung San Shield, English FA Cup, Ital­ian Serie A, BWF Bad­minton will be broad­cast.

The ac­tion will be de­liv­ered ex­clu­sively on MY SPORTS lin­ear chan­nel, on­line stream­ing ser­vice and so­cial me­dia plat­forms from 2019.

Its web­site is https://www.face­book.com/mys­portsmya/

– The Myan­mar Times

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