Winning’s name of game for Solskjaer
A month is a long time in professional football, especially for anybody managing a club the size of Manchester United.
On that logic, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has more than a fortnight to fall out of favour with the powers that be at Old Trafford. That includes the thousands of loyal fans who do not ask for much ... beyond winning.
In that fortnight, Manchester United will host Reading in the FA Cup. One imagines that a win will be a non-negotiable here.
That will be followed by a trip to a rabid Tottenham Hotspur outfit. If Solskjaer, who has yet to taste defeat while at the helm at United, is not careful, that could be a humiliating trip.
Then there is the fixture at home to Brighton on January 19. The Seagulls are 13th in the Premier League standings; nothing to write home about by any stretch of the imagination. However, they stripped Arsenal of two valuable points last month.
Who can forget what Brighton did to Man United earlier in the Premier League campaign?
Granted, the Red Devils were a different incarnation at the start of this season’s Premier League campaign, but it can most certainly be argued it was this 3-2 defeat that helped set United and former manager José Mourinho on a path to self-destruction.
And boy did it all unravel quickly. In their next outing, United got routed 3-0 by Tottenham ... at Old Trafford. From then on, the misery just continued as morale in the team appeared to drop and fractures started to emerge.
Football can be a fickle business and, before he knows it, Solskjaer could find himself fighting off the very demons that were the undoing of Mourinho.
After all, what has Solskjaer really achieved as a manager? A 30% winning percentage at Cardiff City, which he guided into relegation, and a 55% winning percentage in his first tenure at Norway’s Molde.
This versus an outgoing manager who won La Liga, Serie A, the Premier League, the Primeira Liga and the Champions League. As Absa Premiership coach Steve Komphela would so eloquently put it, winning has many fathers, but losing is an orphan.
If there is so much as a slight hint that Solskjaer will not have the capacity to rebuild United in the long term, his charm, good looks and playing success will mean nothing.
So, what of Solskjaer’s prospects at the helm of the club? I would venture to say that failure to secure a spot in the European competition at the end of this season will bring this Old Trafford romance to an abrupt end. The reality is that he does not have a considerable amount of room within which to manoeuvre.
Arsenal – although still experiencing a messy transition – are starting to adapt to regime change at the Emirates. They are three points ahead of United in the Premier League standings, where they occupy the final Europa League spot.
The prospects of Chelsea, Tottenham, Manchester City or Liverpool saving United and effectively Solskjaer are slender at best.
There is, of course, an obvious out – win the Champions League.
For all the flair and charisma that has recently manifested itself at United, the traffic that Solskjaer would need to negotiate in this season’s Champions League is more daunting than that which you will probably encounter on the N1 into Cape Town.
Solskjaer’s future at the club will rest heavily on visionary thought within the boardroom, and that culture of risk does not really exist in modern football, especially at one of the world’s most prestigious clubs. If I were Solskjaer, I wouldn’t sell my Norwegian home just yet. TEAMtalk Media