Win­ning’s name of game for Sol­sk­jaer

CityPress - - Sport - SIYABONGA MCHUNU [email protected]­ –

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

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