| 4.7°C Dublin

comment Set next to Klopp or Guardiola or Tuchel, Solskjaer is exposed as a join-the-dots civil servant

Three years into his ascendancy, there is still no evident tactical masterplan from the United gaffer

Close

Manchester United midfielder Fred and manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

Manchester United midfielder Fred and manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

Manchester United midfielder Fred and manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

It wouldn’t have blown off the Old Trafford doors in the fashion of Cristiano Ronaldo’s convulsive second coming.

Manchester United’s superstore tills would barely have registered his arrival; in unplugging grenades of hype and hope, his signature would have lagged a thousand times the length of Matt Busby Way behind CR7’s messianic return.

Yet, in terms of Making United Great Again, the suspicion here – based on the evidence of his immediately metamorphic body of work 210 miles due south - is that he might have left even the freakishly athletic and charismatically gargantuan 36-year-old Portuguese in his wake.

Thomas Tuchel has been comfortably the most prodigious gamechanger to parachute into the Premier League in 2021.

The innovative German coach could have been United’s in January had Ed Woodward not been hypnotised by a baseless fairytale, the one that has Ole Gunnar Solskjaer restoring the House of Fergie to its whirlwind of old glories.

Close

Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel and Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer after Sunday's Premier League match

Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel and Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer after Sunday's Premier League match

Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel and Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer after Sunday's Premier League match

In just eight months of fizzbombing change, Tuchel has delivered to Chelsea the kind of cultural revolution that Solskjaer is unlikely to equal if he endures as long in Manchester as the eternal Sir Alex himself.

What Tuchel has executed in the blink of an eye is, almost to the letter, the job spec required to renovate the tattered Theatre of Dreams, to restore the red machine to its long forfeited Ferguson-era factory settings.

He replaced a beloved but over-promoted club legend (sound familiar, United fans?) and, virtually overnight, reimagined an expensively-assembled, underachieving squad into a Champions League winning force of nature.

Where Roman Abramovich recognised Frank Lampard was not up to the job and did not hesitate for even a millisecond to dispatch the iconic former captain to managerial Siberia, Woodward remains a slave to sentiment and delusion.

A manservant to some warped fantasy, he simply will not accept that his emperor is wearing no clothes.

Solskjaer, all cherubic smiles and even-tempered reasonableness, is a decent human being plainly out of his depth among the tactical grandmasters and reptilian, cold-eyed killers of the sideline swamplands.

He is not by any means a terrible manager: It is just that at the highest level, set next to Klopp or Guardiola or Tuchel, he is exposed as a join-the-dots civil servant in the company of impatient, innovative, inspirational genius.

Solskjaer is the Fred of management: A hard-working artisan who is overmatched on the highest rungs of the football ladder, his limitations brutally exposed in the penthouse suites where aristocrats like Manchester United reside and compete for scarce resources.

Sunday World Newsletter

Sign up for the latest news and updates

This field is required This field is required

Tuchel inherited a disoriented rabble, one which trailed, among others, West Ham, Everton and Aston Villa in the mid-January Premier League standings.

In his first 81 days he took down Pep Guardiola, Jurgen Klopp, Carlo Ancelotti, Diego Simeone and Jose Mourinho without conceding a single goal.

Just four months into his Chelsea imperium he gifted Abramovich the Champions League that is the measure of the Russian's dreams.

On that May night at the Estadio de Dragao, Tuchel became only the second man alive – after Klopp - to inflict three consecutive head to head defeats on Guardiola in all the Spaniard's treasure-laden years at Barca, Bayern and City.

Close

Executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward is leaving Manchester United (Martin Rickett/PA)

Executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward is leaving Manchester United (Martin Rickett/PA)

Executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward is leaving Manchester United (Martin Rickett/PA)

This is the level at which Stamford Bridge's visionary leader operates.

Solskjaer, meanwhile, is the longest serving United manager not to have won a trophy since the hapless, monochrome Dave Sexton.

Three years into his ascendancy, there is still no evident tactical masterplan; his team remain philosophically bipolar, their personality shifting from week to week in an unconvincing hotchpotch of strategies.

Compare that to Chelsea under Tuchel, Liverpool under Klopp or Manchester City under Guardiola, clubs with an immediately evident ideology, a clearly defined style, system and doctrine understood by everybody at the club.

In times of crisis, Ole seems dazzled and paralysed by the blinding headlights of pressure.

Compare the Norwegian’s ineffective fumbling when United were reduced to ten men in Berne a week ago with Tuchel’s masterclass after Reece James was red-carded at Anfield.

Where United surrendered momentum and victory to the enthusiastic, but C-list Young Boys, Tuchel shut down and frustrated an outstanding Liverpool team in what felt like an early defining thrust in this year’s title race.

Tuchel’s capacity to influence a contest even as it unfolds was evident again on Sunday.

Spurs had outplayed Chelsea in the first half of their London derby, prompting the visiting manager to reach for the Botox needle, N’Golo Kante replacing Mason Mount in a tactical facelift that gave The Blues a vital new look.

Tottenham were immediately suffocated, their cross city foes cruising to a three-goal victory. Tuchel had been a decisive difference-maker.

United and Chelsea have each accumulated 13 points from five games.

But where Solskjaer has been held by Southampton and is yet to confront a Top Four rival, Tuchel has already swatted aside so-called Big Six clubs Spurs and Arsenal (by an aggregate score of 5-0) while making that resounding 10-man statement at Anfield.

On Saturday lunchtime Chelsea host Manchester City in a Champions League final reprise which, even in these early chapters of the season, feels like a significant plot line in how the entire story will ultimately unfold.

Already this season’s Top Four appear cast in stone: It is almost unthinkable that anybody other than Chelsea, Liverpool and the two Manchester clubs will race clear to claim the quartet of Champions League visas on offer.

United’s summer spending has gifted them equivalent depth and attacking talent to their rivals; there is optimism than the hugely decorated Raphael Varane can be their Van Dijk or Dias.

Other than a truly top level holding midfielder, their squad has no evident fissures.

Rather, the rip in the cloth is on the sideline.

Remember Solskjaer's fumbling in last season’s Europa League final, his inability that same campaign to escape the Champions League group stages, the concerning catalogue of semi-final failures.

Ole is at the wheel, a Mister Nice Guy who on the biggest days resembles a nervy, seat-belted, speed-limit-observing Sunday driver bedazzled by the sonic boom as Tuchel and others born for the fast lane race away over the horizon.

Download the Sunday World app

Now download the free app for all the latest Sunday World News, Crime, Irish Showbiz and Sport. Available on Apple and Android devices


Top Videos





Privacy