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Heaven or hell awaits for Ole

Future of Old Trafford chief hangs in the balance but he won't be held to ransom

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Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, needs more bodies

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, needs more bodies

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Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, needs more bodies

Oke Gunnar Solskjaer should be wringing his hands right now.

For unless Borussia Dortmund's sporting director is lying through his teeth, Jadon Sancho will remain at the German club as Manchester United have refused to pay their £108m asking price for the winger.

And so Solskjaer's No 1 target of the summer, a project that has been worked on for almost a year, will fall apart come the 11pm closure of tomorrow's transfer window.

Meanwhile, the Old Trafford boss will lock horns with his predecessor, Jose Mourinho, today at the start of an eight-game sequence that could be heaven or hell.

This afternoon's clash with Tottenham marks the start of an international break.

By the start of the next one, in early November, the expected failure to bring in any major player other than Donny van de Beek may well be taking its toll on Solskjaer and his team.

The restart following the internationals will be at Newcastle on October 17, quickly followed by the beginning of what looks like a nightmare Champions League group with a visit to Paris Saint-Germain.

Home fixtures against Chelsea, Red Bull Leipzig and Arsenal follow, before Solskjaer's side travel to Istanbul to take on Basaksehir. Then, there is a trip to Goodison Park and a confrontation with a vastly-improved Everton.

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Donny van de Beek has been Solskjaer’s only major signing this summer

Donny van de Beek has been Solskjaer’s only major signing this summer

PA

Donny van de Beek has been Solskjaer’s only major signing this summer

It is a brutal set of games - and having himself said that he needed more bodies, the Norwegian should be deeply concerned.

Yet, he believes that his club are right to draw a line in the sand over how much they pay. That just throwing money at the problem is not the way to solve things.

He still wants Sancho but is prepared to wait that extra season as he prefers to concentrate on making sure that things are done right on his watch, even if the delay, potentially, imperils his own position.

He declares: "When you sign players, you want to make sure they are the right ones for the club. It's easy to pick out the best players in the world. Every clubs knows about them.

"But the process in recruitment and scouting is vital. You need to make sure that when you invest money, it is well spent. I think the people we have involved to monitor and identify players are doing a good job.

"When I came in, my view was that we had to give young players a chance, that we had to see if we could find something in our own ranks. That has worked well.

"We've also lost a few good players who have gone on to do well at other clubs - but we felt that, moving forward, we wanted to go in a different direction."

Bullied

Little wonder that Solskjaer wanted to head down a different route to spending simply for the sake of it, and paying through the nose, as United always seem to in the transfer market.

When he took over from Mourinho, he found Paul Pogba, who cost a club record £94m, in a state of depression and rebellion, sick of being bullied by the Special One.

Romelu Lukaku, who cost £76m, was going through the motions, as was £54m Anthony Martial.

And there was, of course, Alexis Sanchez, who was being paid up to £505,000 a week. But he played like an imposter of the winger who had looked such a world-beater at Arsenal.

Before all that lot, there was Angel Di Maria, who arrived for £67.5m from Real Madrid and barely lasted five minutes.

Pogba, since Solskjaer arrived, has begun to take an interest in proceedings again, while Martial finally hit 20 goals in a season.

Yet, the evidence of just spending big for the sake of spending big tells Solskjaer that the expected failure to land Sancho is not the disaster some will make it seem when the window closes.

He believes that in showing faith in the likes of 18-year-old Mason Greenwood, he has been vindicated, and says there is far more care going into buying players - as opposed to buying them for the sake of it.

He says: "I don't want to talk about names who didn't have a successful career at United before moving on, because there are different reasons for people not being a success at the club. But, yes, we have to be very thorough and very sure when we put big money down for players.

"They have to be right for the future, for now, for the group that is already here, and consideration has to be given as to how they will affect other players.

"It's more complex and a bigger operation than just pointing a finger at a player and saying, 'He's got the quality'. It's more complicated than that."

Solskjaer can point to Aaron Wan-Bissaka as an example of United's strategy in the market.

The right-back arrived at the start of last season for £50m, is still aged only 22, and has fit right in at Old Trafford.

The United boss says: "Aaron is very young still and came on to the scene with Crystal Palace. He had exceptional one-against-one skills, defensively.

Focused

"He must be the best for me. It is almost virtually impossible to go past him one against one.

"There are different aspects to his game he needs to learn and develop and be better at. He knows that. That comes down to what he wants to do every single day. How focused he is.

"I always say about players, the best players, that they want to learn and they want to be better. They coach themselves and think about their own game, what they need to do to improve.

"Aaron grew in respect of his confidence. It was his first season at Manchester United and he saw that he fits in here.

"That's a big thing, too, that he knows that we trust him to improve. We do. The next step now is for him to kick on.

"He's not going to have the same qualities as Liverpool's Trent Alexander-Arnold, who is probably the best crosser of the ball in Europe at the moment.

"But why not look at Aaron and say, 'Yeah, your qualities here are the best and you can improve different things, definitely. He knows that.

"So, when you buy players, you want them to have not only the quality but the desire and the determination to really be part of it all. Like Aaron."

Norwegian believes that spending for the sake of it is not the way to go

  • Man United v Tottenham; Premier League, today 4.30pm, live Sky Spt channel