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ole doubt I'm not convinced Solskjaer is the man to turn Man United into a champion club again


Roy Keane and Gary Neville were the real leaders of the Alex Fergsuon era

Roy Keane and Gary Neville were the real leaders of the Alex Fergsuon era

Roy Keane and Gary Neville were the real leaders of the Alex Fergsuon era

THE only consistent thing about Manchester United right now is that they are inconsistent.

A few days after a great result, beating Manchester City on their own ground, the team threw in another insipid performance against AC Milan last Thursday night.

It leaves the Red Devils scrapping for their lives in the Europa League next Thursday night, a trophy they ought to have ringed on their target board as one they could win.

And let’s not forget this was not at all a full-strength Milan side.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Mario Mandzukic and Ante Rebic were three top forwards on the Italian club’s roster who didn’t play.

And yet, AC Milan created plenty of scoring chances and always loked dangerous – even when they were a goal down.

It was yet another below-par performance from United, one of far too many from the team this season.


Alex Ferguson speaks to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

Alex Ferguson speaks to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

Alex Ferguson speaks to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

I like Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. I like him as a person and as a man who understands the club and steadied the ship when it was in turmoil.

But I am just not at all convinced that he is the man to turn Manchester United into a champion club again.

That’s a different job and there is no sign of it coming to fruition any time soon.

Ole is lucky that quite a number of front-line media pundits around – think Gary Neville, Roy Keane, Andy Cole and Paul Scholes, all with big jobs in British television – are old team-mates and, understandably, are reluctant to put the boot in on him.

But before you point out that the team sits second in the Premier League table this weekend, I offer the reply that Jose Mourinho (above) finished second with United too.

And there were many, many, Manchester United supporters who could not wait to get rid of ‘the Special One.’

Jose also helped United win a few trophies in his time there, not lose in semi-finals on a regular basis.

There’s another thing about being second this season.


Former old Trafford heroes Ryan Giggs and Roy Keane

Former old Trafford heroes Ryan Giggs and Roy Keane

Former old Trafford heroes Ryan Giggs and Roy Keane

It is clear this spectator-less Premier League of 2020/21 is anything but vintage.

Liverpool’s run of two seasons with more or less the same squad, where they hardly had an injury, came crashing to an end and a failure to restock has cost them.

Chelsea needed to change their manager to get going, while Spurs and Arsenal never got going at all.

You would be worried if United couldn’t be second this season, and they weren’t for a long time, mucking about in mid-table mediocrity earlier in the season.

A good run of away wins carried them a good way up the table.

But the inability to break down teams who sit back in front of United, which is the way almost every visitor to Old Trafford works, cost them dearly in home draws and even defeats to the likes of Sheffield United.

There, and then, any faint hope of mounting a title challenge slipped away.

My main issue with Ole is that there is no clear, discernible pattern of play from week to week.

There’s isn’t the pace and control of Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City, not the ‘gegenpressing’ of Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool that was the mark of their team when they were going so well.

From match to match, their approach to a game changes, and I notice that when playing a top side it is always done with a cautious approach.

I suspect that Ole, after the loss to Spurs earlier this season, has always set up his team against the better sides to avoid another spanking.

Sometimes it works, as it did last Sunday, other days it ends up with United boring us all to tears.

And boring the supporters is not in the DNA of the club.

I’ve argued it here before, and I’ll do it again now. There are half a dozen players in this Manchester United group who are not comfortable with the notion of being Manchester United players.

Real Madrid and the national teams of Brazil and Germany are three teams, like Manchester United, where you have to cope with the reality that you are expected to win every time you slip on a pair of football boots.

It takes a special kind of player to deal with that relentless pressure to win.

Roy Keane revelled in it at United. As did Gary Neville and lads like Steve Bruce and, of course, Eric Cantona.

The Frenchman remains the classic example of a player who rose to the measure of being a Manchester United player – ‘chest out, shoulders back, put it on me and I’ll deliver.’

As I see it, too many of the current group are looking for the soft five-yard pass backwards to a team-mate.

If they are doing that under orders from the manager, then the club really has a problem.

Today, United take on West Ham, a club having a fine season under David Moyes.

Many people, myself included, had the Hammers down as possible relegation material this season.

They were clearly struggling to cope with a move to the modern, swish, Olympic Stadium and its running track that was an uncomfortable fit with their fans, who cherished the days in the East End of London on the tight pitch of Upton Park.

But West Ham are one of the few clubs who have benefited, I believe, from the lack of those same fans at the ground.

Now there is no tension, no aggro coming down from the seats or protests at the board.

The players are just getting on with playing good football, and winning matches, under Moyes.

Yet there’s every chance that West Ham will do what all teams do in Manchester these days, sit back in the first 20 minutes, have a look, and see what sort of mood Manchester United are in

And if it is not the sunny mood that saw United beat City last week, there’s every chance that West Ham will head back down the M1 with a least a point this evening to keep their unlikely journey towards a Champions League place going.

You know, West Ham getting into the top four is just the sort of way this often daft season might end.

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