Ole Gunnar Solskjaer takes responsibility for his 100th birthday. Play as manager of Manchester United when Arsenal visits Old Trafford on Sunday. The Norwegian has had his ups and downs since he replaced Jose Mourinho, initially on a temporary basis in December 2018.
There have been some incredible highs and lows, such as the spectacular Champions League won at St Germain de Paris in March 2019, and some humiliating lows, such as the recent 6-1 defeat at home against Mourinho Tottenham in the Premier League earlier this month. Solskjaer did not return to the Champions League with United until 2020, but he led the team to beat in three cup semifinals. He oversaw the emergence and development of local talent, including Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood, but also struggled to build a strong defensive and cohesive team.
So how is Solskjär preparing for the height of the century at the helm of United – winning 56 of 99 races, how does he measure that? Is United going to fall back into the line under their former player, or are they going around in circles? ESPN tried to find the answer.
Young adult players
From the beginning, Solskjaer has put his trust in United’s own youth team. It began with the rebirth of Rashford after a difficult period for the English striker under Jose Mourinho and has grown to provide sustainable opportunities for Scott McTominay, Brandon Williams and Greenwood.
Luis van Gaal also put his trust in the young men of United during his two years in office, but the Dutchman gave too many of them a chance when they were not good enough. Solskjär has managed to bring well out of indifference, and United now have a core of young players who can form the basis of the team for many years to come.
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Recruiting players for United has been a constant challenge in recent years, because the club has gone from one costly mistake to another, especially during Van Gaal’s term of office. But despite the fact that Solskjaer has not achieved all his goals, the vast majority of his signatures have improved the team and they have been recruited as part of a well thought-out strategy.
Central defender Harry Maguire and right winger Aaron Van Bissac improved the defence of the squad, while midfielder Bruno Fernandez made it a third striker.
Under Solsker, signatures were made with an obvious role and although this seems to be a basic condition, it did not always take place before his appointment.
Stars with bad grades
Solskjaer inherited from Mourinho an unbalanced side with too many players who simply did not live up to expectations and ruthlessly abandoned those who did not fit into his United plan.
Romel Lukaku has scored 41 goals for Inter Milan in 57 games since he left United 2019, but the Belgian was out of shape and blocked the passage from Greenwood to the first team. So the manager made a big decision – the right one – and let him go. Alexis Sanchez was also released after a disastrous 18 months at Old Trafford – he went to Lukaku inland – while Marwan Fellini, who was a good servant at United, was allowed to go to Shandong Luneng because he was committed to Solskaer’s football philosophy.
Chris Smallling (Roma), Ashley Young (Inter), Matteo Darmian (Parma) and Antonio Valencia (released) were also relieved when Solskjaer tried to rebuild unity.
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Change of scenery.
By the time he was fired, Mourinho Old Trafford had already fallen at a disadvantage, which means the first task of the Solskiers was to change the atmosphere on and off the field. He did it right away and won 11 wins, starting with the first 12 games – an order that changed the atmosphere in the locker room and among the fans.
Since then there have been ups and downs in terms of results, but the mood is essentially positive and there is again a sense of unity in Old Trafford and surroundings.
reconstituted unified DNA
United under Solskier is certainly not ready yet, but it has done what none of its closest predecessors (Mourinho, Van Gaal and David Moyes) wanted or could do: He had another team that attacked football in the style of the United States. It doesn’t always work, as some results from United led by Norway have shown, but there is now the feeling that the team will play in the front line instead of the safe approach of Moyes, Van Gaal and Mourinho.
Since the resignation of Sir Alex Ferguson in 2013, United has had some memorable or exciting moments, but almost all of them took place under Solskjar.
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Mark Ogden believes that the extreme ups and downs of Man United under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer make it difficult to praise the manager.
In almost two years of work, Solskhar has failed to eradicate the highly controversial form that has led to these extreme ups and downs.
United have some incredible races near Solskier – 11 victories from 12 in 2018-19, 14 games unbeaten and a third place finish at the end of last season – but there are also some disturbing setbacks, including two victories from nine at the beginning of last season (the worst Premier League debut in United history) and eight defeats in 12 games in all competitions at the end of the 2018-19 season. On paper it looks like an improvement this season: Six victories in nine games, but two defeats, against Crystal Palace and the Spurs, which allowed nine goals.
A combination of hot and cold near Solskier, with apparently nothing in between.
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Wednesday’s 5-0 victory at RB Leipzig in the Champions League, in which Solskjaer turned the midfielder and made a series of successful substitutions, is a rare example of the Norwegian’s victory in a tactical match against his opponents.
Too often Solsker is overwhelmed, and the biggest concern is his inability to act when things go wrong. This season alone, the home defeats of Palace and Spurs after United’s delay have gone from bad to worse, and the turmoil among players on the pitch makes it clear that the manager needs to give better instructions.
A high-level coach makes adjustments to change the game in a positive way. This rarely happens to Solskier.
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Julien Lawrence believes that Man United made a tactical mistake by bringing Paul Pogb and Edinson Cavanagh into the game against Chelsea.
Solskjar managed to get rid of the players who couldn’t play, but he got stuck with the managers who dropped him on the transfer market several times. Despite this sad reality, Mr. Solskjaer must learn how to successfully lobby Executive Vice President Ed Woodward and negotiator Matt Judge for results.
Last December, Solskjaer had verbally signed an agreement with Salzburg striker Erling Haaland, but this failed because Woodward and the judge could not seal the transfer and instead allowed Borussia to sign it for a modest sum of around 20 million euros. Haaland scored 23 goals in 26 games for his new club.
This summer Solskier Woodward and the judge were unable to sign important goals such as Dortmund’s Judo Sancho, Aston Villa midfielder Jack Grilish, RB Leipzig defender Deyot Apamecano and Birmingham midfielder Jude Bellingham.
Solskjaer does not defy his bosses as openly as Mourinho and Van Gaal, and for some United fans, his failure is indicative of the weakness of the manager’s arsenal.
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Not an obvious plan.
After 99 races we still don’t know how Solskjaer United will get back on top. He used a 4-3-3 formation, played with three players on their backs and placed the diamond in the middle of the field, but always seems to try to find what works best for his players. It’s hard to imagine that people like Pep Guardiola, Jurgen Klopp, Mourinho or Mauricio Pochettino still don’t know how to play the starring role after 99 games, but every time United plays, it’s a gambling game about how they’re going to play.
Of course, it’s the only way to succeed, but under Solsker there’s still a mess.
For every positive result with Solskjaer it is easy to answer negative. He did a lot of good in his time and that indicates a lack of leadership within the club before he arrived, which made United’s predictions under his leadership so difficult.
Even now, with 99 games in progress, it still has to print the bad decisions made in the previous modes. But after almost two years there really should be a clearer roadmap than the one we have now. The defense still needs reinforcements and midfield remains a mystery because of the conflicting qualities of Solskjar’s players. As far as the attack is concerned, United can threaten even the best opponents, but if their counter-attack approach doesn’t work – especially against the weaker teams – they don’t have a plan B.
In the end United is now in a better position than when Solskjær arrived, but progress is slow and disappointing. And even if they meet Bundesliga leaders RB Leipzig on Wednesday, it will come as no surprise as United slip up against Arsenal on Sunday.
During the great periods of Solski’s reign, he took two steps forward and one step back, and when he was getting ready to celebrate his 100th birthday, he was also a great leader. When the game’s over, she’s still standing.