Has the Norwegian done enough? Or is he about to get a reality check against the Gunners?
Arsenal v Manchester United, Sunday 10 March, 4.15pm, Sky Sports Premier League/HD (CH 512/502)
All eyes will be on the Emirates Stadium this Sunday when top-four contenders Arsenal and Manchester United square off live and exclusive on Sky Sports Premier League.
Not only will this unmissable showdown have a big say in deciding who qualifies for the Champions League, it could also have a serious effect on whether or not interim Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjær is given the manager’s job permanently.
The Norwegian has reinvigorated the Red Devils since he took caretaker charge in December – but has he done enough to stay in the Old Trafford hot seat beyond the end of the season?
Here, two of our sports writers argue it out…
Should Solksjær be made permanent Manchester United manager?
Jack Prescott: YES! He’s brought joy back to the club
The swagger is back
In the months leading up to José Mourinho’s sacking, United had drifted so far from the club’s swashbuckling traditions it was like the preceding 100-odd years had never happened. Like a mirthless python, Mourinho strangled all joy from the players and fans with his beige tactics and obdurate outlook. It was as if he hated football and wanted everyone else to hate it too. In contrast, Solskjær has United playing with adventure. The defence is organised, Paul Pogba is looking like Paul Pogba, and the front three of Rashford, Lingard and Martial are giving defenders nightmares and supporters goosebumps.
His head is screwed on right
How refreshing it is to see a Manchester United manager get on with the press, his players and, well, pretty much everyone. When Mourinho was at the Old Trafford helm, it was impossible to know what words were going to come out of his mouth next. Complaints? Praise? Fury? Sometimes it felt like even José didn’t know. As for Solskjær, he isn’t interested in generating headlines or showing everyone he’s the top dog – all he’s trying to do is get United winning again. Ultimately, a club this big needs a safe and level-headed person steering the ship. That’ll be the Norwegian.
The fans love him
It probably didn’t cross his mind at the time, but scoring the winner against Bayern Munich in the 1999 Champions League final meant Solskjær would never have to buy a pint in Manchester ever again. Having the undying love and respect of the fans puts him in the box seat for the job. Other potential candidates may be bigger names in the world of football, but he understands the club – and what the fans crave – better than all of them. Solskjær and United? It’s the perfect fit, and it’s staring the board right in the face.
James Lynch: NO! This is a false dawn for United
This may not be the miracle we’ve been led to believe
There’s no denying that United under Solskjær have been impressive. However, was it really that difficult to turn things around from the mess the club was in when Mourinho left? The Portuguese had alienated the players and the fans, so surely any friendly face with a fresh attitude could have come in and reinvigorated the team. Despite their unbeaten run under Solskjær, if you take a closer look at United’s domestic form you see a string of wins against teams from the lower half of the league – plus he failed in his biggest test so far, with the first-leg loss against PSG in the Champions League.
History isn’t on his side
If you go back to the last time Solskjær managed in the Premier League, things don’t look quite so rosy. The year was 2014 and the club was Cardiff City. Having gained promotion under Malky Mackay, the Bluebirds struggled for points and eventually ditched the Scot, super-subbing Solskjær in to keep them up. Unfortunately, the Norwegian’s attacking style of play didn’t work out and after 12 defeats in 18 league games, Cardiff were relegated. Solskjær made nine signings that summer in an attempt to ready his squad for a promotion push, but it didn’t work. He was sacked after just nine months in charge, a sure case of his managerial ability not quite matching his ambition.
Just wait and see…
And so we get the crux of the issue: Solskjær’s managerial experience so far. While successful in Norway with Molde FK, his Premier League pedigree outside of the past couple of months is less than impressive. Despite taking his cues from Alex Ferguson, he just isn’t the force of nature that Fergie was, and you can’t imagine such a nice man doling out the hairdryer treatment when his players deserve it. This does leave you wondering what he might be like when things do go wrong. It also remains to be seen whether Solskjær can hold his own in dealings with the Manchester United board and cope with all the inner workings of such a behemoth of a club…
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