Ole’s at the Wheel!
It is truly amazing what one individual can accomplish with so many odds stacked against them. If we go back to December 2018, Manchester United sacked Jose Mourinho after finally realizing he wasn’t bringing the club any success. Enter Ole Gunnar Solskaer, a former Manchester United player, turned manager at Molde, a football club in his native country of Norway. Ole is a rookie manager, who infamously managed Cardiff City barely a season before he was sacked. He has never managed a top-flight club. It was extremely puzzling when he was annouced as Caretaker Manager for the remainder of the season. Ole brought along Mick Phelan, Kieran McGill, and current Assistant Manager Michael Carrick as his coaching staff. These announcements were a welcomed change for the club supporters, but hopes of salvaging the season were all but dashed.
And then Manchester United beat Cardiff City 5-1. It was a welcomed sight for the supporters. But still, no one was getting too excited. Then United beat Huddersfield 3-1, AFC Bournemouth 4-1, and Newcastle United 2-0. Four in a row to start started bringing some buzz to the club. Ole seemed to have gotten a hold of the reins, and he finally gained control of the free fall Manchester United were in. However, criticism started that the club hadn’t beat a top-tier team. The next fixture up was Tottenham Hotspur. United won 1-0.
This is when the conversation began to change. Supporters were considering if whether United should hire Ole as the manager on a permanent basis. But again, the sample size was too small to make such a big decision. The Board of Directors, the supporters, and even Ole Gunnar Solskaer himself said this wasn’t enough. Ole insisted in every interview he gave he would only manage the club till the end of the season. The reason for this was because Manchester United were looking to hire Mauricio Pochettino as their next manager. However, the conversation turned a corner because Ole just beat him in the 1-0 victory against Tottenham Hotspur.
Manchester United continued their undefeated run in the Premier League, winning three games and drawing one. The momentum United carried into the Champions League Round of 16 fixture against Paris-Saint Germain was undisputable. More importantly, PSG were in trouble as they were going into the first leg missing many of their main starters in Neymar, Edison Cavani, and Thomas Muenier due to injury. Marco Verrati. The first leg would be played at Old Trafford, where nearly everyone thought United would win by a comfortable margin to make the away leg a simpler task. What followed was anything but a disaster for Solskjaer. He had to make all three substitutions in the first half for injuries and in the end United lost 2-0. It was the team’s first loss under Solskjaer and it certainly made any hope of a Champions League run dashed in the minds of nearly every analyst and supporter worldwide.
And then the unthinkable happened. United went for the second leg in Paris, and won. However, it was the way it was done that was so inspiring and epic that it sent waves across the globe of what this club had accomplished. The odds were even more stacked against United in the second leg. They were still without many of their first team selections due to injury and suspension. Solskjaer was forced to deploy a very inexperienced young squad for the game. Now United came out strong with Romelu Lukaku scoring only two minutes into the match to make the aggregate score 2-1. PSG answered back to make it 3-1. Lukaku traded back another goal to make it 3-2. It was this goal that really put a new factor into the game. PSG couldn’t hold back United and realized they needed a goal to truly seal themselves into the quarterfinals. They would never get it despite the fact they had great chances. It all came down unfortunately to VAR. But it came all from a reaction from United defender Diogo Dalot when he drew attention to a PSG defender guilty of handball while deflecting a shot at goal. When the referee reviewed the footage he called for the penalty. United’s Marcus Rashford stepped up and put United through to the quarterfinals on the away goal rule for aggregate score.
Under Jose Mourinho, United wouldn’t have put up the fight that they did for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. Despite the mistakes, the lack of talent to match their opponent, you saw a Manchester United team that was fighting for their manager. They all enjoy playing for him and the results on the field show. Regardless of their recent losses to Arsenal and Wolves, and the implications of those losses, Ole has earned his spot as manager. Inserting a new manager into the team makes for having to completely institute a new culture and philosophy where none need be put. If something isn’t broken then don’t try to fix it. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is the caretaker manager of Manchester United, but his new role should be as full-time manager of Manchester United. He is a bright future for the club, but let’s hope the hierarchy of the club see the same sentiment.
Hailing from New York City from the borough of Brooklyn, Dillon is a die-hard New York sports fan. He currently resides in Upstate New York, where he studies at Wells College in Aurora, NY.
Follow him on Twitter @thedavistirado and the other MFST writers.
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