Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s pursuit to become the permanent manager of Manchester United is becoming more imperative with every match. In just one month, the Norwegian has not only made United football watchable, but also fun. In perhaps United’s most competitive match since succeeding José Mourinho, the Red Devils emerged victorious against Big Six side Tottenham. Furthermore, Ole gave himself a slight advantage against Mauricio Pochettino, his direct competition for the job.
At this point, it’s a matter of what Solskjaer would have to continue doing in order to solidify his position as manager of the club he once achieved substantial success with. While the final decision may have to wait until the culmination of the current campaign, there are several elements the 45 year-old could do between now and then to separate himself from the competition.
Keep winning games
It’s obviously the easiest answer, but in the José Mourinho era, each game — whether against top-four clubs or bottom of the table sides — was a contentious meeting. United fans can take their pick of which embarrassing defeat eventually confirmed that the Portuguese had overstayed his welcome at Old Trafford, and even more draws that should have been three easy points.
Since Solskjaer’s appointment, United have yet to taste defeat. In seven games across all competitions, United have grabbed all wins, and played with plenty of confidence to boot. Prior to December 18, adding a trophy to the cabinet this year seemed unlikely. With top four looking out of reach week by week, and Champions League prospects looking just as bleak, it appeared this would serve as yet another “rebuilding” year for the most winning club in England.
While the Premier League (and perchance the Champions League, too) are unattainable, the FA Cup remains a feasible opportunity to taste success in the form of silverware this campaign. United travel to North London on Friday to take on Arsenal in the 4th round of the FA Cup, and it will be another test of resilience for the roster. Unai Emery’s men are coming off a convincing win against Chelsea, and are level with the Red Devils on points for fifth place.
A win against another competitive side, and finishing his first official month in charge with a victory over Burnley could see United fit and confident for a testy performance against PSG.
Pair freedom of expression with a winning mentality
One of Ole’s first orders of business when he assumed authority was to inform Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial that he wanted them to spend less energy running back to defend so that they could exploit their talents up front where it mattered. Well, it looks like that advice has paid off. Rashford is perhaps having his best spell since his incredible debut season at Old Trafford. In the last 10 games, the English international has scored seven times.
Once rumored to be taking his talents elsewhere, Martial is now ready to make Manchester his permanent home. Multiple reports have alleged that the Frenchman has agreed to a five-year extension with the Red Devils, citing the new regime as part of his motivation behind staying. Martial has found the back of the net eight times this year, and has emerged as the favorite up top alongside Rashford and Jesse Lingard.
There’s a substantial amount of visible morale that has resulted from this advice, as well as goals to strengthen Ole’s approach. Furthermore, it points to how out of touch José Mourinho was with his style, and how desperately United deserved someone who understood the club, the players, and the fans.
Make use of the January transfer window
According to the Manchester Evening News, Solskjaer is set to receive a “£60m transfer budget during the January window.” With the Champions League set to return in three weeks, United could use some significant help defensively, particularly in the form of a spry right-back.
Even when Antonio Valencia makes his return, the Ecuadorian is in no form to measure against the attacking force of the incoming PSG offense. While he has shown signs of excellence, Diogo Dalot is in need of a mature mentor to improve his form. With the offense in a good position until the summer transfer period, a defensive shake-up is necessary to make a case for larger signings later this year.
Thankfully, there has been newfound consistency in Victor Lindelöf. The Swedish international is flourishing under the greater responsibility and has blossomed into a trustworthy centre-back. While the desperation for United to bolster the back grows each week, Ole’s brilliant use of the players currently at his disposal has enabled his men to make the most of the robust counter-attacking threat they have.
As the last seven matches were important in the Solskjaer era, the next seven are even more important to cement his future with Manchester United Football Club. The bubble may ultimately burst and United will experience a disheartening loss, but for now there is a caretaker manager that has placed the needs of his club before anything else, and aptly deserves to be rewarded for doing so.
What will it take for Solskjaer to earn the permanent Manchester United manager role?
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Top Four AND a trophy
Top Four OR a trophy
Champions League win
CL and FA Cup double
Other (describe in comments)