Ole Gunnar Solskjaer won the Premier League Manager of the Month Award on Friday, thus ending a run of six years and three months since the award last arrived in Carrington. Such awards are unimportant, but they can be indicative of success. With the exception of Louis Van Gaal’s outstanding 4 game run between March and April 2015, the management of Manchester United has rarely deserved plaudits. Moreso than anything else, the six-year wait highlighted the work done by Solskjaer and his management team in bridging the gap between Manchester United of 2013 – the last title winning team – and the Manchester United we see today.
The work done by Solskjaer to breathe life back into a failing Manchester United has been nothing short of exceptional. A look at the form guide since Solskjaer’s arrival in December would demonstrate that Manchester United have not only won more games than any other team since that point, they have also scored more and conceded fewer than any other team. While many would struggle to pinpoint the method to Solskjaer’s success, few have questioned the results produced by the reinvigorated Manchester United.
Few that is, except for ex-Manchester United player, Paul Ince. Ince played for Manchester United from 1989 to 1995 and was a pivotal player in United’s first Premier League winning side. He was known at the time however for attitude problems. Things turned sour between Ince and Ferguson during the 1994-95 season.
While trailing Barcelona 2-0 at the Nou Camp in November 1994, Ferguson labelled Ince “a fucking bottler” before tempers spilled over. Ince was sold in the summer of 1995. Ince would return to the Premier League in 1997 with Liverpool and celebrate wildly after scoring against United in May 1999, a goal which he then believed would cost his old team the treble.
Speaking to Paddy Power and on BT Sports last week, Ince was discussing Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s arrival at Manchester United and said:
“I could have gone in and done the same thing, so could Steve Bruce.
”Anyone could have gone in and done what he has done, it wasn’t a hard thing to do to give those players freedom and improve the mood.
“I think I could have gone in at the time. They needed someone to rest the ship, I think I could have done that.
“Brucie [Steve Bruce] could have done it, Mark Hughes could have done it.”
'I could've gone in and righted the ship, Bruce and Hughes too..'— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) February 2, 2019
Paul Ince backs himself to have had the same success as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
Stephen Warnock isn't so sure.. #SaturdaySav pic.twitter.com/3gRLMah2Vq
It’s not a view shared by all former Manchester United players. Speaking to The Busby Babe this week (full interview to follow later in the week), Class of 92 graduate Ben Thornley has said that he strongly disagreed with Ince’s statements, which he felt undermined the great work done by Solskjaer and his team since their arrival:
“I think that United have won nine and drawn one of Ole’s ten games, and [Paul Ince is] undermining his achievements by saying stuff like that. And Mike Phelan as well. Everybody. The whole lot, and for Incey to turn around like that is unfair on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.”
Thornley clarified his comment saying that the recent history of managers at Manchester United have proven it is not a job that just anyone can do.
“We’ve had David Moyes, Louis Van Gaal and now José Mourinho and even Sir Alex will tell you, that is a seat that is very very difficult, very difficult to sit in and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has come back and I’m not sure anybody would have picked him to be put in charge [but it has worked].”
Ince’s views are perhaps reflective of the arrogance demonstrated during his time at Manchester United. An ITV film crew would capture Alex Ferguson discussing Ince preparing his team for a game against Liverpool in 1998:
“He’s a bully, he’s a fucking big time Charlie.”
Manchester United were eleven points from fourth position when Ole Gunnar Solskjaer took over and following their game against Fulham at the weekend, they were in fourth position with the possibility to solidify the position as their own should Chelsea fail to beat Manchester City. While it may not be easy to pinpoint what Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has brought to Manchester United and their team, the table doesn’t lie. As Ben Thornley suggested; Moyes, Van Gaal and Mourinho each failed to produce a winning team in Manchester so there is more to it that Ince, Hughes or Brucie might think.