After narrowly coming away with victories at home to Leicester City and Astana last week, Manchester United’s latest in a string of uninspiring performances saw them put to the sword by West Ham. The 2-0 defeat at the London Stadium was the last straw for many fans, and has led to calls for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s reign to be cut short. While fans should by no means sit back and quietly accept yet another abysmal showing from the English giants, Ole should not be the target when airing their frustrations, and here’s why:
Listen to the Players
There have been lingering questions about the direction of the club since the day David Moyes was named Sir Alex Ferguson’s successor. The appointments of Louis Van Gaal and José Mourinho created the impression that the club was finally on the right track, but from the moment each manager took charge of his first game the club still seemed in disarray both on and off the pitch. Under Solskjaer, however, the feeling is clearly different. Both David De Gea and Victor Lindelöf have signed new deals, indicating that they see the club moving in the right direction and that they want to be part of it. More blatantly, in an interview with Gary Lineker, Marcus Rashford said, “Everyone is confident in the manager … [he’s giving] a plan for years.” If the players back this manager, then you should, too.
Listen to the Ex-Managers
In his new role as a pundit on Sky Sports, José Mourinho was undoubtedly licking his lips when he was assigned to Manchester United’s opening fixture this season. In his post game commentary, Mourinho didn’t hesitate to confirm he was not backed in the transfer market after finishing second in the league, saying, “I didn’t think we did enough in the transfer market,” and that Harry Maguire, “arrived one year late.”
Another former manager who was never shy of getting animated in front of the camera, Louis Van Gaal, also took the liberty of speaking candidly on his aggravations during his time at Old Trafford. The Dutchman quite bluntly stated, “At Manchester United … Ed Woodward was installed as CEO, somebody with zero understanding of football who was previously an investment banker. It cannot be a good thing when a club is run solely from a commercially-driven perspective.”
Derek Langley, a former scout who discovered the likes of Marcus Rashford and Gerard Pique, also went public with his complaints against the board. “We had God knows how many reports on Matthijs de Ligt … Frenkie de Jong … Dayot Upamecano,” Langley told the Manchester Evening News in December, 2018. He went on, “I told [Ed Woodward] that I wasn’t convinced with the competency of certain people at the club … Manchester United thanked me for the time I spent there and the players I’d taken in, but ultimately we could have been so much better if people had listened.”
Again, if the people closest to the club are placing the blame on the executives, then you should, too.
Familiarize yourself with the history
The current generation of Manchester United supporters have been spoiled by the successes achieved under Sir Alex Ferguson. What they may not know, however, is that United were relegated in 1974 after the Holy Trinity of George Best, Denis Law and Bobby Charlton had left the club, and at the start of Ferguson tenure the club struggled so much that one fan infamously created a banner reading, “Three years of excuses and it’s still crap ... ta-ra Fergie.” It wasn’t until the Scot won the FA Cup in his third season that his legendary career took off. The takeaway here is that, unfortunately, football is cyclical and United is currently in a trough.
Come back to reality
The club is in a rebuilding phase. While that justification for the lack of results won’t work forever, it’s important to note the differences in the actual rebuilding. Unlike the past six seasons, the club isn’t blindly throwing money at the problem. All three of Ole’s signings were intentionally selected and have been huge hits. Ole has also done what no other post-Fergie manager before him was bold enough to do: get rid of a vast majority of the dead wood and toxicity in the team (No, Paul Pogba is not toxic! Listen to his teammates and coaches, not pundits and talking heads). Yes, United should have replaced those that were sold, but not if the club couldn’t find players who were truly excited and pushing to join. Although the squad is thin, the foundation has been laid for a calculated and cohesive rebuild from scratch. It’s going to get worse before it gets better, but give Ole time and continue to support.