Tenth in the Premier League table with 18 points after 14 games, and Manchester United have endured their worst start since 1988. The team, in fact, is now closer to the relegation zone than the top four, yet not everything looks gloomy at the moment- that’s what Ole Gunnar Solskjaer believes.
What has shaken up the soil beneath though is the fact that fellow Premier League teams are taking extreme measures, letting go the man in charge if the results are on a downward spiral. Mauricio Pochettino, who took Tottenham Hotspur to the Champions League final last season, was let go after a poor start, and Arsenal’s Unai Emery had similar fate written in his destiny.
And while Solskjaer hasn’t really reflected on the subject, we do know the psyche is laboured while working at gun-point.
The Norwegian has now been in charge of 22 league games since being announced as the permanent manager, and during that time, the team has garnered a mere 26 points. This is the worst ever tally for a United manager in the post-Ferguson era. David Moyes, the chosen one, garnered 36 points from his last 22 games while Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho had 37 and 35 points respectively from their final 22 games.
Regardless of the recent struggles though, Solskjaer says that his “boys are closer to winning than losing games." And this may not bode well for every supporter, but he has may just be right.
What spectators have been treated to during Solskjaer’s short reign at Manchester United is that is the development of youth. What we tend to forget however, is the fact that it is a gradual process. The Norwegian is simply working towards what United were known for in the past, and not on the lines what they are at the moment; a club spending money for glory.
United, at this moment, have the youngest average starting XI in the Premier League at just over 25. With an average age of 22 years & 26 days old, United’s starting XI against Astana was the youngest they had ever named for a match in major European competition. As many as seven players from that team were born after their 1999 UEFA Champions League final victory against Bayern Munich.
The team has indeed spent nearly £150 million on Harry Maguire, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Daniel James, but it hardly remains a subject of debate whether even a single one of those have failed to live up to expectations.
100% it’s obvious what’s wrong but Ole is clearly improving this squad by shipping o players who should have gone years ago and bringing in the youngsters and young hungry players who want to play for Utd. He’s setting up the club for a better future.— Nicky S (@nstone07) December 2, 2019
"Players are playing for their place in the long term," the Norwegian said in a press conference.
Getting rid of personnel and not acquiring suitable reinforcement has backfired big time for Solskjaer. A midfield of Fred and Andreas Pereira isn’t really something even a mid-table club would count on, but options are not really a luxury Solskjaer can afford.
Patience is the key that connects efforts to success, and unlike what his predecessors did, it is evident that the communication between the board and the manager is more fluid than it was in the past. Van Gaal left after a feud, Mourinho left after a feud, and although it divides opinions, the fact remains that the club was going nowhere.
Man Utd happy with direction club is going under Solskjaer though results don’t reflect this, is the understanding of view at OT, currently...— jamie jackson (@JamieJackson___) December 2, 2019
"We have a plan in place and hopefully we can get the results to speed it up,” said Solskjaer.
“Sometimes it doesn't go at the speed you want to but it's still going in the right direction."
This kid is 100% spot on. 👏👏👏pic.twitter.com/T7CLQfuahC— UTFR 🇾🇪 (@ManUtd_HQ) December 2, 2019
Success can’t be achieved overnight. Jurgen Klopp didn’t lead Liverpool to the Champions League triumph in his first season. Given his inexperience and cynical results achieved with Cardiff City sure makes Solskjaer a gamble, but it is indeed worth all the time and patience.
Reality can be brutal at times, and given the run of form, United are at their worst at the moment. They, in fact, have kept just one clean sheet in their past 13 games. What’s holding the team back are the results, and they might improve once the likes of Paul Pogba and Scott McTominay are back in the fray.
In any other way, one just cannot criticize the vision the club has finally set after all the hardship.
Feature Image Courtesy: AFP/ Oli Scarff