Solskjaer Can Still Become United Boss After PSG Defeat

13/02/2019

 

The red side of Manchester finally fell flat last night. Manchester United’s unbeaten streak under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer came to a crashing end, as they were beaten by a squad that is simply on another level to themselves and most European sides.

It was a rather bland performance from the Red Devils as, despite heading into the fixture full of confidence and optimism, the showing on the field juxtaposed the recent displays that we have seen under the Norwegian’s leadership. Losing Anthony Martial and Jesse Lingard on the brink of half-time certainly affected United’s blueprint on the field, with PSG’s star quality prevailing in the end.

United now need to leave Le Parc des Princes in the return leg with a victory by two clear goals, something that has not been achieved by a travelling side since Barcelona in 2015. So, with Champions League progression seeming highly unlikely, modern-day fans have gone into ‘social media frenzy mode’, calling Solskjaer unfit for the permanent job. What does he now need to do to pass his United audition?

Keep the Spirit Lifted

Take a deep breath. There is no need to panic. Last night was undoubtedly a disappointing result, but let’s not forget the job that Solskjaer has done since taking charge.

Jose Mourinho’s departure in December left the club in a ‘nothing’ position, as a top four finish looked completely out of reach and the Champions League was already written off by many fans. Fast forward six weeks and it is like the Norwegian has wafted a magic wand over Old Trafford. The harmony between the players has been uplifted and an attacking philosophy on the pitch was quickly implanted with success.

Solskjaer has rejuvenated the feeling amongst United players.

If you had offered any fan ten wins from Solskjaer’s opening twelve fixtures, they would have snapped your hand off. It has not just been the results that have captivated the United faithful though, it has been the mannerisms of the manager and the re-energized attitude from the players. Whether through his press conferences, the image of the players back in their iconic suits, or the style of play being attempted on the pitch, Solskjaer has reinforced a positive mindset.

When the Champions League draw was initially made, fans actually dreaded the upcoming fixture. And yet, under the caretaker manager, United were made heavy favourites and fans were predicting wins of 2 or 3-0. The first defeat under Solskjaer was always going to be deflating one, but it came against a club that are seven years deep in their footballing project of worldwide domination. United are currently six weeks into theirs. So why the brash reaction?  

A defeat against one of Europe’s most dangerous attacking sides, that boast a wealth of options in their arsenal should not hinder Solskjaer’s credentials. He just needs to stay committed to his philosophy and try and uplift his players once again.

Manchester United are the clear underdogs to bounce back and beat Chelsea on Monday 18th February at 5/2 with Betfred.

Top Four a Priority

Not only have the dynamic performances improved during Solskjaer’s reign, the results have too, and this will be the deciding factor behind whether the Norwegian gets the permanent job at Old Trafford.  From this perspective, it has been so far so good. In fact, the caretaker wrote his name into the Premier League managerial history books, after picking up a record 25 points from his first nine games in charge.

United now sit in fourth place, with Chelsea and Arsenal trailing closely behind by just a single point. It looks as though the race for the final Champions League spot will go right down to the wire and with twelve games left, there are still plenty of points to play for. When he took over at Old Trafford, United were eleven points behind Chelsea, so to be ahead of Maurizio Sarri‘s men at this stage should be considered an achievement in itself.

A top four finish is vital for United and Solskjaer.

Qualifying for the Champions League next season is pivotal for the club, both for monetary reasons and for attracting top class players to join the side. There is a huge contrast between competing in the biggest club competition in world football and making a Thursday night trip abroad to Belarus in the Europa League. Regardless of your chances of actually winning the trophy, maintaining a presence in the tournament will help provide a solid platform for any future manager to build on with the club.

Should Solskjaer pull the miracle off and direct the team into the club competition for next season, he surely deserves the opportunity to showcase his managerial abilities across a whole campaign. It would be an incredible achievement to reach the CL, when all factors are taken into context. This is the most important factor behind whether Solskjaer will be offered a full-time contract or not.

They are currently evens to do so with Betfred.

Other Candidates on the List?

At the end of the day, the decision lies in Ed Woodward’s hands and Solskjaer will not be on the only name on the CEO’s list of candidates. Mauricio Pochettino is the other name that prominently keeps popping up (11/4 to be the next permanent manager), as the Argentinian continues his impressive work over in North London. A manager that works well with a limited budget, produces consistent results and plays some attractive football in the process, the Spurs boss is every boardroom’s dream coach.

Zinedine Zidane is the only other figure that gets a notable mention, but this appointment appears very unlikely. Realistically, it does seem to be a two horse race between Solskjaer and Pochettino. Should the Tottenham manager want to leave his club, it appears that the job at Old Trafford would open up for the 46-year-old. A Pochettino departure is far from guaranteed though. The prospect of Champions League football at Spurs’ new stadium could be a large pulling power for him to remain.

Regardless of the other names being linked with the United job, Solskjaer is still doing a fantastic job in charge. The true depths of the squad were exposed in the PSG game, and not many defences across the whole of Europe could contain the world-class talent of Kylian Mbappe. A defeat against the Ligue 1 champions should not hinder the recent progress that Solskjaer has made. Wait until the end of the season before making a thorough judgment on the man – there is no need to rush this decision.

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