Manchester United are not rebuilding. Following the dismal Europa League final loss to Villarreal, the idea of this being a team in transition was raised by the likes of Rio Ferdinand and Owen Hargreaves on BT Sport, with much of the analysis centering around the fact manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer needed to be backed this summer. That has, largely, always been the case since he was officially appointed. That will not change.
Whatever grievances United fans (rightly) have about their Glazer family ownership, the idea that they do not spend money is laughable. Again, that is not to dismiss any of the long-standing reasons the Americans are so unpopular amongst the support and, granted, they are not quite as free-spending as the likes of Manchester City and Chelsea, but Solskjaer has been backed. He’s just not backed it up.
Harry Maguire and Aaron Wan-Bissaka are two of the most expensive defenders of all-time. Bruno Fernandes might now look a snip at under £50m but United took a risk on signing him during a notoriously tricky January transfer window, while £40m Donny van de Beek must be the most decadent stand-by in the game’s history. While signed on a free transfer, Edinson Cavani’s wages are gargantuan.
United’s failures on the pitch are on Solskjaer. This is a man who has proven he cannot have them challenging for the game’s top honours, a man who’s in-game management still leaves an awful lot to be desired. Aside from hitting teams on the counter, what do United do? Aside from relying on the individual quality of Fernandes, or hoping Cavani can turn in a half-chance,
In a broader sense, the Glazer family are also to blame. Throwing money at problems has been the United way since the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson in 2013 and, without the kind of ruthless pursuit of genuine glory so prevalent in other top European clubs, things don’t look like they will get better.
Indeed, Roman Abramovich – a man often criticised for his lack of patience – sacked club legend Frank Lampard because the idea of not at least genuinely challenging at the top of the footballing pyramid was unpalatable to him. Liverpool’s FSG ownership, meanwhile, relieved Brendan Rodgers of his duties in 2015 only after he so nearly ended their long wait for a league title because Jurgen Klopp was on the market.
There are better managers than Solskjaer on the market. Proven winners such as Antonio Conte out there who could raise the collective standard of the team. Solskjaer hasn’t necessarily been a bad appointment. Lifting the mood after the Jose Mourinho era ended in farce, United have benefitted from his body of work so far. Now, however, a ceiling looks to have been hit.
Frankly, it’s difficult to imagine Liverpool or Chelsea enduring the problems they did at the start of this season again. In fact, Manchester City’s sluggish start to the campaign is easily forgotten and looks incredibly unlikely to happen again. United’s rivals will get better. Under Solskjaer, it doesn’t look as if they will join in on that.
Rather than try to placate supporters with a marquee addition this summer, the Glazer family can prove they really are serious about running a successful club (although the ship may well have sailed on that) by not accepting second best.
Thank Solskjaer – a club legend – for his service and recognise the relative amount of stability he ensured and move on. If United are ever going to restore former glories, a change must be made. Ole’s shift at the wheel is over. He has steered them to his final destination.
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