Manchester United managers need to be built a certain way. Taking charge of one of the most highly scrutinised clubs in the world is no mean feat; pressure from fans is intense, criticism from the media is a given and success is a must.
With the way Ole Gunnar Solskjaer handles his press appearances, however, you wouldn’t think this was the case.
Solskjaer’s reign at Old Trafford so far has been underwhelming to say the least; personally, I’d describe it as having been mind-numbingly devout of progress.
Results have been almost as inconsistent as they could have been. Purple patches have been followed by barren spells, the board looks unwilling to take the club to another level and players look lost without a discernible style of play. Solskjaer has looked out of depth throughout the last two years.
These problems have been showcased through his lack of nous in the press box. There have been a number of strange quotes which have caught the eye for all the wrong reasons, and serve to show that United can’t expect to return to the top of the game while the Norweigan is at the helm. His comments breed inadequacy.
It all started off with some misleading information regarding the future of flop-signing Alexis Sanchez. Solskjaer exclaimed that United fans could expect to see a lot more of the Chilean as the season progressed – before proceeding to send him out on loan a matter of days later.
Then came the infamous Carabao Cup tie against Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City. The tie itself was relatively drama free; City won the first leg and kept a spirited United comeback at bay in the second. What drew the most attention was United’s managers’s comments after the game.
“When you play Man City in the Carabao Cup and they put their strongest team out, you know you’ve gone places because that means they respect us,” he announced.
Did he think he was still in charge at Cardiff City? This is Manchester United we’re talking about; one of the biggest clubs in the world. Taking pride in a team putting out a strong eleven against you is for lower league sides, surely? Let’s not forget that Sergio Aguero and Ederson were both rested for this tie as well.
Another cup tie, this time against Rochdale, brought another bamboozling statement.
“We’re better in shootouts than in games,” the coach claimed. The jury is out on whether he was boasting or joking, but the fact is that both are unacceptable. Limping to victory after penalty kicks against lower league opposition is nothing to joke about at Manchester United; instead of ill-placed comments, Solskjaer should have taken some time to criticise his players and ensured them that their places were under threat. Perhaps that would inspire them to provide some consistent performances?
Recently, United’s manager has been attempting to bolster his side’s confidence by saying that “when we have the right attitude and work as a team out there we’re hard to beat”.
Let that sink in: “hard to beat”. Manchester United should not be ‘hard to beat’ – it should be other teams with that mentality when they travel to Old Trafford. Quotes like this will hardly strike fear into the hearts of opponents, and that’s exactly what the aim of Solskjaer’s press conferences should be.
In the past week came more confusion surrounding Paul Pogba. Solskjaer said he was thoroughly pleased that the Frenchman had completed three 90 minutes over the international break, and he was excited to have him back in Manchester. Just days later, and he was nowhere to be seen in the matchday squad. What’s the need in the confusion? Why can’t the manager just be honest about these things?
There are rumours of Solskjaer being merely a puppet in the Glazer family’s wider scheme, and his interviews certainly point to an answer in that direction. It appears that he is actively trying to downplay expectations at the club; does he know his managerial ability can take them no further, and so he tries to hoodwink fans into belief in progress? Or is he being spoonfed press tips by the boardroom?
One thing is for sure; Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s press conferences are instilling expectations of mediocrity at Manchester United that don’t look like going away while he is in charge.