Two former Manchester United players have questioned their former club’s decision to appoint Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as full-time manager.
The 46-year-old Norwegian coach took interim charge of the Red Devils, following Jose Mourinho’s dismissal last December, but was recently handed a three-year contract, which ex-Old Trafford teammates Lee Sharpe and Paul Ince feel was unwise.
How has Solskjaer fared since becoming permanent Man Utd boss? Five things to know…
- Solskjaer succeeded Jose Mourinho after United suffered a 3-1 loss at Liverpool in December 2018.
- As interim boss, he took charge of 19 matches in all competitions: winning 14 and losing just three.
- Solskjaer’s biggest successes were away FA Cup wins at Arsenal (1-3) and Chelsea (0-2) as well as the incredible comeback against PSG in the Champions League
- His performances earned him a permanent contract in late March 2019, albeit on the back of defeats away to Arsenal (2-0) and Wolves (2-1), the latter in the FA Cup.
- Since then, Solskjaer has taken charge of seven matches, winning twice and losing five times, including their last three on the bounce.
Solskjaer’s return was initially seen as left-field, with his senior managerial experience coming at Molde FK and Cardiff City, but his status as a United legend immediately won supporters over, as did the early results.
United, who trailed fourth place by 11 points, racked up six consecutive league wins before Burnley held them to a 2-2 draw at Old Trafford. Even then, Solskjaer’s men went on to win four of their next five fixtures without defeat suffered.
At this point, calls for his permanent appointment grew louder. The incredible turnaround against PSG in the Champions League was cited as a reason – after losing 2-0 at home the Red Devils went to Paris and registered a historic 3-1 victory.
The powers that be granted supporters their wish, as he penned a lengthy contract before a Premier League game at home to Watford, though Sharpe – who left United as soon as Solskjaer joined as a player – feels they jumped the gun again.
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“I’m not particularly confident that Solskjaer is the right choice to be trusted with taking Manchester United back to where they belong,” he told Sportingbet.
“I have the utmost respect for him, but I fear the job is too big at this stage of his managerial career. However, now that the decision has been made, the club have no choice but to give him lots of time and lots of money in the transfer market.
“I’m very surprised that Manchester United chose to confirm Solskjaer as manager as soon as they did. I don’t know why the club decided to appoint him when they did or what they had to gain from rushing the decision. Solskjaer wasn’t going to go anywhere and the club weren’t competing for his signature so there’s no doubt in my mind that they should have waited until the end of the season.”
“They should’ve waited”
Sharpe’s views are echoed by his former Old Trafford teammate Ince, who came in for some heavy criticism for suggesting anyone – citing ex-United stars turned managers Mark Hughes and Steve Bruce, as well as himself – could have done the job Solskjaer was doing when they were picking up win after win.
Ince, though, never backed down from his initial thoughts, but instead clarified them, suggesting it was easy for whoever came in after Jose Mourinho to steady the ship. United’s recent poor form has shone a light on their decision to make Solskjaer their fourth permanent boss post-Sir Alex Ferguson.
Ince was one of many who felt United would have been better off pursuing a more experienced and high-profile coach at the end of the season.
“I’m looking at the club and the future really worries me,” he told Paddy Power. “They’re a long, long way from many teams. Why did those players perform so well when Ole came in and now they’re not?
“There’s no character, no leadership, no desire, but the manager has to motivate the players too. These are the same players that were playing brilliantly a few weeks ago, so if they’re not feeling motivated it’s down to Ole to sort that.
“I called it before he was made manager and got stick for it, but what I said was right. I want him to be successful, but I don’t think he’s capable of doing the job. It’s a huge rebuilding job, and will the players want to come to Man United to play under him? I’m not sure – it’s different to the bigger names like Guardiola and Klopp.
“The fact is, they should’ve waited until the end of the season before they gave him the permanent job. There was no rush to appoint him, but everyone got caught up in the euphoria and was thinking with their hearts rather than their heads.”
Ince then suggested the United board would regret their appointment now if asked.
“If you went to the board now and asked whether they should’ve given him the job – I think we know what they would say,” he added.
“Everyone jumped on the Ole bandwagon and now we’re seeing the repercussions. Zinedine Zidane was available at the time and Mauricio Pochettino has always been the right man to take them forward in my eyes. Whether I’m wrong or right, I’m entitled to my opinion.”