As he reflects on his exit from Manchester United on Sunday after nearly three years in charge, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will no doubt reflect on what could have been at Old Trafford. What if he had been less kind and ruthless to his players? What if he had been more aggressive in his transfer requests to the club hierarchy and if they had complied?
The Norwegian was offered the chance to restore United to the level of success he enjoyed during his tenure as a player under Alex Ferguson, but he left with the league’s seventh squad and without winning. of trophy. Had Solskjaer been able to bring in the players he identified as part of his squad redesign, however, the success United fans are looking for could have been much closer.
The list of players United reportedly tried to sign – but failed to sign – shows that while Solskjaer’s forgiving nature and tactical decisions were clearly factors in his downfall – the club’s recruiting mistakes have also been a factor. played a key role. The first player Solskjaer made it clear he wanted was compatriot Erling Haaland, whom he coached at Norwegian club Molde.
The center-forward is one of the most exciting attacking talents in the game, but United were unable to sign him from RB Salzburg and he joined Borussia Dortmund. United were in advanced talks to sign very promising England midfielder Jude Bellingham while still playing for Birmingham City second tier but he also went to Dortmund.
Portuguese full-back Joao Cancelo was on the club’s radar during his time in Italy with Inter Milan and Juventus, but he ended up in Pep Guardiola’s winning side at Manchester City. HALF BLUE
Spain’s defensive midfielder Rodri, has been identified by Solskjaer as a player to fill a long-standing weak point on his side – but he has also made his way to Manchester’s blue half. Atletico Madrid’s England right-back Kieran Trippier and Germany international Kai Havertz, now with Chelsea, were also targets that failed to arrive.
United owners have backed Solskjaer with important signings, however, including winger Jadon Sancho who arrived after more than a year of talks with Dortmund, French center-half Raphael Varane and, of course, Cristiano Ronaldo. Before that Bruno Fernandes was brought in from Sporting Lisbon and added a much needed quality to the squad and ultimately there was enough quality to win at least some of the games United lost this season.
“I don’t think Ole can complain about the time he was given and the money he was given. I don’t think he can complain about the players who were delivered to him,” said former United skipper Gary Neville on Sky Des sports. Solskjaer’s critics have pointed out the unclear tactics used, especially during Liverpool’s 5-0 home mayhem and lack of a consistent style of play.
The United squad are certainly not lacking in attacking talent, but Solskjaer was ultimately defeated by the poor performances of his four full-backs and the lack of defensive quality – or form – of his midfielder. The United manager has continued to trust out of form players such as Aaron Wan Bissaka, Luke Shaw and Harry Maguire – a loyalty that has cost him dearly in his last month.
The Norwegian and the club’s hierarchy also opted to keep players on the payroll who were clearly no longer at the center of his first-team plans – like Phil Jones, Juan Mata, Eric Bailly, Jesse Lingard, Anthony Martial and Diogo Dalot. Despite all the references to returning to the “united lane” of his playing days, Solskjaer did not show Ferguson’s cruelty in quickly moving players out of the gate when they were no longer needed.
Whether this was due to Solskjaer’s “kindness” or those above him who thought it was more economical to keep existing squad players than to pay new recruits to replace them is unclear. . But the result was a team with too few quality options for a manager struggling to make the most of what was available to them.
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