It has been almost two years since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was made permanent manager of Manchester United.
When he arrived as caretaker back in December 2018, he was taking over a side disillusioned with themselves after Jose Mourinho’s approach predictably became toxic.
Solskjaer has done a decent job in stabilising a side that looked like they were in free fall, but questions remain whether the Norwegian can deliver silverware to the club. It has been almost four full seasons without a trophy at Old Trafford and for a club the size of United it has started to become worrying.
After their recent bore draw with Crystal Palace, it had been over four hours since the Reds scored a goal and one win in their last five games. It’s times like this where players sometimes need their manager to provide leadership and guidance in the dressing room.
Solskjaer’s side bounced back though with a huge win over Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium, winning 2-0 thanks to a Bruno Fernandes penalty and a fine Luke Shaw strike either side of half-time. It snapped a 21-game winning streak for their rivals and extended their own unbeaten run away from home to 22 games.
The manager has had enough time now where it’s fair to start judging and criticising him. His hesitation to change personnel decisively is a popular and justifiable complaint from the fanbase.
There have been numerous times where the team have been desperate for a change to freshen things up and Solskjaer has waited until around 70 minutes to make them. Not only will he wait an eternity, but he’ll generally make straight swaps in personnel rather than switching the system or approach. Even more annoying, is he regularly won’t use his full compliment of subs despite the hectic schedule and performances that are taking place.
Another concerning trend that has developed is United’s shyness in front of goal against the top six. In this campaign they had only scored one goal against them prior to Sunday’s win over City, which came in the 6-1 defeat by Spurs at Old Trafford. When United play these sides, they too often batten down the hatches and retreat into their shell, more afraid to lose than go for the win.
There seems to be a reluctance from some supporters to criticise Solskjaer due to his legendary status at the club.
This has gifted him more time than others would have been afforded in the same circumstances. There has been some positive moments, including the emphasis back on the young and exciting players that the club is known to produce.
United are still second in the league table, which is likely the highest position they can finish barring a huge capitulation from Manchester City. But since when has finishing second place ever been good enough for this club?
The only realistic trophy targets for this season are the FA Cup and Europa League, of which they’re in the quarter finals in both at the time of writing. If United do manage a cup win, it’ll be less to do with Solskjaer’s tactics and more to do with the luck sometimes needed to go on a cup winning run.