Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 June 2019

Manchester United have got timing spot on with permanent appointment of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as manager

Sensible to end speculation over Norwegian's future ahead of challenging fixtures against Barcelona, Manchester City and Chelsea

Manchester United have done the right thing in appointing Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as manager.

There would have been an outcry from fans if the job had gone to someone else, the question was when the announcement would be made.

Thursday’s timing of Solksjaer’s appointment was right, too. United have a difficult month ahead with two games against Barcelona and matches against Manchester City and Chelsea.

There’s also Saturday’s match against eighth-placed Watford and Tuesday’s game at a seventh-placed Wolverhampton Wanderers, who were good enough to be the better team at Old Trafford and also knock United out of the FA Cup. Tenth-placed West Ham United are also imminent opponents.

If Solskjaer could be thankful for a forgiving run of fixtures when he took over, the next month is anything but.

United appreciate the work he has done, the way he inspires players and encourages them to appreciate their jobs and be positive in them. The club’s attitude was ‘why wait, he’s proved himself now’. And he has.

Solskjaer goes into the next month with a solid record. In his 19 games in charge after leaving his contracted position at Molde, the Norwegian has won 14, drawn two and lost three.

Solskjaer is a club hero, thanks to his exploits as a player at the club, who brought a much-needed change after a desperate final couple of months under the leadership of Jose Mourinho.

He understands the attacking ethos, the importance of developing young players. Having lived in Manchester for so long he has got a better idea of what the fans think that any predecessor. And he has a coaching team of five around him which should be retained.

In Solskjaer, Mike Phelan and Michael Carrick alone, there’s over 45 years of United experience. Phelan is expected to stay under Solskajer. Carrick, Kieran McKenna and goalkeeping coach Emilio Alvarez were already under contract.

Solskjaer was brought in as a caretaker on December 19 but from the first day he acted like the full-time manager. His attention to detail stunned people at the club, the way he asked questions and queried the way things were done.

Players who needed an arm around them received it. They felt that he talked to them player to player. Solskjaer’s relationship with Ed Woodward, the man who offered him the job, was also good.

Solskjaer had been invited to Old Trafford to see games in the month before he was appointed, as Jose Mourinho’s team floundered. Nobody mentioned Solskjaer as a possible successor to Mourinho since United had looked to big names since the appointment of David Moyes.

The club considered Tottenham’s Maurico Pochettino after the excellent job he had done and felt he would be prepared to leave and move to Manchester in the summer, the latest big name charged with reviving the stumbling giant.

A caretaker manager would buy United time and it would be a free hit for Solskjaer.

The Norwegian has worked incredibly hard and done much right, but he has also enjoyed good fortune. This will not always be the case.

The honeymoon period under Solskjaer which started before a ball had been kicked in Cardiff on December 23 as United fans danced around the away end singing his name has still not finished.

United wanted him to put a smile back on the faces of players and fans and he managed that almost immediately. It helped that there was relief at the departure of Mourinho. The Portuguese’s relationship with several key players including Paul Pogba had diminished sufficiently to cause concern.

Those key players also knew that their own reputations were under scrutiny and there was a drastic upturn in form from Pogba, Marcus Rashford (who felt he was being played out of position), Nemanja Matic (who clashed over an injury pre-season), Anthony Martial (who had taken time off around the birth of a child and clashed with Mourinho over it) and Ander Herrera, who saw his number of minutes surge.

Solskjaer’s name is sung more than any player and he is hugely popular, but it will end. Realities will hit if United do not sort out their full recruitment process for signing players, he will have to deal with unhappy players and fans when things go wrong as they do at every football club at some point during a season. But the Norwegian has a huge bank of credit among fans and much goodwill.

Solskjaer has been giving his input into what United do over the summer months and will continue to do so, but what happens between now and the end of the season is also vital.

At least the man who was given a provisional driving licence at the wheel now has a full licence to take the club forward as he sees right.

Updated: March 28, 2019 04:39 PM

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