Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 17 November 2019

Wes Brown: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer the right man to lead Manchester United revival

Norwegian is enduring a tough start to the season, but his former teammate believes he needs time to shape the squad and put his plan in place

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has been Manchester United manager since December last year, initially as caretaker before assuming the permanent role in March. Press Association
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has been Manchester United manager since December last year, initially as caretaker before assuming the permanent role in March. Press Association

Former Manchester United defender Wes Brown has backed Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to be a success at the club, saying the manager needs to be given time to get it right.

United drew 1-1 with Liverpool at Old Trafford on Sunday to end the unbeaten Premier League leaders' 100 per cent start to the season, although it was a match they would consider themselves unfortunate not to win having led until the 85th minute.

The result left United 14th in the table after nine games, seven points off the top four and 15 behind Liverpool at the summit. The 13-time Premier League champions, now six years without the title, have endured their worst start to a campaign for 30 years, with three victories from 12 matches in all competitions. They have not won in the league since September 14.

However, Brown believes Solskjaer is the right man to turn around their form, saying his former teammate’s understanding of the club makes him suited perfectly to bringing through the next phase in their development.

The Norwegian represented United from 1996-2007, scoring the winner in the 1999 Uefa Champions League final that sealed the club an historic treble. Solskjaer was appointed last December, initially as a caretaker manager in the wake of Jose Mourinho’s dismissal before he was given a three-year contract in March.

“It’s absolutely brilliant that he knows the values and mentality of the club,” said Brown, who made 361 appearances for United between 1998 and 2011. “We’ve had four managers before Ole now [since Alex Ferguson’s retirement in 2013] and it’s not quite worked out.

“But Ole knows exactly what the club’s about, he knows what he wants. He’s said he’s got a plan in place. It will take a little bit of time, like we all know. We just can’t get six or seven players in one transfer window.”

Asked if he was confident Solskjaer would prove a success, Brown said: “I am. The players that he’s brought in in the summer have been brilliant. [Harry] Maguire and [Aaron] Wan-Bissaka - Wan-Bissaka’s fitted straight in, like he’s been here for years. And [Daniel] James, who a lot of people thought might take a little bit longer, he’s the one who’s come out shining.

“They’re great signings and obviously more to come as well. And I’m sure if not January – I’m certain we’ll get some people then – but in the summer Ole will start to get the main players he wants.”

Wes Brown, centre left, with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer during their playing days at Manchester United in 2007. Getty Images
Wes Brown, centre left, with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer during their playing days at Manchester United in 2007. Getty Images

United’s recruitment this summer placed an emphasis on youth, with James and Wan-Bissaka both aged 21. Solskjaer has also given competitive debuts to a number of young players, including Mason Greenwood and James Garner, who were both 17 at the time of their first appearance. On Sunday, 19-year-old defender Brandon Williams made his Premier League bow when he came on as a late substitute.

Meanwhile, much is expected of 21-year-old centre-back Axel Tuanzebe, while Scott McTominay, 22, is establishing himself at the heart of United’s midfield. Solskjaer’s faith in the academy pleases Brown, who was a product on the club’s youth system before going on to win five Premier League titles and the Champions League twice.

“First of all, this is a great opportunity for the young lads,” Brown said. “The young lads that Ole thinks are capable of playing in the first team he’ll have them training. There’s probably others that we don’t know about as well, like Williams for instance who’s played a game. And he’ll be watching them every day and he’ll know if they’re ready or not.

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“Axel, I watched him in pre-season - fantastic. A little bit unlucky at the moment because of the two centre-halves we have, but you need that competition. The players will be all mates, but you need to be battling against each other to try and get in the team.

“And Scott’s been brilliant. He might have come in maybe a little too early, but he’s now stood up to it and, as you can see how he’s been playing, he’s been fantastic.”

On Garner, Brown added: “Like I said, everyone is different timings. He will 100 per cent get his chance to prove a point. Maybe the manager’s feeling this is not the right time for him.

“Everyone’s different. I started at a very young age, John O’Shea for instance started when he was 21 – he went out on loan and came back. Ole might just be feeling it’s not the right time for him yet, but that doesn’t mean he won’t get his chance.”

Brown was speaking at the launch of “Seat of Dreams”, an initiative between Manchester United and Marriott Hotels, the club’s first official hotel partner. For more information visit www.manutd.com/marriotthotels

Updated: October 22, 2019 11:53 AM

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