Just give him the job now. Why dally? Why wait? Why pretend that this is all just temporary when there is not a soul who plays for Manchester United, supports Manchester United, watches Manchester United, writes or talks about Manchester United who does not now believe that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will and indeed absolutely should be permanent Manchester United manager. Sod the long engagement, let’s see a shotgun wedding after the miraculous, immaculate conception of a Champions League challenge.
PSG might have shot themselves in the foot – and United certainly benefited from a penalty decision that would not have been given a trillion times without VAR – but this was not a night to talk about the Parisians’ capacity for self-implosion, or the manner of United’s victory with just 28% possession, but a night to talk about one of the most astonishing victories in the history of the Champions League. United were 13/2 to win on the night and 14/1 to progress. Converting a one-in-15 chance should immediately give the manager a one-in-one chance of being named manager by the end of the week. This joy – this unbelievable, extraordinary, unexpected joy – should be harnessed and converted into yet more precious momentum.
When Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United were paired with PSG in the last 16 of the Champions League, they were given barely a chance. After Solskjaer’s United lost 2-0 at home, they were given no chance at all. As player upon player was ruled out to leave Solskjaer staring at a list of fit midfield players that included only Scott McTominay and Fred, we wondered if there was a chance they could just forfeit and save themselves the embarrassment. And yet, here they are in the quarter-finals of the Champions League having beaten PSG in Paris, and it feels like they could win the whole damned thing.
Twenty minutes in – even after Romelu Lukaku had given United an unexpected lead on the night – it looked like Solskjaer had tried too hard to be too clever and gifted PSG a game they had already unwrapped in Manchester. The decision to play Eric Bailly at right-back was an awful one, but the good news is that the Norwegian remedied that decision long before half-time and from that moment on, a combination of excellent United defending, cool United finishing, canny decision-making from Solskjaer and embarrassing sh*tting of pants from PSG meant that United were always within another Paris mistake of unlikely triumph.
Even before United’s late winner, Solskjaer and his players were heroes; even without Marcus Rashford’s emphatic penalty, Solskjaer and his players had restored years of lost status to this monstrous club; even before VAR became their new BFF, Solskjaer and his players had displayed the kind of resilience that makes backs straighter and voices louder among everybody connected with that club. Afterwards, when all that had happened and people started to breathe again, the only natural consequence should be his appointment.
Little under a year ago, United failed to beat Sevilla at this stage and I abandoned the habit of a working life and left out the asterisks as I wrote that Mourinho and his players had fucked it. I also wrote that it was ‘impossible to exaggerate just what a ludicrous and embarrassing mess’ they had made of a winnable tie. A year on, it is impossible to exaggerate again, but for very different reasons.
After that defeat to a mid-table La Liga side, Mourinho said that he was not embarrassed or surprised, suggesting that losing in the last 16 was pretty much normal for United. His comments were even more damning than the defeat. A few days later, he doubled down on that sentiment, saying United lacked the “football heritage” to go further in Europe.
A year later, they have beaten PSG in Paris. With ten first-team squad members missing. The man who engineered that victory has true football heritage. He should also be given permission to take off his ‘L’ plates and his training vest. Just give him the sodding job.