‘Ole is barely outperforming Jose’ and other mails…

Date published: Wednesday 6th May 2020 9:31 - Matthew Stead

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer Manchester United

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Leaving Man United to Ole will be disastrous
As evidenced by pretty much all of my mailbox entries, I am very much prone to defending Ole Solskjaer and the job he is doing at Man United. F365’s recent article questioning what Ole has done to earn his transfer reputation, and the response to it, has caused me to write in again on the same subject. This time, however, I am coming down in the side of the ‘critics’ in the debate. Ish.

The above referenced article probably suffered a little from a slightly off-centre headline, in that, the article is less a challenge to Solskjaer’s transfer prowess as it is a challenge to whether he has proven, in his time, that his presence negates the need for a Director of Football to sit alongside himself and Woodward to help out with transfer dealings.

In my view, that is a very fair question to ask.

My answer, is that he has done nothing whatsoever to negate the need for a DoF. Nothing at all. He has, however, earned the right to be involved in the selection process, in order to make sure that the team United put together is one that will work well together. The DoF selected must be a person that is happy to be a DoF, and not a candidate that would in other circumstances be applying for the manager’s job.

There is a common misconception that Sir Alex Ferguson began at United in the exact same role that he retired from. He didn’t.

When Fergie joined, and for a few short years, he was both coach and DoF – the ‘manager’. He was always on the training ground, and also was in charge of the recruitment process. Youth development, etc., etc. were all under his responsibility to varying degrees.

However, as football evolved and time went on, Fergie’s role quickly moved ‘upwards’ and ‘away’ from a day-to-day training ground role, more and more. Fergie was still a presence at Carrington and in the changing room, don’t get me wrong, however, the ‘First Team Coach’ role was variously filled by Bryan Kidd, Steve MacLaren, Carlos Queiroz, Mike Phelan; working under Fergie. This was, without exception, the arrangement for every season of United’s golden period under Fergie.

In many ways, Fergie gradually became a Director of Football before they had been invented. Yes, Fergie was more than what we might think of today as a DoF – he was much more involved in tactical decisions, dealing with the press and many aspects of the job we now would ascribe to the ‘manager’ or first team coach. However, the role Fergie adopted was also far short (in terms of the training ground) of the job we would now assign as ‘manager’ or first team coach. His assistants did a lot of that side of things for him.

Ole has taken on a role more akin to Fergie’s original job, before he realised that he would be most effectively used in his latter, more removed role, as described above. Even Fergie didn’t feel up to the job that is being touted for Ole (without a DoF.) And as well as his list of assistants, Fergie also had David Gill and Peter Kenyon to help him out at board level, rather than the inexperienced Woodward.

Sir Alex never actually even attempted to take on the sole responsibility for all areas of the super club that Man United became. As soon as United started to became the juggernaut that they are now, Fergie began naturally delegating the tasks that he felt others could do better, or at least, could do as well as he could (with his oversight, of course.)

Why then, is it seen as a challenge to Solskjaer’s prowess that he does the exact same thing?

At this stage, Ole doesn’t need a training ground assistant in the mould of Kidd, Phelan (I know he is a coach now but his role is far less than under Fergie), MacLaren or Queiroz – seeing as he is taking that role himself. Alongside day-to-day training, guiding team and tactical development, and dealing with the press etc., Solskjaer surely does, though, require an assistant to deal with some of the board level, recruitment and organisational responsibilities, that assuming such a hands-on role will prevent him from attending to fully.

The answer is to appoint a person or persons to help out – to work with Ole, not above him – with recruitment and other vital areas such as youth development etc. A trusted assistant or two to delegate tasks to, that would otherwise detract from Ole’s role on the training ground and in the press-room.

United have fallen a long, long way from Fergie’s time in terms of recruitment and youth development. So much so, that they are now no longer the benchmark that they were in either respect in the UK, let alone around Europe or beyond. In a contemporary if not an absolute sense, United are a comparative shadow of what they were as soon as you look beyond finances.

The answer to this might or might not be a ‘Director of Football’, it could be another job title. It doesn’t actually matter what the job title is (to anyone but fans and the press…), what matters is that the person or people is/are the right appointment(s) to share the responsibility with Ole for aspects of running Man United that he feels comfortable delegating.

Every second that this structure is not being built, further adds to the decline of Man United as anything other than a financial entity. Make no mistake, there is nothing that Ole Solskjaer alone can do to change that reality. I am completely sure of that, even though I worship the bloody ground he walks on!

From painful, personal (non-football-related) experience, it is tempting to try to take on more than you can chew in terms of running a business that you hold dear. However, waiting too long to admit that you are only one human being, and therefore delegating some of the responsibility and hence energy burden, is a mugs game. The only destination is the floor, on your arse.

Equally, appointing someone that will be a subversive influence, seeking to expand their role at your expense is a route to certain failure.

So maybe appointing a DoF in the mould we might think of is the wrong decision. Equally and more so though, not appointing anybody, and leaving it all to Solskjaer, will lead to an unmitigated disaster.
DD, MUFC, Manchester


Hi Roode MUFC
Your team is 5th

Your team spent £80m on a centre back yet your team is 5th.

Dalot has not been a good transfer, he’s hardly played, your team is 5th.

Wan-Bassaka has been a good transfer , your team is 5th.

Shaw, hahahahaha.

Laird, who ? Your team is 5th

Williams, lots of potential in three years time. Your team is 5th.

Sensationalism has nothing to do with the fact your team is 5th.

No matter how much you want Ole to be the answer, your team is 5th.

Ole has been a huge failure despite having a team that contains De Gea, Maguire, AWB, Martial, Rashford, Pogba. Your team is 5th.

At some point Man United fans will remember that being 5th was not okay. It’s not acceptable. It’s just not.
Ade. Lol that was fun . Liverpool are top. Bye bye United. Bye


…What more does Ole need to do? How about using his £200m transfer budget and wage budget in the top three in the world to secure a healthy lead over Wolves, Leicester and Sheffield United?

How about getting anywhere near the top? We finished second the season before he arrived, 19 points behind one of the best Premier League sides ever. We’re twice as far behind Liverpool now and only three-quarters of the way through the season.

People rave about what he’s done in the transfer market. Has Maguire outperformed what you’d expect for an £80-90m centre back? Has AWB outperformed what you’d expect for a £50m full back? Has James outperformed £20m? The transfers have been an improvement on the massive amounts of money United have wasted in the past, but it’s par at best.

If you gave a team who finished 17th last season the sort of money Solskjaer has had they wouldn’t be out of place where United are. Solskjaer took over a team with some very good players who’d recently finished second.

If he weren’t a United legend nobody would even be arguing he’s up to it. He’s barely outperforming Mourinho at his worst, and that’s being generous.


Pele in top five? Not having that…
I’m not having Pele in the top 5 players of all time but as for the why .. we will get to that. My 5 are:

Zidane. Technically one of the most gifted humans to play elite sport. Strong as an ox, touch of a harpist in an orchestra at full chat but pulled more strings in different directions across two elite leagues and he was THE player in that amazing french team. An icon and a flawed one which just makes him cooler.

Maradonna. As said before, single handedly won the 86 World Cup , transcended football in the 80s and carried a nations hope and actually delivered. If there wasn’t Maradona you wouldn’t have Messi.

Ronaldo (tall Portuguese one). The only elite player to have played at the highest level across three different leagues with the (arguably) three biggest teams in each league .. Utd, real and Juve. Who does that? He continues to challenge himself despite all the trappings and could have stayed at Madrid and rinsed the money a la bale but wanted another challenge. Stats are off the chart and the range of goals he scores is staggering.

Messi. People who don’t even like football gasp when they see Messi on full pelt ghosting past people .. has made every elite defender and defensive midfielder he has ever played against look like amateurs and he’s carried barcelona for years. He just plays football as if everyone else on the pitch are statues frozen in time.

Fat Ronaldo. Did it Italy , did it in Spain, managed to play for Barca and real but is adored by both , I include him because he is always the striker I would have in my all time 11 and for what he did at France 98 bar the final .. and for that old Trafford performance ..

Now for Pele. He won three World Cups. Amazing .. but he did so with probably the greatest collection of footballers the world will ever see. as his team mates He never played in Europe, he never played for a big club, he never won a European Cup. He scored a zillion goals for a half-decent Brazilian team in a non competitive league and then played for a team in New York before Americans knew what soccer is . Sorry .. I don’t get the Pele thing .. never have . I’m sure people stick him in top 5s all the time “because it’s Pele” but I’m not having it.

Stay healthy.
Stu, Bromley


Idea No. 427

I’ve got nothing better to do than offer my outlandish thoughts on how to potentially deal with next season so here goes:

1) Complete the current season, in full. Ideally sooner rather than later and behind closed doors for now. If desperately needed extend this to September/October if needed. The league may have lost its ‘integrity’ but just three months ago it was a farmers league rigged by the FA to favour LiVARpool (TM) so let’s not get too bogged down in that argument…

Controversially, I actually think that it may benefit the country as a whole to get games going. It’s clear from the queues for hardware stores and increasing number of people hanging out in parks etc. that lockdown fatigue is building. Perhaps some live football might actually encourage people to stay in? It only takes 300 people or so to stay in rather than going out before you end up with a net benefit in terms of people remaining in.

2) Accept that next season is likely to be affected on some level. Split the division in two, based on final positions for the previous season. Top 10 play for Europe and the title as normal, bottom 10 play to avoid the bottom 3 relegation spots. To compensate the bottom half of the league, top up the prize money for 11th-13th by £10m-£15m or so each, taken out of the top half’s pot. Perhaps give the top spot in the bottom half the final Europa league spot (although I’m not sure how the new 3rd tier competition would affect this). This gives everyone 18 games and some reasonable incentives for both this season and next season. You could even chuck in some kind of play-offs for the bottom half winners/Europa League spots for a few extra games if the numbers need boosting. Another possible spin on this is increasing the number of teams to 24 for the season (remove relegation/promote both play-off winners & automatic spots) – with the split this becomes 22 games each – and then wind it back down to 20 teams over the following 2 seasons.

3) With the extra gaps created by the reduced schedule, look to help prop up the lower divisions by restructuring the cup competitions as a one-off experiment. Two legged ties in the FA Cup? A Group stage for the League Cup with a max number of Prem teams per group? If it turns out games do need cutting, then just make them one-legged again or even scrap the cups.

4) Champions League/Europa League to be played as normal. If needed, reduce knockout stages to one-off games at a neutral venue.

Under this scenario, I can see everyone getting between 25-40 games next season, plus you can have a few catch-up internationals for Euro playoffs/WC qualifying thrown in as well. This should hopefully allow us to realign by the time the Euros come around. Players get a bit more rest and, who knows, a home nation might even have a chance of winning it this way. For the 21/22 season, rules revert back to normal and then we’re back to an odd season anyway with the Winter WC.

The main issues I see with this are the contract issues (although Prem can just stop new registrations until the season is completed – up to clubs/players if they want to extend their contracts then) and the lower leagues, as I guess the Championship as a minimum would need to do a similar split or they’d may also have too many games. Bit less of an issue the lower down you go, to the extent that they’d probably rather have extra games for the revenue.

I’ll fully admit it’s not ideal but I think as a minimum it would offer some flexibility to next season.

Please come and tell me how these are all dreadful ideas – I’m open to constructive criticism.
Andy in Reading


Void it
This debate seems to be as long as the lockdown itself, and just as tedious. I have read all manner of proposals and variations on a theme as to when, why and how the Premier League could restart.

The basic choice is that either the league runs to completion or doesn’t. The health ramifications suggest to me that the playing of football matches with all the personnel required, is to most people a ridiculous idea. How many deaths so far? Exactly.

Is that fair on Liverpool, who would have won the league? Patently not. But as we have all discovered over the past few weeks life is not fair. Remember Heysel and the European ban on English teams competing in Europe? Was that fair?

Life is not fair, get on with voiding the season Premier League and F.A.


Stop using football, Mr Government
As nice as it would be and “morale boosting” to see football return, these guys are human beings with families. I don’t understand why the government has twice called football/football players out. First of all for their money and now for “morale boosting”. These guys are not show ponies and should only return to playing when absolutely safe to do so and also when they are comfortable to do so.

It’s like at the start when they were called out for money. Yes the money they earn is ridiculous but it’s actually not their fault what they earn, they have a market and command a market value. And why were footballers called out for cash to help at the same time Branson was getting rid of staff. I bet no footballer is as rich as him. It was the easy thing to do. Much like its the easy call out for a football fan after a defeat or a bad performance “he don’t care bruv he’s got his 100k” but I bet most of these guys do care.

I work for a major national company and one of our directors has opened a forum for people to voice their concerns and opinions about returning to offices when safe or at least declared safe to do so. Footy players should and I hope they are given the same platform by their individual clubs to do exactly this and each club should report that feedback to the Premier League. This has to be a situation where it’s based on individual opinion and concerns. Not let’s boost the morale or let’s not lose this TV money.

I started out this lockdown as a fan of Liverpool who was like bloody hell are we ever going to win the league. That was the footy fan in me having 30 years of nearly and nevers taken away again. Now the human me really doesn’t give a shit and just wants everyone in the world and their families to be safe and ok and their lives to return to normal when possible but when safe to do so.

I seen a few mails on here in the last couple of days saying that the season has fizzled out, it’s gone etc, I feel the exact same. I actually feel now that if it resumes and we win two games and win the league it will still feel as tarnished and not worthy as if we got handed it now. There will always be an * next to this seasons records. But the main thing is for life to return to normal when it is safe to do so and for football to resume when it is safe to do so. It would be an insult to those who have died and their families and the nhs to do it any other way.

Stay safe everyone.
Ryan, Liverpool


If there is a choice, should Manchester United buy Jadon Sancho or Harry Kane? Is Tanguy Ndombele a funny shape? These questions and more are pondered as the F365 Isolation Show returns for another episode. We miss the pub. Like, subscribe and all that gubbins.


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