Solskjaer out, Conte in at Manchester United?

Date published: Wednesday 15th September 2021 2:00 - Editor F365

Antonio Conte

The fall-out to that Manchester United defeat continues and moves on to who comes after Solskjaer. Send your thoughts to


The big question
In among the discussion around OGS and his managerial ability, I feel the most important question has been missed: would Solskjaer let Wan Bissaka have his dinner if he was his son?


OGS v Arteta v Lampard
Turns out they’re all pretty sh*t.
MAW, LA Gooner (I greatly regret any previous comment I made backing Arteta)


How predictable is the mailbox getting?
United win and all the United fans are on saying how wrong the naysayers are.

United lose and the naysayers are saying “I told you so” and the #OleOut brigade are there in their numbers too.

What makes it worse is United are so inconsistent, this happens every other game. And the team that do end up winning against them are never given any credit.
Culk The Younger


Opposition fans torn on Ole
You’ve possibly seen the meme of that cartoon superhero sweating as he hesitates between two critical decisions on which button to press. That’s surely most opposition fans. When embarrassing Man Utd results inevitably come, opposition fans clamour to say I told you so. But simultaneously with Ole at the wheel this Man Utd will seemingly be eternal also rans. It’s a difficult tightrope to walk. When he finally goes (all managers leave at some point) any basking in confirmation bias of PE teacher performances should be tempered. On that day it may genuinely be the most upset I’ll ever be at a Man Utd manager leaving his role at the club.
Rich, London


It’s a masterplan
I simply don’t get the outrage over the Champions League defeat to the ‘boys’

This is a giant first step towards qualifying for the Europa league, the only realistic trophy target under Ole. Ole wants redemption for last year’s fiasco.

People who cant see such a simple fact should stop watching football.
A sour Singapore bloke
(Billion Euros + Ole = no trophy)


Not that simple at all
I fully expected Gary Vance to be the blind optimist, rallying behind poor beleaguered Ole who just isn’t given a chance three years and half a billion spent since taking over, perhaps Gary will be along in the afternoon mailbox to bemoan ‘those of little faith’ from the morning. Instead it was Rob, Guangzhou who was flying that limp little flag.

‘Last night was a game lost due to an early red. It really is that simple.’

1-0 up with over a third of the match gone and the manager can’t organise his team to see that out? A team stuffed full of superstar players, exciting attacking talent, England’s best defenders and a multiple CL winning Rolls Royce from Real Madrid (™ Man Utd. fans over the past few weeks)? Against a Young Boys team that has only ever won one match in the CL (against a Juve team containing Ronaldo, amusingly) with a squad valued at 6% of Man Utd’s?

I’d suggest that it really isn’t that simple Rob.
James Outram, Wirral


Forget tactics, what of Ole’s other skills?
It seems a consensus has been reached about OGS’s tactical failings, but after last night it’s going to be really interesting to see if his reputed man management/feel good qualities stand up to this season’s tests, especially integrating Ronaldo into the squad while keeping him and everyone else happy. There’s a photo on BBC Sport this morning of Ronaldo and Bruno shouting at someone (probably the ref) alongside OGS – there’s nothing wrong with that of course, but it was a little reminiscent of Ronaldo’s managerial coup at the end of the 2016 Euros final. It’s hard to avoid the suspicion that those two (and maybe a couple of others) will try to exert some dressing room power when things aren’t going their way – does OGS really have the authority to manage through that? And how does ol’ Captain Slabhead feel about it? All the talk so far has been about everyone having to raise their standards with Ronaldo there – but what if you’re already playing pretty near your potential? And what’s the ‘Ronaldo effect’ when you make a big error? Is Ron putting his arm round AWB today and saying ‘we all make mistakes son’? Or is he looking at him more like ‘not exactly Dani Carvajal are you mate?’ (and by the way, your rival for RB is Portuguese).

Lastly, for all the talk of OGS’s poor subs last night, wasn’t the starting line up a bit surprising? When does he plan to rest Ronaldo, Pogba and Bruno if not against Young Boys? Is Ronaldo already insisting on playing every game when fit? I guess we’ll get more idea at the weekend. The other rotation challenge for OGS is United’s slightly weird fixture list – in the three weeks after the October international break, they have Liverpool, City, Leicester and Spurs, plus a double header against Atalanta. Then in December, they have six PL games, every one of them against bottom half/newly promoted teams, plus Young Boys at home. That seems harder to manage than alternating between harder and easier games throughout.

Anyway, all enjoyable speculation of course (this is the Mailbox, not the official record of Man Utd’s season) – but it’s not hard to envisage getting to March and everyone saying ‘we knew his tactics were lacking, but it turns out his man/squad management wasn’t elite-level either’.


Being a nice guy not enough
Here’s the problem. I can’t fight my way out of a paper bag. It’s not in my nature, and no matter how much I try to convince myself that I could be hard, I know I’m bluffing.

And that is where Ole will have to go if he is to win. He is not Sir, brought up in Glasgow by she shipyard, ready to fight and tough as old boots, he’s nice guy Ole.

He could have sold Lingard, didn’t (why?) so now he feels he needs to play him, to keep him happy? Forget that. He didn’t sell the grump that is Martial (why?), so he gives him game time.

That is all going to lead to his downfall unless he changes fast.

Forget their feelings. Get rid.

Or else just be happy that you are a nice guy, and let someone else do the hard work.


Ole, Ole, Ole, Ole, Ole, Oh…
My father and I have been supporting Man Utd for a combined 125 yrs and have an ongoing debate.

You see he loves Ole and won’t hear a word said against him. Why?
Isn’t it obvious? he scored a goal in 1999.

Whereas I can’t stand Ole as Utd’s manager. Why?
Isn’t it obvious? He’s useless.

The pro Ole camp argue that all the positives when Utd play are down to his tactics.

Conversely when things go wrong they say it’s down to the players ignoring him.

A slightly flawed argument as you could easily turn it on its head and say the players win the matches by ignoring his tactics and lose them when they follow.

The pro Ole camp also fail to see that their argument indicates that Ole only influences 50% of games?

Then there is the defence that he has improved players?


Martial? Lindelof? AWB? De Gea? It can be argued that players have regressed under Ole’s tutelage

Oh but he has got rid of the dead wood?

Again who?

Jones? Lingard? Players on loan is NOT getting rid of dead wood.

But fear not he has Utd DNA and understands the club ethos – so what?

Busby and Fergie never kicked a ball for Utd and it didn’t hold them back. Some fans should even remind themselves who Busby played for before joining Utd as manager!!

And these seem to be only arguments, reeled out ad-infinitum, in support of Ole.

Ole is a great guy. And yes he scored a goal in 1999. But seriously what is it fans say about former glories?

View Utd as a company and is there any other company of comparable size that would appoint a novice to learn on the job. At what point do you realise he has reached is potential?

The question fans should ask themselves is: would you be so supportive of Ole and his performance as Utd manager if he had never wore the shirt?

I originally wrote this in July, but decided against send – it seems just as relevant after last night.

Liverpool fans must be loving this.
Lee P

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer


Send Ole upstairs
So, it’s agreed Ole Gunner Southgate needs to bugger off. But where to?

May I suggest shoving him upstairs. Director of….well…not football but something or other. He has done a great deal well during his reign but pitchside, we all know, ain’t one of them.

So we bring in a coach. How deliciously retro. A coach with a coaching team. Ooh…I’m salivating.

But wait. Who? Stevie G? Heehee. Brendan? Ooh. Rafa? Ouch. C’mon, tell me! We need a Tuchel. Who is OUT there? HELP!!
Gavin (come back Gerry Francis) Bristol


Who next though?
The debate on whether Solskjaer should be sacked or not is getting a bit tedious at this point. Everyone had heard the arguments about why Solskjaer should or shouldn’t be sacked or which other big club would hire him, etc. It’s time to move the discussion on. The real question isn’t about Solskjaer at all, but rather if he was sacked right now, who would United bring in to replace him?

Of all the available managers, i.e. unemployed, at the moment, Conte has to be top of any shortlist. A proven winner who knows how to get the best out of Pogba. The only question is whether the players in the United squad are suited to playing his favoured 3 at the back formation.

Zidane would obviously be there too, questionable whether he’d be interested.

After that it gets a lot weaker. Löw? Hasn’t managed a club team since 2004. Howe? Would be another Solskjaer-esque appointment, without the history.

Who am I missing? If Conte and/or Zidane aren’t interested, who can United sign?


Contextualising Lingard’s error
Ryan, Bermuda, wrote that If you contextualise Lingard’s error it equates to some Joe Schmoe in sales putting explicit material on the last slide of a presentation, spilling coffee onto a client and burning out a laptop. This would equate to a sacking for Joe Schmoe so should equate to similar for Lingard. Sorry, not sorry, that’s complete and utter bollocks.

Lingard inadvertently passed the ball to the wrong recipient – or more accurately passed it to a spot where the wrong recipient could intercept it. If you contextualise that in ‘normal job’ terms – and therein lies the critical bit because in order to be a professional footballer you must be exceptional to some degree whereas you simply have to be competent to be employed in most normal jobs – it’s the equivalent of inadvertently sending an email to the wrong person because you relied on outlook’s autofill feature and didn’t check that the email was being sent to ‘B. Smith’ rather than ‘A. Smith’. It happens all the time to people much less skilled at their profession, and less valuable to their employer than Lingard is, without them being fired on the spot.

The analogy is not only completely wrong, it seeks to imply that, as a footballer, Lingard is insulated from the consequences of his mistakes whereas Joe Schmoe wouldn’t be. When in fact Lingard and other professional footballers, no matter how easy they make playing football look, do their jobs at a much higher level than the vast majority of us will ever do ours and work in a much more cutthroat, competitive, public and results driven world than anyone else. Therefore, maybe we should cut them some slack and empathise when they make the odd mistake, rather than trying to caricature it by suggesting their work is in any way analogous to Joe Schmoe in sales’. Because it quite simply isn’t.
NA E17


On Palace and Vieira
I enjoyed the piece by Steve Sanders this morning about Patrick Vieira, calling for an end to comparisons to Frank de Boer while also mentioning him, giving the whole affair an air of people repeatedly saying goodbye to each other on Zoom but no one actually ending the call.

De Boer’s problems started when he fell out with several long-time first team players, who got fed up with being castigated by the Dutchman for failing to meet his standards or adapt to his tactics after minimal coaching. He submitted a list of transfer targets to the board, most of whom were rejected as not being good enough (names have not been made public) for a Premier League side; Jairo Riedewald was the exception. Meanwhile, Mamadou Sakho was signed at high cost having impressed on loan under the previous manager (and his style). Aside from the other issues, you can understand a manager getting annoyed with his club when they won’t sign any of his preferred players but will spend a lot of money on someone he didn’t want. It was also rumoured that de Boer was unsettled by the return of Dougie Freedman. The Scotsman came back as a sporting director but in his previous spell as manager, he had set the club on the road to promotion; it’s understandable while the incumbent manager might find their position under threat; de Boer and Freedman worked together for less than two weeks.

Thankfully, the situation is different for Vieira, mainly because he arrived with Freedman nearly four years into his role. Vieira himself is part of a bigger project orchestrated at least partly by Freedman. The players arriving at the club this summer are generally known quantities, signed because they fit the way the manager wants to play. It feels like much more of a commitment to an approach this time: should Vieira ultimately fail, his successor will be someone who can play a similar style, instead of one of the Dad’s Army of out of work safety-first British managers.
Ed Quoththeraven
PS – to John Nicholson’s article, in the last test match at one point the Test Match Special commentators were falling over each other to get the statistician to come up with ever more arcane statistical points, and it was not interesting radio, so there is a limit to how much statistics make things better

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