The ‘slightly worrying’ part of Man United’s brilliance…

Date published: Thursday 7th March 2019 12:10

Graeme Souness Liverpool

‘United are not good enough, not wise enough, not streetwise enough to score three without reply inside Parc des Princes’ – Neil Ashton, The Sun, February 12.

‘PSG won the game and in all likelihood the tie in that spell at the start of the second half. They scored twice and could have scored five’ – Ian Ladyman, Daily Mail, February 12.

‘With United needing goals in Paris on March 6, if Mbappe stays fit, this tie is as good as over’ – Andy Dunn, Daily Mirror, February 12.

‘Of course, the tie is not over – but realistically, it is’ – a site not a million miles from here, February 12.


Don’t be Rash
‘Marcus Rashford’s amazing injury-time penalty gave United their greatest Euro win since 1999’ – Neil Custis, The Sun.

Agreed. Winning the actual thing in 2008 was always an overrated achievement.


Fergie’s at the wheel
As historic an achievement as beating PSG 3-1 at the Parc des Princes to overhaul a two-goal first-leg deficit is, it does rather feel as though Martin Samuel is getting a little carried away.

‘He’s Sir Alex Ferguson 2.0. Haven’t you noticed?’ he writes in the Daily Mail. ‘Only one man might have progressed in this situation, and with such incredible drama.

‘Ferguson’s narratives were second to none and Solskjaer is his direct descendant. On nights like this it all makes sense. Of course the match-winner in the Nou Camp should be the architect of a victory achieved in such astonishing circumstances.’

Steady on. Ferguson won 13 of a possible 21 Premier League titles, two Champions League trophies and five FA Cups over 26 years. Solskjaer has been phenomenal thus far, but over three months.

Ferguson’s ‘direct descendant’ was relegated with Cardiff five years ago. You can call him excellent and say he has exceeded expectations considerably without referring to him as the second coming of the greatest manager ever.


Much too Soun
With no Paul Pogba to criticise on Wednesday, Graeme Souness was left to simply rail against the concept of a workforce delivering better results under a more encouraging, happier and generally positive manager.

“The tune he’s got out of the players has surprised everyone, me included,” he said.

“On one side of the coin you’re thinking how well he’s done in the short period of time he’s been there and getting them from where they were, which was somewhere near the floor to the ceiling now.

“Winning games, playing with a swagger, a different feel altogether about this United team. That’s on the positive side.”

Here comes the ‘but’…

“On the negative, what does that say about that group of players who can go from where they were to where they are now?”

That they are being managed and coached better than before?

“What does that say about them? They’ve just switched off with the previous manager, a new guy comes in and because he says nice things to us, all of a sudden we start trying for him.”

Yes, Manchester United have gone from losing to Brighton to beating PSG away by two goals with ten players unavailable in the space of seven months because Solskjaer has been saying “nice things” to the players. That is literally all he has done.

It has absolutely nothing to do with his tactics, his approach, his use of certain players, his overall management. He has just put his arm around Romelu Lukaku, told him he’s good and voilà: a £75m striker looks like a £75m striker.

“It’s a wee bit worrying, how quickly will they revert back if the manager starts having to be harsh with them?”

He was probably quite harsh after the 2-2 draw with Burnley, and that hasn’t harmed them all too much. And being ‘harsh’ doesn’t necessarily mean hanging them out to dry in public, which their former manager is renowned for.

“It’s just slightly worrying that a group of players can switch it on and off like that.”

United fans definitely woke up on Thursday morning in a panicked sweat about why Chris Smalling has been playing much better recently.

To repeat: United stopped playing for their manager as much as their manager stopped managing them. Solskjaer has certainly benefited from being more positive, but to boil it down to just that is disrespectful. Time to give the effect of his coaching at least a modicum of credit instead of having a permanent chip on your shoulder about ‘player power’.


The Kidds are all right
Dave Kidd, The Sun, March 7:

‘Solskjaer will be United’s next permanent manager, that is for sure. Those of us who ever doubted it now look like cynics, guilty of over-thinking things’ – Dave Kidd, The Sun, March 7.


Dave Kidd, The Sun, February 12:

‘FROM a distance, it felt as though everybody around Manchester United has been getting a little too carried away in recent weeks.

‘That the rush to anoint Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as Jose Mourinho’s full-time successor has been a ‘marry in haste, repent at leisure’ scenario.

‘For a board, who must act with clear heads and long-sightedness, has there really been enough evidence to suggest that Solskjaer is the answer, rather than Mauricio Pochettino, or another manager with a more rounded body of work than the baby-faced assassin?’

We all thought it, to be fair.


United front
‘This is Solskjaer’s club now…There can be doubt who will lead United into the 2019/20 season’ – Tyrone Marshall, Manchester Evening News, March 7.

‘It’s going to take more than a couple of contrasting nights for Manchester United to make a decision over their next permanent manager, but Mauricio Pochettino certainly reminded club chiefs what they might be missing out on Wednesday night.

‘It’s becoming an impossible decision for United’ – Tyrone Marshall, Manchester Evening News, February 13.

Turns out it took just one ‘contrasting night’ to make United’s mind up.


Tie breaker
By Thursday lunchtime, the MailOnline, the Daily Mirror and The Sun all lead on the fact that United’s squad and staff flew back to Manchester Airport late on Wednesday evening. What’s more, they have pictures of this groundbreaking story.

‘Manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer led the way as United’s players and staff came back through Manchester Airport at 2.25am,’ reads the MailOnline’s report.

‘Sir Alex Ferguson was also in the travelling party, as was his former assistant manager and Solskjaer’s current No 2 Mike Phelan.

‘Marcus Rashford, who scored the decisive penalty, was also part of the group, alongside Chris Smalling.

‘David de Gea and Luke Shaw joined the rest of the team in wearing their club suits as they arrived.’

What you’ve done there is tell us that ‘United’s players and staff came back through Manchester Airport at 2.25am’, before literally listing some of their players and staff who came back through Manchester Airport at 2.25am. So thanks for that.

But the MailOnline appear to have buried the actual story towards the end.

‘Victor Lindelof had removed his tie, unlike the rest of the squad.’

More as we get it.


To the Victor…
Thankfully the Daily Mirror are here to shed a little more light on this potentially volatile situation.

‘Victor Lindelof is continuing to excel in central defence and produced another solid display to thwart the threat of PSG’s star-studded attack.

‘So Solskjaer might just forgive the Swede for forgetting to put his club tie back on as he left the airport.’

Nah, he’ll surely sell him as punishment.


Jolene, Jolene, Jolene, Jolene…


Recommended reading of the day
Jonathan Wilson on PSG’s demise.

Jack Gaughan interviews Blackpool manager Terry McPhillips.


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