Would Solskjaer be better as Man Utd’s DoF than manager?

Date published: Tuesday 22nd October 2019 2:32

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer Ed Woodward Manchester United

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Frustrated at Solskjaer’s “one size fits all” approach
I must admit, like Isimeme (Lagos, MUFC), I have also pondered whether Ole would make a better director of football than a manager. I think there is some merit to the idea, in that he has a clear idea of the profile of player that would benefit the club and the style of football he believes it should be playing. Presumably, any director of football would still take a back seat in terms of the financial negotiations – Woodward does not seem to have any intention of relinquishing that particular responsibility – in which case, it possibly matters less about any potential candidate’s business acumen. I also have reservations about Ole’s tactical acumen in general, which may well improve with time but in the shorter term seems to be lacking somewhat, but I’ll come onto that shortly.

However, where this idea does come unstuck – as does any director of football appointment – is availability of a managerial candidate to compliment Ole’s vision. In order for Ole to be a successful director of football, the manager needs to completely buy in to their vision. Any new manager working under Ole would have to want the same profile of player; would Max Allegri, for example, have been happy with James, Wan-Bissaka and Maguire as his only signings this year? Or would he have wanted to bring in players who fit his own personal style? I don’t see too many examples of him signing the sorts of players that Ole appears to want, so there’s perhaps a clash of cultures there. I’m sure there are managers out there that would complement Ole as a DoF, but that would have to be the main consideration when making any new appointments.

Back to Ole’s tactical nous; I expected some of the reactions like that of Yash, MUFC, following the Liverpool game. The problem that I see with those ideas (4-4-2, 3-4-2-1 etc.) is that it will only work against certain types of team, not as a blanket, catch-all solution. Against Liverpool, who have the best defender in the world among their ranks, they can afford to leave a bit more space in behind. While Alexander-Arnold is great going forward, his defensive game still needs a bit of polish (not a criticism, he’s a great player) and Matip isn’t anywhere near Van Dijk’s level for my money, so Rashford and James got a bit of joy player in that split striker way.

That tactic will not work against all teams by default – how do you counter-attack a team that isn’t playing on the front foot? Look at the games vs Newcastle, Palace, Wolves etc., in which we toiled in front of goal; how is a split striker, counter-attacking system going to work against two banks of four, or a back five with a defensive midfielder? In fact, we know it doesn’t because we actually played it in all those games. Rashford himself even confirmed this after the game, saying that “it’s not necessarily a change to what we was [sic] doing at the beginning of the season…on paper it looks like split strikers but it’s basically the same thing.” So we already have the evidence to show that it’s not a magic bullet.

My main criticism of Ole is that it seems to be a “one size fits all” approach, with little-to-no tactical adjustments for each different opponent. Mourinho was guilty of doing this – going defensive firstin every game – and Ole is now doing the same type of thing with his counter-attacking. Against Liverpool, we saw very little tactical adjustments, save for the last 15 minutes when all attack ceased and we just pulled everyone back. No formation changes, no specific instructions to counter the changing threats, barely even any personal changes until after the goal – just get everyone back and keep it tight (which we, unsurprisingly, failed to do).

The reason I believe we still need another striker is because we need a different type of player for different types of situation. In the games in which we dropped points, we did so because our strikers were not clinical enough and not getting themselves in the right positions to receive any crosses that did come in. If we had a proper line-leading striker (like Zlatan in his prime), someone who isn’t really interested in build-up play and just wants to score, then perhaps we could have taken more from those games. As it is, if we try the same approach in every game, then we’ll be met with limited success. While Mandzukic might not be a long-term solution, he at least offers us something different to what we have right now. What I really want to see is some opponent-specific changes, based on their strengths and weaknesses and, unfortunately, this squad (and maybe the manager too) doesn’t have the variety of options to allow that.
Ted, Manchester


Ozil = a dented classic Ferrari
Dear Editor,

My old friend’s dad once had a classic 70’s Ferrari that he hardly drove. It was dented and had a few mechanical issues that meant it didn’t actually have any real value. It’s slower than most modern hot hatchbacks and is definitely a car that does not suit the modern environment (high emissions, it’s too wide for newer and narrower lane markings and too low for speed humps).

But he did at least keep it in the garage as an option to drive on weekends and school holidays because it’s still better than a Toyota.

What I’m trying to say is; for f**k’s sake Unai, could you at least put Mesut f**king Ozil on the f**king bench for exactly THAT f**king scenario! At least keep him as an option and then play him towards the end of games when the opposition is tired and less likely to press as intensely (his major weakness).
A really frustrated Arsenal fan in SA


Another Emery rant
Like a lot of my fellow Gooners I am becoming increasingly frustrated by some of Dick’s increasingly eccentric Team Selections…..throwing Willock and Saka into the Sheffield United cauldron, are you serious ? Has he actually watched any Shef U match tapes this season ? I’ve never liked Xhaka since he was brought in (no fault of Dick’s obviously) but surely even he can see he is just not up to concentrating for more than 30 seconds at a time, offers very little going forward, and has been at fault for multiple goals now with his CBA attitude tracking back or not sticking with the man he is supposed to be marking. Sokratis is too slow and cumbersome, surely Holding any day, and Tierney has to be an upgrade on Kolasinac. The one thing we needed last night was steel (haha) but we got the usual apathetic away performance, certainly first half, which was entirely predictable, but possibly preventable had the right starting XI been on the pitch. I still think going for Gary Cahill vice Luiz would have been a lot more sensible too.

Nick Haj, Gooner, Norf Shropshire


Arsenal fans: calm down
Arsenal are poor but they have two home games coming up. They will thrash some Europa minnows on Thursday and (probably) beat Palace on Sunday and everyone will be happy in the Emirates comfy seats again.
Until the next away match of course…
Schlomo Jenkins


A style question
Quick question for the mailbox to get away from the same old boring topics: is it better to be decent at a variety of play styles, or is it better to be really f*cking good at your style?

What made me think of this were the comments from Arsenal fans about Emery’s lack of tactical plan. In his first season, I remember the personnel, formation, defensive line etc. changing fairly frequently. I seem to remember F365 doing a couple of pieces on how difficult it was to predict his setup pre-match and also how Arsenal won a fair few points by altering shape and tactics at half time.

The benefits of this would be that you can adapt to hurt your opponent and expose their weaknesses. Obviously if you’re training a number of different styles, each one will be less refined and you may have to play in a way that inhibits a particular player by going against his natural game (or have an extremely large squad to rotate players in and out as required).

The other way of thinking would be that if you’re only playing one way then it becomes second nature and gets slicker and slicker as players get used to the style and one another. Obvious drawback is that if a team finds a way to counter that style and exploit its weaknesses (because every team and style has them) then you’ll find it harder to adapt to those conditions and play a different way.

From what I can see, the latter seems the most effective since the top teams in Europe (clear bias) all have a distinct style of play. Are there any teams out their which are adapting more frequently,  playing a variety of different ways and having any success?

I would note that I’m not particularly good at seeing tactics at play when watching a match and I’m aware the likes of City and Liverpool will makes tweaks each week, but I’m more getting at the fact that Liverpool press high and furiously and City dominate possession pretty much week in/week out.
Dave (MUFC) Leeds


Doctor: What seems to be the matter?
Me: I have this pain in my neck and arse.
Doctor: How long has this been going on?
Me: Around 3 years.
Doctor: Sounds like Brexit fatigue to me.
Me: What’s the cure?
Doctor: Take a course of doxycycline suppositories. They’ll take your mind right off anything else. Should be grand in 4-5 years.  Now that will be €60 please.
Me: €60, Jaysus! Do you take Revolut?

I know it is really important and I should care but I just don’t. I’m so bored of it all. Brexit. Trump. Brexit. Trump. Backstop. Collusion. Ball ache. Same-Same but different. Down with this sort of thing. These words have lost all meaning to me. I’ve said, read and heard the word Brexit so often that the word has lost all meaning. I now find myself turning on the news half way through to skip all the Brexit malarkey. I’m currently avoiding 24 hour news channels and their Brexit countdown clocks. It’s like Transfer Deadline Day but somehow worse.

How I wish someone would slap a dildo in the face of anyone just to mix things up a bit. I don’t know how presenters and journalists get out of bed in the morning. These poor repetition artists deserve an award though they may prefer a Howitzer rather than a Pulitzer. They must have some serious sadomasochistic tendencies, self-flagellating their way through news bulletins about johnsons, backstops and withdrawal agreements as they get shouted down by protestors of one side or another. The safe word if Benn Act. On a side note, Boo-ing is so strange. A crowd boo-ing sounds alight but have you ever watched one person boo?

It’s like watching someone lick an ice-cream, that is, it’s very weird. Anyway (finally, I hear you say), now to my main point. VAR is quickly joining Brexit & Trump in the ranks of coverage that I try to avoid. The same inane comments from the same inane pundits. Even during the international break when VAR was not used VAR was used. VAR would have disallowed that goal etc.. Luckily Ireland weren’t subject to this drivel as you have to create a chance or a meaningful event has to occur for VAR to come into play. I find myself skipping through the VAR emails in the mailbox. Obviously by emailing in about VAR I’m only adding fuel to the VAR fire and ill only skip over this mail if it’s published so please feel free to delete this from your inbox.
Keep up the great work,
Ferg, Dublin


I’d just like to refer Patrick and his patronising letter to the Leicester-Burnley game at the weekend. Burnley equalise to make it 2-2, but the goal gets disallowed due to an accidental foul by Chris Wood on Jonny Evans which goes against the supposed approach of “if a foul was committed inside the penalty area, it will not be subject to the ‘clear and obvious error’ test.”

This is why people are becoming so frustrated with VAR, because its application is so inconsistent. I think for me the most concerning thing is that there were four incidents on Saturday (Zaha/De Bruyne, Alli, Wood/Evans and Deulofeu) and the one that was overturned was the incident that was the least “clear and obvious”, and the official at Stockley Park on that day was Michael Oliver who is easily our best referee. I’m convinced that he’d disagree with some, if not all of these decisions and in that case then the implementation and current use of it needs reviewed.


Commentator bias?
In response to Hugh Cork/London (Tyler’s commentary for Henderson’s Chelsea goal is so quiet.though..)

He has previous……Wigan vs Chelsea 05/06.

Wigan newly promoted, Crespo puts one top bins in the 93rd to win it 1-0.

As it goes in Martin Tyler screams “OH NO”….. Then realises where he is and follows up a few seconds later with…. “for Wigan….. but great for Chelsea”
Chris Richards

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