By Ivan Lim
In a chart that shows how Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has fared in his first century of outings with Manchester United as opposed to Jurgen Klopp’s first 100 matches with Liverpool, Old Trafford’s Norwegian boss appears to have had more success.
The chart, from fansite UnitedPeoplesTV, suggests that Solskjaer should thus be backed so United could be rewarded with the kind of results Liverpool are now enjoying.
What do United fans say?
“If you compare it like this, it seems like, yes, why shouldn’t Ole be given more time to prove himself?” says Manchester United fan Adelene Wong, who has supported the club since 2005.
“But Ole is a new face in high-level football management, whereas I think Klopp has proven his prowess in this area (at least more than Ole) before joining Liverpool. He is also more charismatic than the quiet, soft spoken Ole, and has a charm about him that perhaps works better with the players,” she adds.
“I’m not sure how much respect Ole commands in the dressing room. I’m sure he’s respected among fans and the entire Manchester United community as an old boy. But it’s not easy managing high-profile players like Paul Pogba and crew. Even Jose Mourinho couldn’t,” explains Adelene, who became a United fan because she grew up with Manchester United supporters.
“My family – dad, brother and this cousin whom I grew up with – love football,” says Adelene. “I was just influenced. They were a part of my formative years – I followed United just because I like their style of playing and hey, I just like being associated with a winning club.
“You take on the personality of the club you support – sometimes arrogant, and always proud,” she adds. Which is why she feels that Manchester United should get rid of Solskjaer instead of giving him the time Klopp had enjoyed to develop Liverpool.
“Manchester United is a decorated club with so many titles, and we probably can’t wait four years for us to win a title under Solskjaer, or even the next manager,” she explains. Yes, Liverpool, of course could wait 30 years, but United aren’t the same.
And especially at a time when the English Premier League now has the likes of title-winning managers like Klopp and Pep Guardiola, United need to get rid of Solskjaer quickly.
“The man at the helm at United needs to have shown glimpses of brilliance in football management before belief can be entrusted in him for everyone to wait for him to deliver. Mourinho and Louis van Gaal did show that, although they failed with some even saying they left United worse off than when they had joined – so I’m not sure if we can wait for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to get us silverware.”
She feels also that whereas Klopp had a plan when he landed at Anfield, Solskjaer blows hot and cold, often looking quite out of his depth at Old Trafford.
“Klopp showed tactical prowess, too, and quickly imposed his favourite style and formation. I’m just not sure about Solskjaer. He did beat PSG and the RedBull Leipzig and I don’t want to discredit him but could they be one-offs? I don’t know,” she concedes.
“He has shown that he can win big games, but he has also fallen at hurdles he was expected to cross, so I can see why fans and even pundits are in two minds about what he can or cannot do,” she adds.
Despite Ole’s seemingly better showing than Klopp after 100 matches, would Adelene ditch him in favour of Klopp, if she had the power to and if the German boss were available?
“Yeah, absolutely,” admits the United fan unabashedly. “I hate to say this but I’m envious of Liverpool for having such a manager.”
Well, at least she’s honest.
“I remember thinking, I like this guy already. when I saw his first press con when he joined the club. And then thinking, ‘but we’re still gonna beat you’,” she says.
Now that Liverpool are favourites to beat Manchester United when they meet, Adelene says she misses the days when United were more competitive.
“I miss the time when Manchester United v Liverpool was about Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney, Carlos Tevez vs Steven Gerrard, Javier Mascherano, Xabi Alonso,” she reflects. And for that sort of rivalry to be restored, she feels Ole has to be shown the Old Trafford exit.
“I don’t even know why he is still there,” says Adelene.
Meanwhile, another United fan, Alexander Gerard Poh feels that despite having done better than Klopp in his first 100, Solskjaer doesn’t know his best 11.
“As a fan, Solskjaer was a wonderful player, but he’s not a great manager, at least not yet. He has room for improvement,” says the namesake of the great Sir Alex Ferguson.
“He needs to find the right midfield and attack combinations, like the pairing of Dwight Yorke and Andy Cole or Teddy with Solskjaer himself. Those combinations and the synergy it had is what I find missing in his squad. I believe he can do better once he finds the right combinations,” says Alexander.
The United fan who has followed his team since the days of David Beckham would therefore give Solskjaer the time he needs for that to happen.
“All in all, I would keep Solskjaer as manager. It’s a learning curve and he is slowly improving.”
But does he get a sense that Solskjaer is quite clueless and out of his depth as a Premiership manager, let alone boss of the great Manchester United?
“Yes,” he concedes. “At times, I wonder about the way he sets his team up. And then he goes on to show his many haters that his squad can still get the win and three points.
“As many old timers would say, the ball is round,” adds Alexander philosophically. Well, the ball is actually spherical, but we will focus our discussions on shape to that of the Manchester United team, which isn’t good after the Premier League loss at home to Arsenal and this morning’s (SGT) embarrassing 2-1 capitulation in Istanbul to Basaksehir. But Alexander remains unfazed.
“When we lost to Spurs, we were demolished. In the next two games, Solskjaer redeemed himself with wins over Newcastle and Paris Saint-Germain. Bearing in mind the formation he picked against PSG included a three-man defence, I think he is just experimenting to find the winning-11 for his team, even if he does seem clueless while doing it,” says Alexander.
Yes, Alexander admits he doesn’t understand Solskjaer or his tactics, but he’s willing to give the United boss more time. We hope for Alexander’s sake that Solskjaer at least understands himself.
“Yes,” says Alexander. “Give Solskjaer more time. We cannot expect anyone who comes after Sir Alex to perform like he did. Sir Alex also started out badly. With time, he became who he is now – well respected manager.”
If the opportunity were given and the decision were his to make, would Alexander discard Solskjaer for Klopp to become Manchester United’s boss?
“That is one tough question!” says Alexander. “But no. Solskjaer played under Fergie and will soon enough be the one to lead Manchester United to greatness again.”
Hopefully that happens before the end of Alexander’s daughter, Tessa’s formative years. The United fan brought his then two-year-old daughter for a tour of Old Trafford in 2015. And much to his chagrin, Tessa, who is now seven, has joined her grandfather in supporting Liverpool.
“Such an irony, right?” says Alexander. Hopefully, Solskjaer would get his act together quickly so young Tessa might be persuaded to switch allegiance to Daddy’s team.
And what do Liverpool fans think of Solskjaer’s first 100-match record against Klopp’s?
Liverpool fan Bernard Tan considers him a football genius, and insists that every Liverpool fan believes that.
“He is a football genius and his genius methods are beyond mere mortals like us Liverpool fans,” says Bernard, who considers himself a football pundit.
“I’m a pundit, but not a genius like Solskjaer,” says the Liverpool fan who was my classmate in secondary school.
“There is a system to Solskjaer’s madness. And if United stick with him, he will get it right. He will lead them to win silverware,” says Bernard confidently.
However, Bernard feels that United have to adjust their expectations – he won’t win the Champions League or the Premier League title so soon, but he thinks it will happen eventually.
“Perhaps start off with the Carabao Cup or the Europa League title, like Jose Mourinho did,” adds Bernard.
“After all, this genius beat Paris Saint-Germain twice! He also beat Manchester City twice! Come on! Ole Gunnar Solskjaer for life!”
And does Bernard believe that United fans should keep faith with Solskjaer even if United drop out of the European places at the end of this season?
“Of course! United fans need to be patient. Alex Ferguson was almost sacked and then got it right. I see a lot of Sir Alex in Ole! He needs five years, at least!” says Bernard, almost screeching in his enthusiasm for the former United striker.
What if, heaven forbid, United get relegated?
“Should that happen, then, regrettably, Solskjaer needs to go. But it won’t. Because Solskjaer is not only a genius. He is a lucky genius. With Fulham and West Bromwich Albion going down, even if Solskjaer’s United go on a bad run, he has Burnley and Sheffield United to cushion his side from the drop,” explains Bernard.
Most worrying for Liverpool fan Bernard at this stage is that Solskjaer may face the sack after United lost 2-1 to Basaksehir in the Champions League this morning. He feels that United fans and owners should not abandon hope in their Norwegian boss.
“My prediction is that he will recover by beating Everton. Then everyone will believe in the genius again,” says Bernard. “But after that, United will draw against West Brom.”
We don’t quite get the logic of Bernard the football pundit. But he did admit he wasn’t a genius, like Solskjaer.
This article, “Manchester United fans mixed over whether or not to sack Solskjaer; Liverpool fans want him to stay”, originally appeared on Football Siao – Singapore’s craziest EPL website.