English Premiership

Solskjaer requires divine focus from United players next season

2019-05-16 13:27
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (AP)

Cape Town - Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer needs to declutter at Carrington and some of the players - if not all - should take part in the process.

Solskjaer's jarring first six months as club manager - half of which as interim - proved to be hot and cold.

The former striker guided United to 14 wins, two draws and three defeats in his first 19 games as interim manager. It was only after penning a three-year contract with the club that the erosion started to show - two victories, two draws and six defeats.

Their final Premier League match-day clash against Cardiff City ended in a 2-0 defeat at Old Trafford, a scoreline that would shock many in the past but not today.

Sir Alex Ferguson dreamed of dethroning Liverpool as the club with most top-flight league crowns and so he did in his almost 27-year reign with 13 titles - retiring on United's 20th title win, giving the Red Devils a two-trophy cushion over their arch-rivals.

But things could change in the next few seasons if United don't quickly get their act together.

Liverpool are showing signs of consistency as Jurgen Klopp's ways wash all over the Merseyside Reds. Despite not winning a major tournament under the current regime, the five-time European champions look much closer to ending their 29-year-long Premier League drought than United.

Meanwhile, the rise of Manchester City, the 'noisy neighbours' as Ferguson once called them, has seen the Pep Guardiola-managed outfit collect four Premier League titles in seven seasons - including four League Cup triumphs, an FA Cup and two FA Community Shield honours.

"The top two teams have set a standard higher than before and we have to take up the next challenge. The work starts now. Everyone has the summer off but we have to come back with a different mentality and different attitude of being a Manchester United team. The ones who played did well but it was not good enough," said Solskjaer following Sunday's defeat.

'A fish rots from the head'

While many have been targeting the players and managers - past and present - for the club's rapid fall from grace, the Glazer family are yet to feel the wrath of scrutiny from the fans and football pundits.

On Twitter, ex-Liverpool defender turned football pundit, Jamie Carragher, dared his Sky Sports colleague and former United captain, Gary Neville, to have a go at the Red Devils owners.

"We’ve still allowed your weekly rant about Ed Woodward though, any chance you’ll have the balls to call out the Glazers??!!!!" the Tweet read.

Ferguson's abrupt exit after the 2012/13 campaign included the departure of David Gill, former vice executive chairperson, and he was subsequently replaced by Woodward.

However, in his seven-year reign, Woodward has signed four managers including Solskjaer.

David Moyes, Louis Van Gaal and Jose Mourinho have all not seen out their contract while at United and were sacked when the going got tough.

In the last 18 months, Woodward extended Mourinho's contract before sacking the Portuguese mentor 10 months later. He backed the transfer of Alexis Sanchez from Arsenal with Henrikh Mkhitaryan going the opposite direction. The Chilean signed a lucrative deal making him the highest earner in the Premier League. What's more frustrating is that United extended the contracts of the underperforming Chris Smalling, Phil Jones and Ashley Young.

At the end of the 2017/18 season, Mourinho said that finishing second in the Premier League - 19 points behind City - was his greatest achievement as a manager. He was obviously insinuating that the players at United were not good enough to achieve that feat and if they are to keep up with City and Liverpool they will need to revamp the following season. However, the Portuguese did not get the kitty he had hoped for, and failed to handle the situation in a proper manner as he continued to share his grievances with the media which took its toll on the players. He clearly was not backed by Woodward and the United board as he has spent more than £362 million on 11 players during his nearly three-year tenure.

The question remains whether Solskjaer will be backed with the millions United need when the transfer window opens. The Norwegian has a mammoth task of rebuilding - that means recruiting the right players and getting rid of dead weight.

Solskjaer's resume lacks experience and quite frankly, this is the biggest chance the Red Devils have ever taken with a manager before and the doubters are extremely loud.

Divine focus, strong mentality and teamwork ...

Solskjaer needs to find a way of guiding United through this dark period which has been surrounding the club for years.

The spirit and culture need to change before anything else is dealt with.

The 46-year-old needs to usher in the change that will bring positive energy next season and the way in doing that is getting everyone on board with his philosophy - and if he does not have one, start with club ethics.

From how the players conduct themselves during training, their behaviour around the Carrington training ground, to dissolving the player cliques, to the dressing room culture, to having a relentless mentality and much more.

We've yet to see if he has the leadership qualities to invoke change - this is his chance.

The details in winning silverware go beyond the football pitch.

It has been revealed that at City, players and staff birthdays are celebrated together after matches or whenever there is training.

Guardiola advised Gabriel Jesus and Benjamin Mendy to move out of the city centre to avoid any distractions, while John Stones moved into the same apartment block as the manager following his public break-up with his girlfriend.

Jesus has also hired a personal trainer to help him garner a healthier lifestyle while Danilo has taken the time to watch video analysis to improve his game.

At Liverpool's Melwood training facilities, Klopp rearranged the cafeteria tables so that during breakfast and lunch the players and staff can enjoy their meals together.

All in his first week after joining the club, Klopp set the record straight on wives and girlfriends visiting the training ground and if you want days off, you'll need to earn it.

The touching of the famous Liverpool sign at Anfield was banned until the club wins silverware while phones should be kept in the locker rooms during training and match-days as he sees them as distractions.

In any team sport from American football to basketball and rugby, a level of commitment and discipline set by the head coach or manager has come down to the finest details.

If he hasn't already, this is the kind of approach Solskjaer should be paying attention to in those early days next season.

Tashreeq Vardien works at Sport24 and is a paper basketball dustbin champion... Follow Tashreeq on Twitter.

Disclaimer: Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.

 

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