Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and assistant coach Michael Carrick during a match. Photo: Reuters/Jason Cairnduff
Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and assistant coach Michael Carrick during a match. Photo: Reuters/Jason Cairnduff
The Mercury soccer writer Minenhle Mkhize.
The Mercury soccer writer Minenhle Mkhize.

DURBAN – Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has laid a solid foundation at Manchester United since taking over the coaching reigns from Jose Mourinho. But the Red Devils are still far from reclaiming their spot among Europe’s elite.

Man United are renowned for turning raw talent into superstars. Players such as David Beckham, Ruud van Nistelrooy and Cristiano Ronaldo became world superstars thanks to the grooming they got at Carrington - United’s training ground - and Old Trafford, the club’s revered home stadium.

And they then went on to recoup their investment in this trio by selling them to Real Madrid.

The Red Devils were all about generating more income by selling their top talent and proven stars rather than splashing ridiculous amounts of money on attracting top players. How times have changed though.

Sir Alex Ferguson was steering the ship at that time and was the master of that concept “turn raw talent in to superstars and sell them”.

The world of football has evolved. If you can’t produce top quality players then you have to be prepared to break the bank.

I know they’ve tried it under the tenure of Mourinho by signing Paul Pogba and Romelu Lukaku. Louis Van Gaal also broke the bank for the services of Angel Di Maria. If you want to compete against the best in Europe, you have to be prepared to pay consistently to refresh your squad.

The Red Devils are miles away from the level of the likes of Manchester City and Liverpool on the domestic front. They have to work diligently to close the gap. The two English Premier League title contenders are a formidable force to be reckoned with at the moment thanks to the huge investment they made in their respective squads.

Man United, just like Real Madrid (announcing the return of Zinedine Zidane as their manager), have taken a step in the right direction by appointing Solskjaer as the club’s manager on a permanent basis.

When the Norwegian arrived, the Red Devils were in disarray but the former Man United talisman has brought a new lease of life at Old Trafford. No-one ever thought that at this stage of the season United will be competing to finish in the top three. No-one ever imagined United reaching the last eight of the Uefa Champions League. But Solskjaer did the unthinkable and turned their fortunes around.

It has taken him four months to clean up the mess that was caused by Mourinho. While he deserves all the plaudits he is getting, even he will admit that the job of returning United to glory days has a long way to go still.

For one, the defence is in serious need of strengthening. Granted, United boasts one of the world’s most talented goalkeepers in David De Gea. But they are still fragile at the back. They need to sort out their defensive frailties. 

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was recently appointed a full-time Man United manager. Photo: REUTERS/Jon Super
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was recently appointed a full-time Man United manager. Photo: REUTERS/Jon Super

Their central pairing still leaves a lot to be desired. The Red Devils really need to sign a top quality centreback. Ashley Young (33) has also reached his sell by date. He has lost pace and he is not an out and out defender. Antonio Valencia (33) is ageing and forever injured.

The young Portuguese, Diogo Dalot (20) is one for the future. He has immense talent and potential but the Red Devils have to go for a proven right-back with international experience.

Solskjaer will only close the gap on the likes of Man City, Liverpool, Barcelona and PSG if he is given a budget to reinforce his squad.

@Minenhlecr7


The Mercury

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