Watch out Ole, when it comes the end can be swift and brutal
‘I see myself here for a long time but I’ve got a big job and there are a lot of things I’ve got to do and I’m not going to be able to do it all immediately. I’m not feeling any pressure from inside the club.’
These words could easily have come from Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as he continues to wrestle with the challenge of reviving Manchester United.
In fact, they were uttered by David Moyes in the aftermath of United beating Olympiacos in March 2014 to reach the quarter-finals of the Champions League, a scenario the club would gladly take now.
Moyes was gone just weeks later, 10 months after succeeding Sir Alex Ferguson on a six-year contract.
His mistake, Moyes has said many times since, was believing that his new employers — and in particular executive vice- chairman Ed Woodward — would give him anything like that amount of time.
‘I got the job and I expected it to be a six-year plan,’ he said later. ‘We knew it was going to take time to make the necessary changes and evolve. In the end, I don’t feel I was given time to succeed or fail.
‘It could well be that gone are the days of long-term planning at United.’
Solskjaer would do well to heed those words as the international break brings respite from United’s worst start to a league season in 30 years, with his team two points off the relegation zone.
Performances have dipped alarmingly, confidence is ebbing away and the nostalgic optimism generated by Solskjaer’s early success has evaporated.
If that isn’t bad enough, United’s next opponents are ruthless, resurgent Liverpool.
The situation feels worse than it did under Moyes, Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho.
And yet United insist Solskjaer’s job is secure. They have bought into a long-term rebuilding project aimed at clearing up the mess of the last six years and remain satisfied that he is the man to oversee it.
Club sources maintain nothing has changed in the wake of Sunday’s 1-0 defeat at Newcastle which Sportsmail expert Martin Keown said ‘might be the beginning of the end for this manager’.
You could argue that the amiable Norwegian deserves time and it still appears as though he will be given it.
The big question is, just how far is Woodward prepared to let things slide before deciding enough is enough?
For Moyes and Van Gaal it was failure to qualify for the Champions League. Solskjaer may not be held to the same standards, but how low can he go?
History tells us the end at United comes swiftly and brutally.
Moyes thought he had time. The proud Scotsman, devastated to learn of his fate through the media, was reduced to tears by United’s decision.
Van Gaal thought he had time. He wanted a two-year contract but United insisted on three. Things changed, however, when Mourinho became available — a situation with striking parallels to United’s long-standing interest in unsettled Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino.
‘Suddenly, Mourinho was out after one-and-a-half years of my contract and I knew United wanted him one day,’ said Van Gaal. ‘They told me only after it was leaked out and it was the biggest disappointment of my life. United put my head in a noose and I was publicly placed on the gallows.’
Van Gaal claimed his wife Truus overheard members of Woodward’s family discussing his sacking in a lift at Wembley before he had been officially informed after winning the FA Cup in what proved to be his last game.
Recalling his final months in charge, Van Gaal said: ‘My wife told me that the attitude of the board had changed. Women have this intuition. They smell it.
‘I denied it, even to my wife, because between me as manager and Ed Woodward, everything was running as normal.’
Mourinho’s demise, on the other hand, was described as ‘death by a thousand cuts’ due to the sheer volume of issues engulfing his reign by the time he was axed.
The feeling is that United and Woodward have learned from the chopping and changing of recent years. The club have shown faith in Solskjaer and need to see it through this time.
Indeed, his former team-mate Gary Neville is among those who believe the blame lies squarely in the boardroom rather than with the managers themselves — that Solskjaer needs more time and more new signings before he can be judged.
‘The board need to hold their nerve,’ Neville told Sky Sports. ‘They’re responsible for this with poor recruitment and poor selection of managers.
‘Manchester United are now getting the pain they deserve for poor decisions at board level and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer needs to make sure that he gets the opportunity to spend the money the others have had.’
The trouble is, when things go wrong at United these days, sooner or later one man pays the price — and it isn’t Woodward.Daily Mail