OLIVER HOLT: Closed the whining, United … Solskjaer knows that second after City is not worth celebrating
It is not Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s fault that Manchester United General Manager Richard Arnold is doing his best to put his foot in his mouth as much as he is signing new global noodle partners. You can’t choose your parents, they say, and if you’re a football manager, you can’t choose your club’s executives either.
A few days before United was knocked out of the FA Cup by Leicester City last Sunday, Arnold began a flowery reverie about how great Solskjaer was. He spoke of him as if he were Sir Alex Ferguson in his splendor, or Jose Mourinho who beat Barcelona at the Nou Camp when he won the Champions League at Inter Milan, or Jurgen Klopp after his seasons in the sun at Liverpool.
“No one in the world is happier than me with the phenomenal success he brings,” Arnold said after announcing a sponsorship deal. ‘When you are in the club and you see the work of the man and the character, it makes you so happy. He deserves to succeed and he is, and it makes me very happy. ‘
Questions are being asked about Ole Gunnar Solskjaer after Manchester United’s FA Cup exit
United director Richard Arnold (left) spoke positively about Solskjaer last week
What? First, this makes Arnold sound like he’s a five-year-old with posters of Ole on his wall. I mean, it’s strangely reminiscent of that car crash TV moment when Tom Cruise started jumping up and down on Oprah Winfrey’s couch to show how much he loved someone he later divorced. You are the general manager for God’s sake. Not a fanboy. And second, it has no relationship with reality.
Look, I think Solskjaer is doing a good job at Old Trafford. Maybe better than solid. After the upheavals under Louis van Gaal and Mourinho, who put the club backwards, Solskjaer has brought stability and order and the feeling that United is – slowly – returning to the top of the game.
He has weathered a difficult situation with Paul Pogba, he has rebuilt Luke Shaw, he has used the club’s youth system well, he has led United back to second place in the Premier League and is – slowly – building a squad that is in state should be. of taking on a more serious challenge for next season’s highest honor than it has been able to do this term, even if the Manchester City players are not yet anxiously looking over their shoulders.
Solskjaer has United second in the league table and last eight in the Europa League – is that enough?
Solskjaer’s biggest problem lies in the way he is seen by some as the main symbol of the club’s lack of ambition on the field, which is another reason why Arnold should have kept his mouth shut instead of his size 10 Sbenus. ram – former casual shoe partner for South Korea – into that yawning chasm instead.
The Glazer regime at United has already been open to accusations that they cared more about success off the field than winning trophies on the field. “Game performance doesn’t really have a meaningful impact on what we can do about the commercial size of the company,” Ed Woodward, United’s executive vice president, told investors a few years ago.
Then there was the importance Arnold placed on the fact that Odion Ighalo was trending worldwide on Twitter after United contracted him in January last year, not realizing the reason he was trending was that so many United fans were appalled. There was also the recent suggestion that the club appears to be more committed to monetizing their TikTok signups than signing a center-back to partner Harry Maguire.
The Glazers are accused of having enjoyed more gains off the field than the success on the field at United
So it’s a familiar story and Arnold just fed it. Even those of us who admire the work Solskjaer does can hardly claim to have achieved ‘phenomenal success’ at Old Trafford. He has not won a trophy in the two years he has been in charge and, unless United wins the Europa League in May, he will not win one this season.
Solskjaer has made modest progress at United and deserves some credit for that, but the club is 14 points behind City with nine games to play. There is no chance that they will win the title. That is not a ‘phenomenal success’ either. Not for a club like United. So those kinds of claims make you look small. Really small.
It’s the kind of wide-eyed claim that only increases fans’ fears that they have commercial men running the club who know little about football and think that being knocked out of the Champions League in the group stage represents’ phenomenal success’.
Solskjaer has made improvements and there is a feeling that he has turned the club around. But he’s still just hovering above the ‘minimum requirement’ for a club of United’s size and record. United have yet to take another leap forward next season if they are to compete with City at the top of the table.
The Red Devils beat Manchester City earlier this month, but are 14 points behind their rivals
Arnold (right) and United CEO Ed Woodward (left) should invest in the club this summer
To do that, Arnold will have to stop talking. If he and Woodward are really that happy with Solskjaer, if they are not satisfied with commercial benefits and commonplace on the field, they should persuade the Glazers to nicely support their manager in the transfer market over the summer. Because City is getting stronger again. And Chelsea too. And Liverpool will not have such a terrible league campaign as this season.
Arnold has to leave the cheerful atmosphere behind him. Someone who understood United’s history would spit at the club 14 points behind City, and not bask in the hollow glory of a distant second. Anyone who understood United’s history would know that if Solskjaer doesn’t win the Premier League or the Champions League next season, a club calling itself the greatest in the world should say enough.
Solskjaer deserves to prove that he can perform until the end of next season. Until then, someone should tell Arnold to keep his idea of ”phenomenal success” to himself.
White and Stewart are real heroes
The Sheldon Review left many questions unanswered and even more unanswered. It was unsatisfactory, lacked zeal, and lacked conviction. The opposite was true for Football’s Darkest Secret, the three-part BBC documentary about the epidemic of sexual abuse in the English game, which aired last week and was one of the most powerful television pieces I’ve ever seen.
It was powerful because it was so shocking and moving. And in a way it was uplifting too. Because it targeted men who had been abused in their youth who had found the courage to come forward and tell their stories, not only bringing bad men to justice, but also reducing the likelihood that football ever became blind. eye again.
So David White was a hero of mine when he played for Manchester City. Loved watching him fly over the right wing. I was surprised how fast it was. At times his pace seemed otherworldly. He was so fast he could make it look like defenders were running in syrup. He was a hero of mine back then, and here’s the thing: he’s even more of a hero of mine now.
The BBC documentary Football’s Darkest Secret investigated sexual abuse in the English game
The same goes for Paul Stewart. He was never one of my favorite players the way White was, but I found his testimony in the first episode of the series deeply disturbing and deeply moving. I am aware that there is a danger of patronizing men like him and Ian Ackley, Dion Raitt, Andy Woodward, Gary Cliffe, Steve Walters, Dean Radford and so many others who have spoken out saying how brave they are or how much i admire them but it’s still worth saying.
It’s worth saying, because through their actions and the power of their testimony, they’ve done more to stop the rise of another Barry Bennell or another Bob Higgins than the Sheldon Review ever could.
They have the culture that allowed football to turn sleepwalking into a situation where abusers could uncontrollably ruin children’s lives. She and people like the journalist Danny Taylor, who first told Andy Woodward’s story, gave so many others the strength to come forward. They have stopped more lives being destroyed. They’ve taken football out of its complacency and closing ranks that were once its defense mechanism against ugly secrets like this one.
That’s why I admire them. Because it’s men who have made a difference. So I loved David White as a footballer, but he’s more of a hero now than ever. And Paul Stewart? He scored a goal in an FA Cup final and played for England, but it pales next to what he has achieved in recent years. He wasn’t a hero of mine before. But he is now.