Who can forget the scenes that followed Manchester United’s phenomenal raid on enemy soil after they beat PSG at the Parc des Princes back in March Champions League round of 16? As soon as the final whistle sounded, the Manchester United players sprinted to where the away fans were being housed as the PSG players crumbled to the floor.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, the interim manager at the time, was photographed on the pitch with his players, hands aloft and smiles wide. Eric Cantona and Sir Alex Ferguson even made their way down to the away dressing room to pose for a picture with Solskjear, fists raised and proud. Minutes after that, Rio Ferdinand would boldly state on BT Sport that ‘Manchester United were back.’
— Rio Ferdinand (@rioferdy5) March 28, 2019
Ferdinand has a tendency to get swept up in his affection for the Red Devils when working as a pundit and can often appear to shoot from the hip in the heat of the moment but on this particular night, who could argue with the former defender? For all intents and purposes, United were back.
Fast forward to the end of August as the European summer begins to make its final preparations for departure and that chilly spring night back in France’s capital seems a lifetime ago. Since the Manchester United hierarchy made Solskjaer their permanent manager, the Norwegian has only managed a 23% win rate with just three wins in 15 games. No one could have predicted that it would have gone this badly for Solskjaer and why would they have done? Before he became the permanent manager he couldn’t stop winning.
Has anything gone wrong or is it perfectly logical to suggest that he is in the beginning stages of building a legacy at Manchester United with the odd hiccup very much expected? No one will begrudge giving Solskjaer time, especially as United need stability in order to begin building from the ground up again but there does seem to be a growing school of thought that Ed Woodward may be about to give the wrong guy a damaging amount of leeway.
Even after just three Premier League games, it’s hard to see United being able to win any sort of silverware this season. Even in the domestic cup competitions, they are at long odds, a look at the FA Cup betting will see United at 9/1 which to be fair is an improvement on their 11/1 odds to win the Carabao Cup. The expected response would be that his remit isn’t to win trophies this season and that is fair enough, but the point is, this side doesn’t look capable of winning which is a concern given it wasn’t assembled on the cheap.
On top of the embarrassment of riches that Solskjaer had to choose from once he got the job, he was given an eye-watering £150 million to spend in the summer. A shock 2-1 defeat to Crystal Palace at home was worrying, especially as the same Palace side were soundly beaten by newly-promoted Sheffield United a week before. On the evidence of the defeat to the Eagles, it does make you think back to Chelsea’s early raid at Old Trafford on the opening weekend and how lucky United were not to be three or four down at halftime.
Manchester United have only managed to win 3 games since that famous night in Paris. pic.twitter.com/irgM6jYenw
— FootballJOE (@FootballJOE) August 27, 2019
The signs are there that this team hasn’t gelled yet but we would be lying to ourselves if we said it isn’t possible for managers to be successful in their first full season. Many honeymoons end in Paris but most of the time, that is where the journey of happiness truly begins. For Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, his relationship with Manchester United seems to be on the rocks only months after leaving the French capital.