When the news broke that club legend, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, was to become interim manager at Manchester United for the remainder of the season, I felt a mixture of excitement and confusion.
Excited, for obvious reasons. As stated above, he is a club legend. He has always been open about his love for the club and his dream to manage it.
But, most importantly, that he get’s what Manchester United is about. He knows the “United Way”. He understands exactly what the fans want. And equally as important, the fans love him.
As thrilled as I was, I still felt a little confused at his appointment.
When I think back to the tenures of David Moyes and Louis van Gaal, at this stage (17 games in) of each of their final seasons (Moyes’ only season), United were either just a few points off, or joint 4th. It was only at the end of the season or when it was mathematically impossible to get into the top 4 that they were shown the door.
This season, however, after 17 games with a staggering 11 point gap to 4th placed Chelsea, the axe came down and Jose Mourinho was given his marching orders.
At first, this relatively swift decision made me think that Ed Woodward and the board believed that Manchester United could still fight to break into the top 4 before the seasons end.
This begged the question, why pick Solskjaer?
For a club who’s ambition is, at the very least, to continuously finish in the top 4 and thus qualify for the UEFA Champions League, Solskjaer would not be the obvious choice. Would he?
Why choose to hire an interim manager, without experience of managing at a high level, to guide arguably the biggest club in world football into the top 4? All while clawing back an 11 point deficit with just half a season remaining.
With this appointment, it seemed to me that Manchester United had decided to write off the 2018/19 season and instead hit the ‘reset’ button.
A part of the ‘reset’ process would appear to be the imminent appointment of a Director of Football, according to reports. The individual who takes this role would then spend the rest of this season identifying the right candidate to fill the Manager’s position for next season. His/her ongoing role would then be to oversee football operations such as player recruitment.
This is the only conclusion I can draw. To me, it seems that Solskjaer’s temporary appointment is the beginning of this ‘reset’ process. A move to appease the fans and to restore some familiarity to a club that has seemingly lost its identity.
To effectively “write off” the remainder of this season and instead focus heavily on next season may not be ideal, but it’s clearly necessary. It would give Solskjaer the opportunity to experiment with the squad. The players can play without any real pressure. We may even see the likes of Gomes, Chong and Greenwood given some first team opportunities.
As fans, we have been crying out for change and it appears we are now getting it. It may not be the change we all want (ownership) but it’s something.