Ole Gunnar Solskjær has returned to Manchester United to take over as the manager for the remainder of this season following the departure of Jose Mourinho. His first game in charge will see Solskjær make another return, as we take on Cardiff City, the club he managed in 2014.
With the grey clouds of Jose Mourinho’s tenure now having shifted away from the club, it is down to our former striker, most famous for his last-gasp winner in the 1999 Champions League final against Bayern Munich, to pick up the pieces and somehow galvanise a squad that looks devoid of confidence.
Returning To Wales
After taking over from Malky Mackay in January 2014, Solskjær spent nine months in south Wales, but they were far from successful. He took over the Bluebirds when they were in 17th place in the Premier League, one point above the relegation zone after 20 games.
His first game in charge saw Solskjær guide Cardiff to a 2-1 win away to Newcastle United in the FA Cup. His only other win in January 2014 was away to Bolton Wanderers, again in the FA Cup. Cardiff lost away matches against Manchester United and Manchester City as well as a home defeat to West Ham in his first three Premier League games in charge. By the time January was over, Cardiff were bottom of the table and looked certain favourites in Premiership relegation odds.
Goals from Craig Bellamy and Kenwyne Jones provided Solskjær with his first Premier League win on 1st February. Until the end of April, Cardiff produced moments where it looked like they could avoid the drop, but 18th was the best they could manage. At the end of April though, they had slipped to the bottom of the Premier League and were unceremoniously relegated from the top flight. However, Solskjær remained as manager ahead of the new season in the Championship. Seven games into the Championship season and with Cardiff lying in 17th place, 3 points above the relegation zone, Solskjær was sacked.
It’s fair to say that United have struggled this season and are unlikely to be playing Champions League football next season. Despite progressing to the second round of the Champions League, they were drawn with Paris Saint-Germain in the second round and are 11 points off a place in the top four, meaning it’ll take a miracle from Solskjær for United to recover, but as we know, the Norwegian is accustomed to producing the odd miracle.
They currently sit in sixth place and are only a point above newly-promoted Wolverhampton Wanderers. Two points separate United from 8th, 9th and 10th as Everton, West Ham and Watford all currently have 24 points. Such a precarious position will need to be sorted out as soon as possible, but with Solskjær’s previous record as a manager in England, it is unlikely to be him.
While manager of Cardiff, the team only won nine out of 30 matches. What lies ahead of him is a monumental task but of course, at United, he will have a far superior squad to the one he had at Cardiff and as long as he can get key figures like Anthony Martial and Paul Pogba on side, there is a chance that he could get the team looking respectable again.
All eyes will be on the Norwegian as he prepares to stabilise the club in the coming months. In what is essentially a managerial loan from Norwegian club Molde, Solskjær will need to ensure that the squad is ready for the next manager, who is likely to be hired in the summer. Although there is a very real prospect that United may miss out on European football altogether, they will at least have time to carefully select their next manager, after three poor choices since Sir Alex Ferguson retired in 2013.
If the team get behind Solskjær, then expect a much-improved team to that of Mourinho’s tenure, but if he is unable to control the likes of Pogba, then expect much of the same for the remainder of the season and perhaps the end of Pogba’s time at United.
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