LONDON: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has been appointed as permanent Manchester United manager after signing a three-year deal at Old Trafford.
After being appointed as caretaker following Jose Mourinho’s sacking, Solskjaer has had a huge impact on United’s fortunes, winning 14 games and drawing two of his 19 games, losing just three.
United have, in fact, taken more Premier League points than any other team during his spell in charge while he’s also guided them to the quarter-finals of the Champions League after a memorable comeback win at PSG.
The clamour from fans and former United players for Solskjaer to get the job full-time has persuaded the club’s board to make the move after the international break, and Solskjaer is delighted.
“From the first day I arrived, I felt at home at this special club,” said Solskjaer on the club’s website. “It was an honour to be a Manchester United player, and then to start my coaching career here.
“The last few months have been a fantastic experience and I want to thank all of the coaches, players and staff for the work we’ve done so far. This is the job that I always dreamed of doing and I’m beyond excited to have the chance to lead the club long-term and hopefully deliver the continued success that our amazing fans deserve.”
United executive vice chairman Ed Woodward said that Solskjaer’s results, and perhaps more importantly performances, since coming in meant he was a natural choice.
“Since coming in as caretaker manager in December, the results Ole has delivered speak for themselves,” Woodward said.
“More than just performances and results, Ole brings a wealth of experience, both as a player and as a coach, coupled with a desire to give young players their chance and a deep understanding of the culture of the club. This all means that he is the right person to take Manchester United forward.
“I want to thank Ole and the coaching team for everything they have done so far and congratulate him on this richly deserved appointment. The fans and everyone at the club are behind him as he looks to take us where we need to be and build the next stage of our history.”
The former United striker won 14 of his 19 games as temporary boss to convince the Old Trafford hierarchy he was the right man to succeed Jose Mourinho.
But here are the issues Solskjaer will need to address over the coming months.
What to do with Alexis Sanchez? The Chile forward has flopped at Old Trafford since becoming the club’s highest-paid player in January 2018. The performance levels of every other United player have soared under Solskjaer, who has admitted only Sanchez himself holds the answers. Two goals in 23 appearances this season is a pitiful return for a reported annual salary of £14million. If Solskjaer can work his magic on the player, he would have one of the world’s best at his disposal, but if not he must move him on.
Spain goalkeeper De Gea’s contract with United expires in the summer of 2020 and his representatives are currently locked in talks with the club over a possible new deal. It has been reported that the goalkeeper wants to increase his £200,000-a-week wages to £500,000 to stay in the Premier League and Real Madrid would surely meet his demands. Solskjaer must do all he can to keep De Gea by persuading him and the United hierarchy that the future of one of the world’s best stoppers lies at Old Trafford.
Pogba is another prized asset that Solskjaer must keep happy. The enigmatic France international is a proven game-changer and has thrived under the Norwegian and his assistant Mike Phelan. Give Pogba his lead in a settled environment and in return he will produce world-class performances, but weigh him down with off-the-ball responsibilities and he will lose his glow. Solskjaer must continue to keep him at the heart of the United family, show him the love and play him in a role he relishes.
Solskjaer’s permanent appointment could signal the departure of several fringe players, who have failed to establish themselves as first-team regulars under him. The United boss will undoubtedly want to make room for new arrivals in the summer and the likes of Antonio Valencia, Matteo Darmian and Marcos Rojo may all be nearing the end of their Old Trafford careers. Eric Bailly is another whose future could be in doubt, especially since Chris Smalling and Phil Jones both recently signed new contracts.
Solskjaer’s quest to reinstate the club as genuine Premier League title challengers would be given a massive boost with a couple of blue riband summer signings. United fans have for years debated that only a player with certain characteristics can become a crowd favourite at Old Trafford, while the feelgood factor generated by such a signing can never be underestimated. Sanchez’s ill-fated spell at the club has cranked up the pressure – Solskjaer and his backroom team have to get their recruitment right.