The sight of Manchester United’s loss to Burnley at Old Trafford was a harrowing one. The fans were clear about where the fault lies- their chants suggested that. Ten minutes before the final whistle blew, Old Trafford has witnessed a clearout that has never been seen before. It was clear that even irrespective of the result, Manchester United have possibly hit rock-bottom.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s expression gave a grim reading. This is a man who has nothing to say- like his team had against a Burnley side which could be struggling near the bottom five come the end of the season. But Solskjaer presents to be another victim of the cancerous situation at the club.
It is something no one ever thought would be seen at United. The fans are fighting amongst themselves on social media. PR briefs are given out to the press for fun and for the sake of manipulation. The club’s failures off the pitch have been highlighted by inactivity in the transfer market, despite a squad that is thinning with every passing game.
The hiring of Neil Ashton as Ed Woodward’s PR says a lot about what the Glazer ownership wants. As Solskjaer continues to face the heat at the helm, the American ownership is forming close ties with some of the top names in English media. These are their attempts to make sure that they deflect the blame that they deserve using cunning PR spins. And who takes the blame? The manager. And it has become a vicious cycle at United.
A rather marked lack of spending has become a symbol of Solskjaer’s era. Under Jose Mourinho, it was misinvestment- like it was under Louis van Gaal. Under David Moyes, it was a stern lack of investment that led to the former Everton boss’ sacking in April 2014. And now, Solskjaer finds himself in the middle of another raging storm at a club that has no idea where it is going.
It isn’t to say that Solskjaer doesn’t deserve any blame. But a manager can’t win matches and impose his style without being given the tools. Ask Jose Mourinho, he will say the same. Moyes will too.
As for Mourinho, he knew where the real problems lie at the club. Van Gaal too has made it very clear in the open. In the summer of 2019, the Iron Tulip talked about Woodward.
He said (via Talksport): “At Bayern, the people in charge are football men. I always appreciated that. At Manchester United, on the other hand, Ed Woodward was installed as CEO – somebody with zero understanding of football who was previously an investment banker.
“It cannot be a good thing when a club is run solely from a commercially-driven perspective. I don’t hold it against the club. They wanted Mourinho and he was on the market.”
In the same sense, Solskjaer has often taken stick for not speaking against the club’s ownership. And that is an unfair demand. When Mourinho did it, many United fans were very much against it. But now that Solskjaer isn’t doing it, they want him to do what a sacked Jose did.
The argument does make sense though when it comes to seeing what the fans really mean. And perhaps, Solskjaer does know about the ways around at the club. He’s been there enough to know that it a business organisation that thrives only on minting dollars. And it is also fair to make a point for why he won’t speak against the owners.
It is probably out of sheer love for the club. He wants to make sure that the club comes out at the other end of this spell in a much better position. He wants to make the fans happy, when skies are grey- not for the first time. To some extent, he’s done that on many occasions this season.
But the way this toxic club works, a manager will always end up in the Glazers’ lap of tortures. A PR tactic from those up above will make it seem like they did everything to back the manager. When they themselves are the reason for all the mess; for the rock-bottom.
And like many others in the past, Solskjaer will be gone soon. But that is when his role would come in. Van Gaal was nowhere connected to United before he took over. Neither was Mourinho. But they spoke against the ills that lie at the club- those that let him down.
Solskjaer will have to do the same whenever he leaves. That has to be out of sheer love for the club and nothing else. Because sooner or later, he will be engulfed by this vicious cycle of a structure at the club. That is when a bigger role will come in for him.