Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s new contract: a sign of progression or a premature mistake
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is set to be given a new contract worth £9m a year, is it a justified reward of his progress at Man Utd or a premature mistake.
As reports begin to circulate that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is set to be given a contract extension worth £9m a year, questions remain over whether this is a justified reward of his progression at Manchester United or simply a premature mistake.
Solskjaer was originally appointed under the title of ‘caretaker manager’ following Jose Mourinho’s exit in December 2018. However, by March 2019, the former United player had impressed the board enough to be offered the job as full-time manager.
Given Solskjaer’s history with the club – having won 12 trophies playing under Sir Alex Ferguson from 1996-2007 – it would be fair to say that he has experienced what it takes to be both a player and a hugely successful manager at Manchester United.
This experience seemed to shine through onto the pitch, as he won 15 of his first 20 games and became the 3rd fastest manager to win 50 games in the club’s history. There is also evidence of progression in his improvement of United’s position in the Premier League.
In the 2018/19 season, United finished in 6th place in the league. The following season, Solskjaer was able to progress with the team, finishing in 3rd place and qualifying for Champions League football. This year, that position looks set to improve once again if United are able to hold on to their current 2nd place position.
So far, the contract extension seems justified. However, the doubts and concerns begin to emerge when looking at Solskjaer’s progression in English and European Cup competitions.
In the 2019/20 season, United made it through to the semi-finals of the League Cup, Europa League and FA Cup. Ultimately however, they lost out in all three semi-finals, losing to Man City in the League Cup, Chelsea in the FA Cup and Sevilla FC in the Europa League, leaving United trophy-less at the end of the season.
Fast forward to this year and you can see a similar pattern has begun to emerge.
Firstly, United crashed out of the Champions League in the group stages, missing out on the chance to win arguably the most respected and desirable trophy in Europe. History then repeated itself after Man City once again knocked United out of the League Cup in the semi-finals. Currently, United are in a similar position to last season having made it through to the quarter-finals of the FA Cup and the semi-finals of the Europa League.
Some might look at that comparison and see progression. Their argument would be, even though United crashed out of the Champions League, they now have the opportunity to go further than last season in two big competitions, as well as finishing second in the Premier League.
However, it is also arguable that all these people are really seeing is the opportunity for progression and herein lies the problem. How many times have you heard someone refer to football as “unpredictable”, or heard players and managers in their post-match interviews simply answer, “well, that’s football” in response to a question.
The reason fans love football is because of its unpredictability and the excitement or nerves you have when you are watching your team play. A game can be decided in a moment, the less-favourable team can pull off something unexpected or the more-favourable team could play badly on the day and make costly mistakes.
Essentially, each side has a 50/50 chance at the start of every game and anything can happen once the whistle is blown. Therefore, how can you offer a contract extension to a manager prematurely, before United’s position in the league and cup competitions has been secured.
United could still end up crashing out of the FA Cup and Europa League this season, as well as dropping enough points to see them finish outside of the top four in the Premier League. If this was to happen, Solskjaer would have received a contract extension based on the opportunity he had to progress, when in reality, United would have performed worse than last season.
Even though this is simply a worse-case scenario and hopefully Solskjaer can – and more importantly will – lead United to success and a trophy this season, the point is clear. Contracts should not be given until actual progression has been made, particularly in relation to a club with a fan-base as big and expectations as high as United.
If Solskjaer is given a contract extension before the end of the season, fans can only hope that the new appointments of a Football Director and Technical Director are signs that the board is ready to give him the backing he needs. This means delivering on players in the transfer window in order to improve the squad and take United one step closer towards returning to the glory days Solskjaer experienced as a player.
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