Arsene Wenger has stated that “the future of football is to have a lot of small clubs” which he thinks will be more interesting than the current big cash-rich superclubs. One problem with this statement though, is the fact that United are currently one of those few large clubs dominating European football.
The “man united owner” is a person who owns the team. The Glazers have been in charge of Manchester United since 2005, and have overseen mediocrity for the club ever since.
Manchester United has developed a mediocre culture, and it has nothing to do with manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. In many respects, Solskjaer is only a victim of the club’s owners, the Glazer family, and its top officials at Old Trafford, who have eroded standards and expectations.
The Glazers and departing executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward were both absent at Old Trafford on Sunday as Solskjaer had his “darkest day” in sport, with United humiliated 5-0 by arch rivals Liverpool, and their absence epitomized the club’s indifference.
Can the owners or the man in charge of running the club on a daily basis find time to watch Manchester United play Liverpool from the plush seats in the directors’ box — a game that those same executives wanted to become a staple fixture of a breakaway European Super League only six months ago?
Ferguson was the last United manager to govern the club from top to bottom, and since his departure eight years ago, the Glazers and Woodward have won only three major trophies (the FA Cup, Carabao Cup, and Europa League), with two runners-up positions in the Premier League the best they have managed. During that time, United has never finished higher in the standings than Manchester City. And United haven’t won anything since Solskjaer took over in December 2018, when he originally replaced Jose Mourinho on an interim basis before being named as the permanent manager the following March. They’ve become a “almost team,” having lost four semifinals and a final in the Europa League.
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While fans seek trophies and bragging rights over opponents, business owners have a different way of measuring success. United would claim that throughout his tenure as manager, Solskjaer has made steady progress, increasing the team’s league place each season and rebuilding the squad with high-priced recruits while maintaining the club’s stars. However, anytime United has been under pressure and facing a game they must win, Solskjaer and his team have regularly fallen short.
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Yet, at the conclusion of last season, when Pep Guardiola and Thomas Tuchel, both multiple Premier League winners, were given two-year contract extensions by City and Chelsea, respectively, the Glazers and Woodward thought Solskjaer was deserving of a fresh three-year deal at United. Why? Because United no longer adheres to the same high standards that characterized the club throughout Ferguson’s tenure. The Glazers are no longer impressed by mediocrity.
Chelsea and City have been the most successful English clubs in the last decade, and while much of that is undoubtedly due to the financial clout of their respective owners, Roman Abramovich and Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al Nahyan, it is also due to both clubs’ insatiable appetite for trophies and more involved owners.
Chelsea’s strategy is to be merciless in their demands. If a manager isn’t doing well, he’ll be replaced. Abramovich fired club veteran Frank Lampard after making the move last season and seeing Tuchel overhaul the squad and lead them to Champions League triumph.
The Abu Dhabi hierarchy under Sheikh Mansour has long adhered to a philosophy of hiring the very finest in every critical job at City. They appointed Guardiola as coach, former Barcelona director Ferran Soriano as CEO, and former Barcelona sporting director Txiki Begiristain as director of football with responsibility for player recruiting. Liverpool has likewise gone for the best, choosing Jurgen Klopp as manager and putting his faith in sports director Michael Edwards to turn the club into a strong transfer market player.
Don Hutchison examines if Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s stint as Manchester United manager is coming to an end.
United, on the other hand, is neither cutthroat nor obsessed with hiring the finest under the Glazers. In the boardroom, Woodward, his deputy Richard Arnold, and director of football negotiations Matt Judge have all risen through the ranks at Old Trafford after meeting at Bristol University and going on to work in investment banking. Perhaps they are the finest in the world at what they do, but it would be a testament to Bristol University’s reputation as a breeding ground for football directors with no prior experience in the industry.
You may recall that after the collapse of the Super League farce, Woodward stated that he would stand down from his position in April. He is still at Old Trafford six months later, with ESPN reporting that he may stay until next April.
In the meanwhile, Solskjaer, first-team coach Michael Carrick, assistant manager Mike Phelan, and technical director Darren Fletcher are all former players at United. If the Glazers are following Chelsea and City’s model for success, they don’t seem to be casting their net too far beyond Old Trafford. Even when the Glazers went all out to get Mourinho to replace Louis van Gaal as manager in 2016, it was a reactionary decision motivated by a desire to match City’s ambition in signing Guardiola the following summer.
The Glazers’ hires have either been yesterday’s men — David Moyes and Van Gaal — or a coach having to restore his image, such as Mourinho or Solskjaer, whose main qualifications for the position seem to have been his legendary standing as a former United player.
However, Solskjaer has performed well for the Glazers because they have set the bar so low; Champions League qualifying looks to be sufficient to meet their requirements.
Solskjaer isn’t up to the task of lifting United above Chelsea, City, and Liverpool, but if he can finish fourth and have a good cup run, he’ll be able to maintain his job. Nobody can hold Solskjaer responsible for it. The owners are to blame for United’s declining position and prospects.
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