Solskjaer, Man United in Dire Straits as Arsenal Fixture Draws Near

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Manchester United host Arsenal Monday night in what will be the final Premier League fixture of the weekend. The Red Devils will come in to this one reeling, in both the short and long term. The club currently sits eighth in the league table, and they needed penalties to escape against tiny minnows Rochdale in midweek League Cup competition.

Last week they barely survived against another much smaller club, Kazakh side FC Astana, in the Europa League. They have a lot of negative momentum as this all-big six fixture approaches, but a lot of projection makers are still bullish on their prospects in this one.

When you look at the Premier League tips for the upcoming weekend, all across the internet, you’ll see that a fair amount of sentiment favors the Red Devils. That’s rather shocking, as a report emerged this week revealing that the club higher ups are resigned to the fact that they won’t be competing for a title again until 2022; at the earliest no less!

Yet Google’s result probability indicates a 40% for a United win, 27% for a draw and a 33% chance for a Gunners victory. Betway is backing United to win at 11/8, a draw is priced at 12/5 while odds on an Arsenal win are laid at 19/10. This despite Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and Paul Pogba all being very unlikely to play Monday night. So while anything can happen, in one game, on Monday night, the big picture outlook is rather bleak. How did we get here? Is manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer really that much out of his depth here? Do the problems go beyond just him and his roster?

Maybe it’s a case of MUFC not being a great club, but just one where they had the right manager at exactly the right and space.

Sir Alex Ferguson took over back in 1986, and football was completely different back then. In over 1500 games managed, he won 13 Premier League titles, 10 Community Shields, two UEFA Champions Leagues, a European Cup, Super Cup, Intercontinental Cup, FIFA club World Cup and nine other titles.

sir alex old trafford man united

He won more titles than any other football coach in history. As soon as the legend of the club stepped down, United finished in 7th place under “the chosen one” David Moyes.

Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho are extremely accomplished managers, yet neither was able to raise the team to the peak of their abilities. In the 2018-19 season, after a severe deterioration in relations between Mourinho and his players, the Portugese was sacked.

Solskjær temporarily took the reins, and the team flourished. Then the interim label was stripped off, the Norwegian got the gig full time and the club slumped again. Despite all the drama under Mourinho, he was the only boss after Ferguson to win more than one trophy, and he guided them to their best post Fergie finish- 2nd place in 2017-18.  

The club no doubt exists in the massive shadow of Sir Alex, and perhaps the biggest difference between his tenure and the reigns of all managers since has been transfer policy. They are still spending, but doing so very unwisely. Old Trafford is throwing money around, but no one in football has been more wasteful. It was a different story under the Scot.

sir-alex-ferguson

 Of the 25 most expensive players in the United history, those acquired by Ferguson included Rio Ferdinand from Leeds for 46m €, Juan Sebastian Veron from Lazio for 42m €, Dimitar Berbatov from Tottenham Hotspur for 38m €, Wayne Rooney from Everton for 37m €, Robin van Persie from Arsenal for 30m € and Ruud van Nistelrooy for 28m €.

Of course, those monetary figures seem borderline “cute” by today’s market, but the only unsuccessful acquisition of all the previously mentioned was Juan Sebastián Verón. It also doesn’t help that in today’s transfer market of exorbitant spending, United are always paying a premium markup. All clubs know how deep their pockets are, so they in turn hike the cost way up on anybody that the club is interested in. 

All in all, the problem with the club isn’t Solskjaer, or any of the post Fergie managers as it is the man pulling the strings on all these bad deals- Executive Vice President Ed Woodward. Unfortunately, he’s also the man with the safest job at Old Trafford right now.

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank.net, which is partnered with News Now. Banks, the author of “No,  I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry,” regularly appears on WGN CLTV and co-hosts the “Let’s Get Weird, Sports” podcast on SB Nation

You can follow Banks, a former writer for NBC Chicago.com and Chicago Tribune.com on Twitter here and his cat on Instagram at this link.

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