Manchester United is not an easy club to manage, no one knows that better than Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. When the Norwegian was brought in, the typically grey skies of Manchester, England all seemed to permanently plaster the Carrington training ground and a heavy fog loomed over Old Trafford. Then the former baby-faced assassin came in like a ray of sunshine and had everyone holding hands and singing kumbaya once again. He restored some “culture” (or the pretense of one), he brought in decent characters, and his results on the pitch were enough to keep the club afloat for a while.
When Solskjaer does go, there should be respect and admiration for the job he’s done; but there are two key points there; his job is done and he should go but once that happens, the executive administration must answer the obvious question: who replaces Solskjaer?
To delve deeper into this question, what boxes does this fantasy person tick that makes them the perfect fit for the club? So let’s assess what would make this managerial unicorn so perfect for United.
A Savvy Contemporary:
As much as success was a theme of Sir Alex Ferguson’s reign at Old Trafford, so too was change. He would make timely changes to the squad, his staff as well as the tactics to keep pace with the dynamic football world. What United would want now is someone who similarly appreciates the game for what it is and playing a modern brand of football.
If a new manager is to stick around for more than 3 seasons, he’ll need to be someone who can adapt to changing times as well. For a simple example, 3 at the back seems to be the trend these days, so a squad with Raphael Varane, Victor Lindelof, Harry Maguire, and Eric Bailly wouldn’t hesitate to play such a system as they would be able to match up their rivals as they have ample quality to do it. What’s lacking now is the tactics from a shrewd, modern manager.
Safe to say United take their youth development extremely seriously, as should any would-be manager. They would need to have an appreciation for the conveyor belt of academy talent coming through the ranks. When players are making waves in the age group competitions, they should get a look in as per policy and tradition. What’s more, this perfect United manager is able to take that young precocious talent and elevate it to the next level even if their peak isn’t achieved at Old Trafford.
United shouldn’t want to be jumping ships every two years from one manager to another. It’s not for the sake of some misty-eyed “United way” that people like to harp on about. It’s simple, the organization that Manchester United is requires sustainable consistency, and that is not a sustainable approach. As such, they need a manager who will come in and has the nous to take on the job for years, that possibly means looking for a slightly younger (but no less experienced) manager. Someone with years on their side and ideally with their peak ahead of them would be the perfect candidate for the job.
As mentioned above, Manchester United has more than just football going for them. Commercially, United want an illustrious manager or one with enough marketability to add to their list of attractions. If you consider what that means for the club’s bottom line then you can see the rationale. United brought in Louis Van Gaal, an illustrious manager to be sure, with a CV to rival some of the greats. Mourinho was similarly illustrious and deserves some respect (!) for his accomplishments, but neither he nor Van Gaal were terribly popular. Solskjaer on the other hand was more marketable but was by no means illustrious. As we’ve seen, separately those two don’t work, but together, it’s an unrivaled combination that gets United good football and good press.
Finally, a perfect Man United manager would have a philosophy of front foot football – with structure and solidity to sustain the attack. Manchester United’s home ground isn’t called the Theatre of Dreams because the football is mildly interesting. There’s to be drama and jeopardy, pantomime and excitement; fans ought to be thrilled out of the seats! You don’t get that playing negative football more often than not. If any incoming manager wants to be a success at United, they need to play an attacking brand of football that gets positive results to go with the positive performances.
Disclaimer; this is a fictional character. Any resemblance to someone living or otherwise is purely coincidental and was not intended. We reserve the right to publish this article in the knowledge that we have not caricatured someone’s likeness. But, if someone fits the bill and you have their number, tell them to give Manchester United a call, they might be interested.