The inaction of Manchester United’s hierarchy over the international break regarding Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s position probably best summarizes where a once-dominant giant of English football now sits.
A bafflingly passive, languishing juggernaut of Europe seemingly accepting the malaise that has meant United now find themselves 12 points off the summit and realistically out of the title race after only 12 games, despite a glamorous summer spend that included the arrivals of Raphael Varane, Jadon Sancho and Cristiano Ronaldo.
For months now it has been an accepted trope to compare Solskjær’s failings to that of Frank Lampard back in January.
A club legend, struggling to get the best out of a talented group of players. The fear of Chelsea falling further behind England’s elite.
It was then that Chelsea acted, sacked Lampard and replaced the club icon with Thomas Tuchel. What followed has seen the Blues return to the heights of European football, tactically becoming one of the Premier League’s most feared units.
Now top of the league heading into December by three points, there is growing momentum in west London that could lead Tuchel all the way to domestic dominance.
The clear lesson for Man United is: big club sacks legend, employs elite coach, big club wins a trophy.
As if that formula is an easily repeatable one at Old Trafford and it’s only about making one call to solve all of United’s current woes.
When anyone who knows the infrastructure of Manchester United can tell you there are far deeper problems than Solskjær.
The Norwegian is only a symptom of the longer-term ingrained issues that have come to define the eight years following Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement.
The way Roman Abramovich sees his football club compared to The Glazer’s is the complete polar opposite.
For Abramovich, everything is done in a relentless pursuit of securing instant success for Chelsea. There are pitfalls to that for sure, be that a bloated squad filled with players from different coaching regimes who don’t always fit.
The understanding a coaching “dynasty” will likely never form as seen with Pep Guardiola at Manchester City or Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool.
Or the transfer failings in the market that have cost the club greatly on and off the pitch, but no one is in any doubt about what Abramovich’s Chelsea intentions are.
Supporters are in little doubt their owner wants to see Chelsea at the top of the league, in finals, competing for the best talent in coaching and playing staff.
Tuchel has very much helped to streamline that goal since his arrival.
At Chelsea there is confrontation, there is pressure and scrutiny and unrelenting demand for success, but as brutal as that environment can seem few can argue it has not been successful since 2003.
Solskjær getting the role off the back of a positive run in 2019 when he was an interim is only one example of United’s reactive decision making. Or a decision-making process that is opposed to that similar culture of confrontation.
The club legend was a fan favourite and like Lampard would provoke an emotional connection in supporters few others could provide, even if they did have a more impressive coaching CV.
But that is where the comparisons to Lampard should end because the Norwegian was not a coaching novice when he took the role.
His first role came for Molde in November 2010 where he spent three years before returning to English football to take over at struggling Cardiff City in January 2014.
After failing to prevent relegation he was dismissed and returned to Molde in 2015 where he stayed until taking interim charge of United in December 2018.
If you add up his nearly three years at Old Trafford that counts for over a decade in coaching compared to Lampard who was only in his third year when he was dismissed at Chelsea.
You can argue both never should have got the roles they were given, but to act as if both are identical is disingenuous.
When Solskjæar took over from Jose Mourinho, the club were not in the midst of a transfer ban or suffering from the loss of their best player. In the summer of 2019 United were in a stronger position than Chelsea to appoint an elite coach.
But the fact they were swayed by some standout results probably shows the lack of football intelligence on the United board.
Just like the quick decision to resign Ronaldo after years of chasing another attacker in Sancho.
The constant lure for glamour over smart squad building and the seeming acceptance that purely qualifying for the Champions League is enough given the financial rewards should detail why comparing both clubs is simplistic.
For comparison Lampard was reportedly told Champions League qualification would not be good enough after his first season, despite wide acceptance getting into the top four was seen as an achievement for a rookie coach.
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The people responsible for appointing and sacking Solskjæar are the ones to make the next call which could very easily do little to arrest the recent slide or close the gap to England’s top teams.
Which will likely mean the core problems remain unresolved whilst their closest rivals drift further away.
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