Championship Play-Off Final: Michael Owen’s View
It was inevitable that Manchester United were eventually going to lose in the Premier League. Their only previous loss had come against Paris Saint-Germain, which they had vindicated by knocking the French giants out three weeks later in the Champions League.
Perhaps the six games in 20 days had taken its toll on the United players, as well as a large proportion of the squad being ruled out through injuries. Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s side had the chances to punish Arsenal, but it simply wasn’t their day.
Even with the loss and halt in momentum, Manchester United’s board is likely set to announce the Norwegian as their full-time manager come the end of the season. He has shown the ability to reinvigorate this group of players, as well as practice the same ideologies as Sir Alex Ferguson once had in the Old Trafford dugout.
What fans haven’t yet seen, however, is Solskjær’s ability to run the transfer market. Nowadays, it is much more than a one-man job, and there will be influence and decisions made from up above, but fans have not seen a glimpse of what the Norwegian is targeting in the summer.
There are a number of positions that Manchester United need to look at, but perhaps above all else, it is the character of the player that will make or break his eye in the market. For too many years post-Ferguson, managers have gone for star-studded names that come with inflated egos and a lack of sacrifice for the greater good.
All players are selfish to some regard, but some, better than others, know when the time is right to put the team’s needs ahead of their own. Over the years, some have come and gone, but the ones who have remained, are usually the ones willing to fight for the team. Solskjær has shown to all how important it is to have a squad united together and pulling in the same direction, which is why he has, so far, done a remarkable job.
Gareth Bale is a name that has been touted around for many, many years, and one which previous managers have longed for. The club, primarily due to finances, never gave the signing a green light and so the Welshman has remained in Madrid. These are the deals and players that the Red Devils need to deter away from for now; if Solskjær wants to build a long-term future at the club, he must carry on with his youth-orientated philosophy.
That is not to say that the Norwegian cannot sign more experienced players, but he needs to be careful over who they might be. Given the lack of performances from Alexis Sanchez, it is unlikely that the club make the same mistake twice – especially with Solskjær in charge. It has been evident to see that he would rather bring youth players to the fore, but there is a time and a place for looking at players who might just offer some vital knowledge that had been missing.
Solskjær has proven himself to the fans on the pitch and has turned this season around completely. It is now as equally as important to make sure the players he brings in to the club are hungrier and more motivated for on-pitch success than what he already has.
Only time will tell whether the Norwegian can follow through with that, but he is smart enough to recognise what the club has to do in the immediate future.