Sackings and Caretaker Managers: Is Ole Gunnar Go?

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Image courtesy of Tor Atle Kleven via Wikimediacommons

With most of the Premier League teams, each has had a moment in which an unpopular or underachieving manager at a club has been harangued by fans, scoured by the press and left an unsatisfying taste in the mouths of the top brass. A manager has become one of the most slapdash positions in all of sports, since most of the clubs expect the next manager to hit the ground running and win them all the silverware there is to offer. The most difficult league to make it as a successful manager that keeps their job for more than three seasons is the most competitive league in the world: The Premier League. I mean let’s face it, if West Ham United beat Manchester City, Pellegrini could still get sacked. If Hertha Berlin smash Bayern München 3-0, Pal Dardai stays as Hertha manager for another 5 seasons and is considered a hero. The torch of the Premier league title is constantly passed around, which always leaves at least six teams disappointed. Claudio Ranieri can’t win another league title at Leicester? Sacked. Antonio Conte can’t make the Champions League spot despite winning the league in his first season? Sacked. Take Huddersfield from the bottom half of the Championship to the top division for the first time since 1972, avoid relegation in the first season but end up in the relegation zone partway through the following season? Sacked.

BBC Sport released an article in November asking if it was weird that no one had been sacked yet. The same BBC Article stated that in the last decade, only one club that sacked their manager by November finished the season without any improvement: West Brom last season. Funnily enough, the day after this BBC article was released (titled ‘Premier League: Is It Unusual That No Manager Has Been Sacked Yet?’), Fulham manager Slavisa Jokanovic was sacked. It’s fair to say that November sackings are a safe bet, since a new manager that can revitalise the squad and the mentality of confidence that may have gone astray with the previous manager. There tends to be a trend with the relegation zone teams in which they desperately need to stay up in the top division for that sweet sweet TV deal money that can completely restructure the club’s facilities and change the club’s future forever. It doesn’t matter if you brought the club from rack and ruin to Premier League mid-table after years of gruelling graft, if you’re 18th by December, with a snap of the fingers all loyalties disappear and you’ve been replaced by Alan Pardew. The website thesackrace.com monitors all management sackings in the football league, from the first sacking Gary Bowyer at Blackpool to the 28th: David Wagner at Huddersfield.

Out of the four managerial outings so far this season, only one was from a side in the top half of the Premier League: Manchester United’s José Mourinho. He didn’t have any chances to win any silverware, they lost to title contenders Liverpool which meant he had to go. Couldn’t give it to Giggsy til the end of the season since he’s living his best life as Wales coach, so step in Ole Gunnar Solksjær. Who else but the ultimate super sub himself, who scored 91 goals in 235 appearances for the Devils. As a caretaker manager, he’s set the club record at United for most consecutive wins within his first games in charge, so he’s hit the ground running in an exciting way for United fans. He recently blasted through a vulnerable Arsenal side to take them to the FA Cup final. Please note that the last time United won the F.A. Cup back in 2016, purple card holders had the chance to catch a selfie with the F.A. cup itself on campus.

However, is Solksjær’s success beneficial for the club’s future? Managers have come and gone at United, and each have been hyper-scrutinised and compared with Fergie’s records and achievements constantly. Mourinho’s style of sitting back, letting the opposing team keep the ball and pressurise them into making mistakes; although wasn’t the most entertaining style for United fans; kept them top six, out of the Champions’ League group stages and kept them in the running in the F.A. Cup. Mourinho’s style wasn’t perfect, in fact it was ironic since it was Lukaku who tended to make all the mistakes compared to opposition sides, but him getting fired wasn’t because of the results in the league. Mourinho fit the anti-hero, controversial and devilish persona, but his style of play wasn’t Fergie’s. The amount of money spent on an underperforming squad was a major factor, don’t get me wrong, but the fans want a Fergie style of Scottish attacking dominance and constant reinvention. Will Solksjær be a plastic Fergie or the next big attacking manager like Jürgen Klopp or Pep Guardiola?

With the aura of a bygone Fergie golden era, you can’t blame United fans for wanting to keep their Norwegian wonder boy in his coach position. I think that it’s safe to say that the biggest fixtures to look forward to in the United fixture calendar are the Champions League legs against PSG, the game at home to Manchester City in March, and most importantly, the game at home to Liverpool at the end of February. How Ole constructs a game plan in the match that lost Mourinho his job is the biggest test. If he wins that game, he’s sure to keep his job at United, especially if they finish top 4. I mean, as caretaker managers go, he’s better than Craig Shakespeare.