Ole’s at the wheel. But where should Solskjaer be taking Manchester United this season?
When you are the manager of one of the world’s biggest and most successful clubs silverware is not just hoped for, it is expected.
But is that a realistic demand for Red Devils supporters across the globe this season?
Bookmakers William Hill currently rate United’s Premier League title hopes at 28/1, fifth favourites behind Manchester City, Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal.
Despite the pedigree of England’s top teams, it would not be impossible for a United side packed with talent to claim a top-four finish – two seasons without Champions League football would not go down well on the terraces – but it would demand the sort of consistency lacking late last season.
The manager has been backed in the transfer market this summer, spending a reported £145 million on bringing in Leicester City and England defender Harry Maguire, plus exciting but yet-to-be fully proven youngsters Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Daniel James.
Holding on to Paul Pogba and David de Gea, however, may prove even more important.
But the loss of experienced servants Ander Herrera, Antonio Valencia and Romelu Lukaku, who scored 28 goals in 66 appearances in two seasons, may also add a burden to some young shoulders.
Solskjaer began life in the United dug-out in emphatic style, winning 10 games and drawing twice in the league as he gave his squad the freedom to express themselves that was lacking from Jose Mourinho‘s tenure.
But that first defeat, 2-0 at Arsenal, saw fortunes change dramatically, United suffering four further losses and two draws from their final eight Premier League matches of the season.
Solskjaer’s league record saw him average 1.9 point per game which, over a full 38-match campaign, would have been enough for third place, and not sixth where United finished.
If he can replicate such returns this year, there would be little reason for the Glazer’s to consider his position at the club.
The cup competitions could also offer the Norwegian further avenues to impress.
The Baby Faced Assassin claimed the scalps of Reading, Arsenal and Chelsea in the FA Cup last season before a quarter-final defeat at Wolverhampton Wanderers, while the EFL Cup is a competition he is yet to lead a Manchester United side in. A memorable and dramatic 3-1 win at Paris St Germain overcame a 2-0 first-leg defeat to United into the Champions League quarter-finals last season, only for Barcelona to reveal the club’s limitations.
United have to settle for the Europa League this season but, with the draw yet to be made, the club will still be expected to progress through their group stage, and a lot further.
The 2019-20 season could well be make or break for Solskjaer. Undoubtedly, he has the love of the supporters. Since scoring six minutes into his debut, a 2-2 draw against Blackburn Rovers at Old Trafford in 1996, the now-manager swiftly earned himself cult status.
That was upgraded to legend status after scoring the winning goal in the 1999 Champions League final to complete that famous treble, eventually hanging up his boots with 91 Red Devils goals and, more importantly, six Premier League titles, two FA Cups, one Champions League and one Intercontinental Cup.
But nostalgia can only take you so far in football, and Solskjaer knows he must deliver this season. A top-four finish will be demanded while he will be challenged to move his side beyond the quarter-finals of the cup competitions this season, with certainly one trophy expected to be won.
At Manchester United, anything else will be seen as failure.