The outlet reports that Solskjaer effectively demoted de Gea’s goalkeeping coach and good friend Emilio Alvarez by appointing a ‘senior goalkeeping coach’ over his head before eventually sacking him in September.
According to The Times, ‘As soon as he decides that you are not committed or have a negative influence, [Solskjaer] will jettison you.’ This is what happened in Alvarez’s case.
The coach reportedly ‘took advantage of the 24-hour bar’ while United were in Perth, Australia on last season’s summer tour, ‘and on one occasion was seen holding court well after 4am’.
Sources told the outlet that this ‘concerned some staff members present, who felt Ole Gunnar Solskjaer would take a dim view’ and that ‘his late nights were not the only reason the Spaniard left but it did not help him much either.’
It may be coincidence that Solskjaer waited until de Gea signed his new contract on September 16th before sacking Alvarez on September 28th, but the timing is curious. It could be that the boss made sure de Gea’s future at the club was secure before risking upsetting him by sacking his mentor and confidente.
It is true that De Gea made some high profile blunders toward the end of last season that cost United points in the race for Champions League qualification. But at the start of this season, other than allowing a soft Patrick van Anholt shot to beat him at the near post against Crystal Palace, the Spaniard seemed to be back on track before Alvarez was dismissed.
De Gea’s form since the coach left, on the other hand, has clearly dipped and following a glaring error against Everton on the 1st of March, former Arsenal player Ian Wright said he believed Alvarez’s dismissal was a key reason for the 29-year-old’s poor performances.
Wright commented on Match of the Day 2 that the relationship between goalkeeper and coach is ‘massive, honestly the relationship with David Seaman and Bob Wilson [at Arsenal], it was almost telepathic in what they were doing’.
‘The goalkeepers, you need that guy. That guy is like your confidante, he’s everything.’
‘So if you lose somebody that important, that integral to what you’re doing, that’s going to have some effect on you so I’ll give [De Gea] that absolutely.’
Alvarez and De Gea started their work together at Atletico Madrid and United’s number one has credited his coach with helping him to become one of the world’s best keepers. It was widely reported that José Mourinho brought Alvarez to United in July 2016 to help keep De Gea happy and settled at Old Trafford.
Solskjaer, however, clearly does not see the necessity of that relationship and demonstrated his willingness to get rid of anyone, whether player or coaching staff, who sets a bad example at the club.
As a player, the Norwegian’s nickname was ‘the Baby-Faced Assassin’. Perhaps that epithet is just as appropriate for Solskjaer the coach as it was for Solskjaer the player.
While football is on lockdown, try your hand at our quiz below that tests your knowledge about the times when Manchester United or its players have been banned, bombed or blocked from playing.