The Telegraph’s chief football correspondent, Jason Burt, has launched a scathing attack on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, suggesting that the Norwegian is not following in the traditions of the club he manages.
‘Stop kidding yourself Solskjaer, you betray Manchester United’s history by diminishing importance of trophies,’ Burt begins in a bold headline.
‘United’s success has long been based on winning silverware. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer cannot be allowed to suggest a top-four finish is the same,’ he continues.
Burt’s argument is based around Solskjaer’s comments before last week’s trip to Italy to face AC Milan in the Europa League.
‘In the league position you see if there’s any progress for me, that’s always the bread and butter of the season that you see how capable you are of coping of ups and downs,’ the boss said in that press conference.
‘Any cup competition can give you a trophy, but sometimes it’s more of an ego thing from other managers and clubs to finally win something.
‘But we need to see progress and if we perform well enough the trophies will end up at the club again. It’s not like a trophy will say that we’re back, no.
‘It’s the gradual progression of being in and around the top of the league and the consistency and the odd trophies. Sometimes a cup competition can hide the fact you’re still struggling a little bit.’
Burt is not impressed with Solskjaer’s comments and is concerned by his attitude.
‘Solskjaer is forgetting he is the manager of Manchester United. Trophies should be in the job description and added to the CV,’ he states in his column.
‘Solskjaer, by the way, has not won a trophy as a manager since the Norwegian Football Cup [the equivalent of the FA Cup] in 2013 with Molde. That is seven years without silverware – and eight if this season ends potless. Lucky he does not have an ego.
‘Maybe in the United boardroom where, in the past, they have celebrated social media activity when there has been little success on the pitch his comments will have gained a positive response. But he is not in tune with the club’s tradition.
‘Maybe Solskjaer is acutely aware that his predecessors Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho – two of the biggest egos on Planet Manager – won trophies but lost their jobs.’
Like many others, Burt believes that excuses about tired players are not acceptable and that Solskjaer only has himself to blame for the tiredness of some and the lack of integration of others.
‘If Solskjaer argues that rotation was necessary against Leicester then fair enough, but it was a stark admission of what he thought about it all to make no fewer than four substitutions at the same time. That was a clear, public message as to which players he felt he could depend upon.’
‘Has he managed his squad well enough? No. They are over-dependent on a handful of players. But did, for example, Bruno Fernandes need to start the recent Europa League tie at home to Real Sociedad when United were 4-0 up from the first leg?
‘United are second, eight points ahead of fifth-placed West Ham with nine games to go. If they cannot hold onto a top-four spot from that position, while coping with the cups, then Solskjaer should be sacked anyway.’
‘United have the squad depth to challenge for a top-four place, the Europa League and FA Cup. There can be no question about that. They have spent heavily. This season was always going to be challenging but it also meant that those clubs with the deepest squads, such as United, should be able to cope. This was their opportunity.’
Burt’s comments will resonate with many United fans, who are frustrated by the lack of silverware and of the manager’s team selection and substitution policies. Wherever one might stand on whether the 48-year-old is fit for purpose as manager of one of the world’s biggest clubs, few would argue that it is an area in which there is plenty of room for improvement.