In the ever-increasing debate about whether Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is good enough to be Manchester United manager, one of the usual entries in the ‘plus column’ is his transfer record and the amount of talent he has brought into the team.
Indeed, such is that record that many fans have suggested that the Norwegian could be redeployed in a director of football role if he is to be removed as manager.
However, in an article today in The Times, Oliver Norcroft has suggested that there have been as many misses as hits.
Speaking of Jadon Sancho – and more on that in another article – Norcroft says ‘Solskjaer must … help him and the experience with previous signings increases pressure on the 48-year-old to do so.
‘Aaron Wan-Bissaka remains the mixed bag of a right back he was when he joined United in 2019, Daniel James has been, frustrated, and gone, and Donny van de Beek languishes, unused, uncherished and ever more forlorn.
‘All were expensive young signings who were supposed to be part of the club building their way back to the top.’
Solskjaer has now made 14 signings for United (not including Odion Ighalo) and in fact, with the exception of Bruno Fernandes, there is debate among the fanbase about virtually every other signing and whether it has been a good one for United.
Norcroft specifically mentions Dan James, Wan-Bissaka and Donny van de Beek along with Sancho, and Bruno is a given in the plus column, but what of the remaining nine?
Harry Maguire is vaunted by many and his performances in an England shirt have been consistent and strong. But at United, there have been patches of awful form – last season attributed to his problems with the Greek police and this season attributed to being rushed back from injury.
Even at his best, some fans believe Maguire’s lack of pace is too restrictive and means he will always be an outdated classic old centre back rather than the kind of mobile, ball-playing defender who can really excel in the modern game.
Alex Telles was arguably Porto’s best player when United acquired his services last year and had 25 goal involvements in 49 games for the Dragons in 2019/20. Of course, Luke Shaw’s excellent form has been part of the reason that Telles has not had more chances in Solskjaer’s starting XI, but yet in the 22 starts he has had, the Brazilian has not come close to showing his previous form.
Raphael Varane’s start looked promising – despite a lack of clean sheets – before injury struck. It is too soon to judge whether the transfer has been a success or not.
Cristiano Ronaldo has already been contributing goals but there have also been question marks over the compromises the rest of the team have to make around him to facilitate his game. Commercially, Ronaldo has been fantastic for the club but only time will tell whether the advantages will outweigh the drawbacks on the pitch.
Then there is the £42 million shelled out on Amad Diallo and Facundo Pellistri. Amad looks the better player of the two but has only managed two starts and six substitute appearances in the 10 months he has been at the club. Meanwhile, Pellistri is struggling to make an impact on loan at Spanish side Deportivo Alaves.
Edinson Cavani’s contributions have also been excellent and few would argue that he has been a quality signing.
Finally, there are two goalkeepers – Tom Heaton and Nathan Bishop – who could be seen as unnecessary purchases. Heaton does not even make it to the bench for United and Bishop is now on loan at Mansfield Town.
It is certainly a mixed bag. Of the fourteen, only two can be described as a definite success so far. The rest all still appear to be quality players who could still come good at United (except James of course), but it is hard to understand in many cases why some were bought and whether others will ever fulfil the potential that they showed when Solskjaer signed them.
Does that make Ole Gunnar Solskjaer director of football material? The debate, as always, continues.