Report: Manchester United Committed to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's '3-Year Vision'

James Dudko@@JamesDudkoFeatured ColumnistOctober 10, 2019

Manchester United's manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer waves goodbye to fans after the group L Europa League soccer match between AZ Alkmaar and Manchester United at the ADO Den Haag stadium in The Hague, Netherlands, Thursday, Oct. 3, 2019. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)
Peter Dejong/Associated Press

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's long-term vision for getting Manchester United back to respectability will reportedly be supported by the club, with eight signings planned in the next two years.

An unnamed senior source at United told Jason Burt of the Daily Telegraph: "Ole is looking at a three-year vision of a squad. It will be an evolution over the coming years. We are at base camp now."

Burt noted how the near £150 million the Red Devils spent this summer is an indication of what the club is prepared to spend in each of the next two summer transfer windows.

Time and money seemingly won't be in short supply, but autonomy to use both of those things to rebuild United the way he wants might be limited.

Burt described how "United will finally push ahead with plans to hire a technical director, or possibly even two people to cover that role, to become the 'lightning rod' for recruitment and drive forward the vision for the club, which needs to be communicated more clearly to their fans."

While the report also made it clear no approaches have been made to any potential directors, such an appointment would be a deviation from United's recent models of team building. Those have been focused on putting the responsibility on a manager and arming the man in the dugout with huge spending power to help ease the burden.

To say the approach hasn't worked would be an understatement. David Moyes, Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho all failed to keep the Red Devils at the level they held for decades before Sir Alex Ferguson stepped down in 2013.

Ferguson left behind a title-winning but ageing squad. Attempts to refresh the ranks have seen United spend big on players who have flopped. Marouane Fellaini and Juan Mata couldn't salvage the Moyes regime. Angel Di Maria and Anthony Martial weren't enough for Van Gaal.

Meanwhile, Mourinho splashed the cash on Fred, Nemanja Matic, Eric Bailly and Henrikh Mkhitaryan to yield only middling results.

In this context, opting for more of the same by letting Solskjaer, who replaced Mourinho in December, spend looks like folly. It's particularly dubious given United have made the worst start to a league season in 30 years on the Norwegian's watch, sitting 12th and just two points above the bottom three.

Doubling down on Solskjaer is a risky strategy. United are in a tricky spot, one where it's easy to blame those at executive level, including vice-chairman Ed Woodward for longstanding systemic issues.

While there is truth to this view, the Red Devils shouldn't overlook how much Solskjaer has struggled in the job. An example of those struggles comes from the muddled recruitment plan that saw the manager promised Lukaku and misfiring Alexis Sanchez would be sold, according to Burt.

Both left for Inter, but Solskjaer resisted discussions aimed at signing a replacement striker because, "as part of the three-year plan—wanted to give opportunities for Anthony Martial to stake his claim as first-choice centre-forward, for Marcus Rashford to also play there on occasion and for 18-year-old Mason Greenwood to be given a chance to break through."

Not surprisingly, United have been left woefully short of goals, scoring just nine in eight league games, while injuries and inexperience have blighted the forward line. Those struggles make the decision not to replace Lukaku look like a major misstep.

With Rashford, Greenwood and summer imports Daniel James, Harry Maguire and Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Solskjaer has the players he wants to build a new-look United, yet he's still failing to get results.

Even so, Solskjaer seemingly won't be sacked if United lose to bitter rivals Liverpool when the club's league campaign resumes on October 20, after the international break. Burt's source says United "will be patient and support Ole."

Qualification for next season's UEFA Champions League isn't even a must, as long as there are "clear signs of progress." It's vague language for a major club experiencing an alarming fall from grace.

There have been conflicting reports that senior United players are not impressed with Solskjaer's tactics and that Woodward could act if the team loses heavily to Liverpool, per David McDonnell of the Daily Mirror.

Quotes given to Burt could be a way to try to quiet such speculation. United may want to avoid the appearance of being a so-called "sacking club," but backing a manager possibly out of his depth would be a greater risk.

Ultimately, only results will decide if Solskjaer gets to put his plan into action.

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