The season came to a halt at a bad time for Manchester United. We had gone unbeaten for 11 games, with a win against Chelsea and two victories over Manchester City in this time, with new signing Bruno Fernandes making an instant impact. After a difficult start to the season, we looked to finally be gaining some momentum after a long stretch of disappointing results.
In an excellent interview with United We Stand, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has talked about what has changed since that frustrating spell to now.
Confidence is strange but it’s so important in football. In March 2019, the players were physically tired, mentally tired and we had injuries. The players started with negative thinking, whereas now it’s positive thinking.
There were other things that I didn’t like last year – some personal agendas which had to be sorted out and couldn’t be sorted out until the summer.
More recently, we went to Spain for a week in the break and gelled together. The team spirit was good and we’d signed Bruno, who made a big difference.
Ole inherited a squad that wasn’t his, yet in such a short period of time has made some substantial changes. Players who weren’t performing well last season, like Romelu Lukaku, Alexis Sanchez, Chris Smalling, Antonio Valencia and Marouane Fellaini were either sold or loaned out. In their place, bright prospects like Harry Maguire, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Daniel James joined, with Fernandes finally making the move in January.
Solskajer has spoken about how to manage a squad of players who are all keen to play and how important finding signings with the right personality is.
There will always be players who want to play more in football, but if a team is to be successful then players have to be available at different times. I feel that in this group we don’t have one bad apple. Players will never be happy to be left out, but they fight for their place. That’s what I did and there’s a cliché that a manager wants to see himself in his players, but it’s true. It’s easy for me to say that I did it, but I did and I was part of a very successful team. Hard work and being ready is the answer.
I’d rather have a hole in the squad than an arsehole. Personality is so important. We’re a team in a team environment. You want players to have a bit of ego and edge, but players have to be able to adapt. At the moment we have a good mix of youth and experience.
While Solskjaer has been on the receiving end of plenty of criticism at times, as has the club for making his contract permanent despite his relative inexperience, he has spoken about why he thinks the club had faith in him. Interestingly, he reveals that at the clubs he’s managed before now he insisted on a clause that would allow him to leave if United came knocking.
I’m a red through and through. United matters to me. I’m honest. I’m loyal. I’m a club man. I plan for the long term and I want the best for the club long term. I’ve been a manager for a few years with ups and downs. When I was chosen as temporary manager, I’d like to think they thought I had the personality to manage Manchester United.
It was a chance, for six months, to realise my dream and manage United. There was always a clause in my contract to leave if United came in for me. It has always been a dream of mine for years.
Ole said so much more and part II of the interview is still to come. Buy the issue or subscribe to United We Stand to read it in full.