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How long is Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s leash?

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Since the dismal 1988/89 season when Manchester United finished 11th, no manager has ushered in fewer points through the season’s first 14 matches than Ole Gunnar Solskjaer this campaign, with the Red Devils held again on Sunday to a 2-2 draw with newly-promoted Aston Villa.

Not David Moyes, not Louis Van Gaal, not Jose Mourinho.

That does not tell the whole story – far from it. Manchester United is in the midst of a rebuild that has not gone as smoothly as Chelsea’s youth movement, but for all the bumps in the road it has not felt as chaotic as Arsenal’s train wreck, despite the Gunners sitting a spot higher.

Still, you are what the table says you are, and right now the table has spoken: Manchester United is the ninth-best team in the league.

Ole Gunnar Solakjaer’s sheer numbers are just as ugly. He has a 27% win rate as a permanent manager in the Premier League, having emerged victorious in just six out of 21 league matches since signing on permanently on March 28. In contrast, the now-fired Unai Emery retained a 47% mark during his time at Arsenal. Even with his spectacular start during the caretaker manager days, Solskjaer has won under 50% of his matches in charge of Manchester United (24 wins, 14 losses, 12 draws in 50 matches – an 84-point haul over that span).

In a league environment that often sees clubs shoot managers first and ask questions later, patience can be a virtue, but it can also be a club’s undoing, and the fine line between those two parallel universes is often as blurry as . The manager in that 1988/89 season was Sir Alex Ferguson, amidst his third year in charge. Thanks in large part to what he achieved after to Manchester United stayed its hand, there is no way he would have survived that kind of lost campaign in this climate.

There are a host of sharks circling, and the allure of returning Manchester United to glory would be enough to lure any top manager should the board make a move. Carlo Ancelotti is running out of time at Napoli and could be available. Massimiliano Allegri is available, as is Mauricio Pochettino, who the Manchester United board has reportedly coveted for years.  A number of up-and-coming Premier League managers like Nuno Espirito Santo and Dean Smith could be options, and Manchester United may not want to wait for Arsenal to get its pick first.

All is not lost for Manchester United this season, and xG metrics seem to suggest an eventual turnaround. Their -3.92 xG differential to actual goals scored is third-worst in the Premier League, indicating the offense should come around. To go along with that, their defense has been fantastic, owning the 2nd-best xGA in the league, and their +3.04 xGA differential to actual goals conceded is sixth-worst in the league. Daniel James, despite a poor performance against Villa, has been a positive addition this season, and Fred has improved in midfield under Solskjaer. Harry Maguire looks worth every penny spent this offseason, while Aaron Wan-Bissaka has quietly been one of the better Premier League values of the summer.

Solskjaer has to this point avoided the off-field blights that eventually spelled disaster for Emery at Arsenal, but the results are no longer an anomaly – they have become the norm. Along with that, Solskjaer’s notable calm demeanor may be having an adverse effect on the club; he himself claimed that Jack Grealish‘s goal in the Villa draw “knocked us a little emotionally,” a mental frailty never present during Ferguson’s best days.

The Norwegian said after the Villa draw that he’s not looking at league position. “I wouldn’t have sat here and talked about us being fifth if we had got that one goal extra, so the league table at this point is not the biggest concern because it is so tight. I just need to make sure that we get performances and get three or four performances after each other – and results.”

He should start worrying about league position soon, because while it doesn’t feel like the wheels have fallen off the OleMobile just yet, the optics are looking less and less savory. Manchester United stuck with Sir Alex back when the going got tough, but these are entirely different times. As the season slips away, where is the point of no return? When is enough, enough?

Solskjaer on Man United: ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day’

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Ahead of Manchester United‘s clash with Arsenal at Old Trafford on Monday (Watch live, 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) Ole Gunnar Solskjaer believes his Red Devils are on track.

Despite sitting 13 points off Premier League leaders Liverpool, the man in his first full season in charge at United is cautiously optimistic about the squad and playing style he is building.

Solskjaer sat down with our partners Sky Sports, and told Gerard Brand that United are just about where he expected them to be right now.

“It’s not like the situation we had last year,” Solskjaer said. “There’s no lack of desire there. For us it’s about building a new culture, building a new team, bringing everybody together. Is it the job I expected? Yes. I never said this was going to be a quick-fix job. It’s step after step after step.”

“Of course, we’ve hit a few bumps in the road, I never said this was going to be a quick-fix job. Rome wasn’t built in a day. We need time, and the attitude of the boys has been great. [We must] keep working on improving the understanding and relationships between all players, and the style we want to play.”

Given the fact Solskjaer inherited an almighty mess last season after Jose Mourinho left, then rejuvenated the squad as they looked likely to finish in the top four before a late season collapse, he deserves more time until he’s properly judged.

Defeats against Crystal Palace and West Ham early this season haven’t helped his cause but neither have costly injuries to Anthony Martial, Luke Shaw, Paul Pogba and now Marcus Rashford.

Context is key in life, and in football.

Solskjaer is slowly trying to create a new culture at United and the younger players he is bedding in (Mason Greenwood, Daniel James, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Scott McTominay to name a few) will take time to find their feet. There is a clear playing style of counter-attacking coupled with more intense pressing in attacking areas, and it has shown glimpses of working well.

Will Solskjaer be given the time to turn United into a top four team, at the very least, once again?

As he says, Rome wasn’t built in a day. But a decent football team can be built in about 6-12 months. The clock is ticking, Ole…

If United aren’t firmly in the top four battle by January, Ed Woodward and Co. may be getting a little twitchy.

At this point, blaming the manager is probably not the answer. Louis Van Gaal, Jose Mourinho and David Moyes have all come and gone since Sir Alex Ferguson retired while the rest of the football structure at the club hasn’t changed at all over the last six years.

That tells its own story and should probably buy Solskjaer at least until the end of this season before he is judged.

Van Gaal: Woodward has ‘zero understanding of football’

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Tell us how you really feel, LVG.

Former Manchester United boss Louis Van Gaal apparently has more in common with old pal Jose Mourinho than we even knew, lashing out at Red Devils CEO Ed Woodward in a recent interview.

[ MORE: Liverpool looks to lock up Klopp ]

Saying he accepts that he was fired when Mourinho was on the market and adding that it made business sense to the club — a bit of a jab given what you’re about to read — Van Gaal says United is lagging behind the top teams in the world due to a lack of football in the front office.

From Sky Sports:

“At Bayern, the people in charge are football men. I always appreciated that,” Van Gaal told German magazine 11 Freunde. “At Manchester United, on the other hand, Ed Woodward was installed as CEO – somebody with zero understanding of football who was previously an investment banker.”

Somewhere, Mourinho just raised his glass to the sky while simultaneously doing the chef’s kiss with his other hand.

Woodward probably doesn’t care too much, with only the Glazer Family above him and the business end going fairly well off the field. With a big retool underway, however, Woodward has to know that the first transfer window of the Ole Gunnar Solskjaer era — the fourth boss post-Alex Ferguson — is a big one for not just the club but his reputation.

Man United: We have funds for squad rebuild

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Manchester United will launch a huge rebuild this summer, according to executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward.

In a call to investors on Thursday, United’s leading man revealed their third quarter financial results and said he will use the success of the business side of the club to rebuild the playing squad and give Ole Gunnar Solskjaer the resources he needs this summer.

Despite finishing sixth in the Premier League this season and failing to qualify for the UEFA Champions League next season, United’s performance off the pitch is on the up. Revenue is up 3.4 percent to $194.6 million and there was a 94 percent rise in operating profits to $18.1 million.

Here’s more from Woodward:

“Everyone at the club – the board, the manager, the squad and all the staff are resolute in our desire to get United back to the top of English football. We continually look to improve staff on and off the pitch to achieve this,” Woodward said. “The strength of our business means we have the financial resources to continue to provide a solid foundation for backing the manager and creating success on the pitch. This, as ever, remains our number one goal.” 

“The season that has just ended clearly didn’t end the way we hoped, finishing in sixth place and with a disrupted managerial change part way through,” Woodward said. ” However, Ole and the squad battled back from mid-December to put us in contention to qualify for the Champions League next season, but ultimately we came up short. While the last few weeks were disappointing, we are delighted to have confirmed the appointment of Ole as our manager on a three-year contract.”

It seems like Solskjaer will have money to spend, but that hasn’t fared too well for his predecessors at United. Both Louis Van Gaal and Jose Mourinho spent plenty of cash but failed to rebuild this United squad in a manner which shows they are on the path to becoming perennial Premier League contenders once again.

Get ready for a summer of big spending from United, as Paul Pogba, Alexis Sanchez, David De Gea and Romelu Lukaku have all been linked with moves away from the Red Devils.

Big change is needed, and it seems like Woodward is finally ready to accept it. This could pretty much be his last roll of the dice after lurching from one expensive mistake to another in recent seasons.

When will Ed Woodward be held accountable for Man United failures?

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Six seasons, five managers, three Champions League qualifications, zero Premier League titles.

That is the Manchester United story since they last trimphed over the English top flight in Sir Alex Ferguson‘s final season as Red Devils boss.

The leadership has been chopped and changed many times over, but there is one constant: Executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward, who ascended to his current role in 2012 and was made top operational executive a year later after the departure of David Gill. Since Woodward took full control of the club, Manchester United has spiraled completely out of control, with the luster of 13 Premier League titles almost fully rusted away.

While Manchester United has collected three trophies under his watch, the two most coveted – the Premier League and Champions League titles – have eluded the storied club, instead settling for an FA Cup, League Cup and Europa League title (plus two Community Shields, as Jose Mourinho would tell you).

Still, Woodward has somehow escaped heavy criticism for his rocky tenure, with the first-team managers – far more publicly accountable figures than club executives – taking the brunt of the flak for losing streaks, negative tactics, mediocre youth development, and shambolic defending. Yet Woodward remains unscathed, free of full-scale scrutiny while everything he touches turns to ash.

Woodward’s history in the transfer market has been downright abysmal. Paul Pogba, Romelu Lukaku, Angel Di Maria, Fred, Eric Bailly, and Luke Shaw have all been purchased for enormous sums of money during Woodward’s time in charge, yet none of them have lived up to their financial burdens. It is impossible to truly know what Woodward’s exact role is in the transfer dealings, but as the top operational executive at the club, he is responsible for the consistent failures whether he has taken a hands-on approach or has delegated most of the duties to others. It’s time the buck stops at the top.

Since the start of the 2013 summer transfer window, Manchester United has shelled out a gargantuan $712 million in transfer net spend and the Red Devils are no closer to challenging for the Premier League title than when they began their quest to replace Sir Alex Ferguson. After losing to relegated Cardiff City to close out the 2018/19 Premier League season with little more than a whimper, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said it would take “a long time” for Manchester United to be in a position to compete for the league title. The Notwegian boss even dared to warn supporters to temper their expectations; the Europa League would be a reasonable ambition for the time being. Those words from a Manchester United mouthpiece like Solskjaer are a brutal indictment of Woodward and his leadership of the club over the past few years.

When Sir Alex departed, the team admittedly needed an overhaul. The legendary boss somehow squeezed one last triumph out of an old and dilapidated squad, as if fans needed yet another reason to revere the greatest manager the game has ever seen. Nemanja Vidic, Rio Ferdinand, Patrice Evra, Michael Carrick, Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs, and Dimitar Berbatov were all over 30 and on their way out of the club while David De Gea, Chris Smalling, Phil Jones, Rafael, Fabio, Jesse Lingard, Danny Welbeck, and Adnan Januzaj were all 22 years old or younger and looking for guidance and direction as they continued to develop.

Instead, they were met with chaos and instability, as David Moyes, Giggs, Louis Van Gaal, and Jose Mourinho all tried and failed to restore order to the club. None of the managers were given enough time to establish any sense of consistency, and it’s unclear whether any of them were good enough hires that things would have improved if given that luxury. Instead of embracing the period of transition, the club fell into a form of purgatory, hoping to maintain a steady ship while also understanding that things would not be the same. Woodward, a career accountant, may know what it takes to secure a lucrative sponsorship, but eventually they need the on-field results to match the claim of the world’s most popular club, or the financial leverage will wane.

While many players and managers have come and gone over the past few years, Woodward has remained the only constant figure, and the longer the club continues to rot, the more obvious his role in allowing the club to fester. Now, he wishes to bring on a technical director (see: Director of Football) to help with on-field decisions and player acquisitions, a smart choice in delegating the football responsibilities but also another hire to get right. And yet…he’s reportedly looking to hire Darren Fletcher, who literally retired as a player one week ago and has zero executive or managerial experience, in what feels like more of a PR move than anything of actual significance.

With this year’s sixth place finish – the club’s fourth finish outside the Premier League’s top four over the last six years – it is time fans direct their frustration and unhappiness further up the food chain. Ed Woodward must be held accountable for the failures of the club, or the glory days of (actually not that) long ago will become an even more distant memory with every passing year.