Ronaldo, Messi, Qatar – Just Blame Ole Gunnar Solskjaer for all of it

In the beginning there was football.

Then there were football clubs, and quickly, the concept of transferring players became common place. Player’s registrations were acquired for sums of money or other goods. Refrigerators. Slabs of meat.

Eventually, money became the preferred currency, with occasionally another player thrown in to sweeten the deal.

Today there are thousands of professional football clubs around the world. There are tens of thousands of players around the world and every summer hundreds of players transfer between clubs.

At the top level of the game most clubs make a small handful of transfers every year. At any one time you might say there are fifteen top class clubs spread across Europe, a continent chosen because of its relevance to the point I’ll eventually make. So there might be one hundred plus transfers to and from those clubs over the course of a summer.

A team’s capability to participate in the transfer market is dependent on three things – their squad’s needs, the desire of a player to leave, and the financial situation of a club.

It’s a highly complicated scenario. It can lead to one player moving for a national record transfer fee and the next week, another player being denied a move for a national record transfer fee because his current club happen to have him under binding contract.

So why, whenever a top club who isn’t Manchester United have made a signing this summer, does a section of online support purporting to be United fans suddenly spring into vocal life and BLAME and ABUSE Ole Gunnar Solskjaer?

You might think, given the above discussion, there are millions of variables all dependent on the needs of various different participants, but no, a study undertaken by the professors of social media has concluded that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in particular is the man culpable for all of this movement by other clubs.

This study supersedes the diploma these guys acquired for economics in sport. These qualifications once came with certificates or letters after a name, but more recently they are proven by the use of a green and gold shield in your social media avatar and the hashtags #GlazersOut and #LUHG in their bios.

Clearly, the wisdom of these individuals cannot be challenged or questioned. They would understand that the size of the debt levied on the club is restrictive in a great manner of things.

They know how impactful the Glazer ownership has been on all areas of the club. The stadium. The training facilities. The Cliff. The women’s team. Signing players. They know that because of their economics prowess. They’ll tell you to boycott the owners by using a hashtag (no, I don’t know how that works either, though I could tell you I’ve never purchased AON insurance, or AIG come to that. I did though once have a Vodafone mobile phone for a couple of years). They’ll tell you loudly the Glazers are leeches and that Ed Woodward is the worst of the lot.

Worst except for one. Because somehow – and you’ll have to follow closely here, because there might be something you’ll get in here that I can’t – the debt levied against the club, which directly impacts our ability to spend money, a debt leveraged by the owners in 2005 and refinanced at several stops along the way, is now entirely the fault of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

More pertinently, it’s actually a sign of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s lack of ambition.

Why can’t they go and spend £150m more to sign Harry Kane (let’s forget that Spurs rejected an offer for that amount)? Why can’t they at least spend another £60m after they spent just north of £100m already?

Actually, it wasn’t £100m. It’s £30m, because £70m was last year’s money. Last year’s money! Last year’s money! Have you ever heard anything more absurd?

Has anyone ever seen this money tree which replenishes to the tune of £100m or more on an annual basis? Can I see it? My ‘last year’s money’ was unfortunately hampered by a global pandemic. Granted, I don’t have a green and gold shield in my bio, but I’m pretty sure losing over £100m in revenue as a result of the pandemic is pretty bad and would have some sort of impact.

The more I think about it, the more I wonder if these green and gold shields were acquired at the school of Manchester City and PSG Enterprises, where all sorts of financial gymnastics are (allegedly) studied. (Note, for clarity, this school does not exist.)

Neymar can be signed for £220m in a market that probably did not value him at half that amount. In the same window, the hottest young prospect in football, Kylian Mbappe, could be signed by the same club for £165m. Oh no – wait, he didn’t, because that would have breached FFP regulations. He actually signed on loan, with a view to complete the move the following year. And that he did. He signed a deal that expires next year, when he can move for free.

But Paris are refusing offers of £150m for a player who they could lose for nothing in January. It’s only four months until Real Madrid can guarantee that signature for nothing, which makes them even more mad. But this all makes sense at the Green and Gold School of Economics and Ambition.

Paris director Leonardo has been vocal about how unfair and improper it all is, as well he might. The French club might have all the money in the world but they’d have to rely heavily on the free transfer market this summer, and they managed to strike lucky with the likes of Ramos, Donnarumma and Lionel Messi who all left their lucrative contracts for less money and the prestige of playing for PSG, a club with real ambition.

PSG were able to sign Messi because Barcelona, after years of spending money they didn’t have, couldn’t even register a player they already had on their books to a new contract. One of their greatest ever, unable to stay, because of their prior financial recklessness.

Qatar are holding the World Cup in December, it’s a political minefield, and two prominent clubs appear to be engaging in some good old high profile sports-washing.

And you know whose fault that all is?

Ole Gunnar Sodding Solskjaer.

You heard me.

And now Cristiano Ronaldo, the 36-year-old former United striker, is close to agreeing a deal to join Manchester City. When he was 30, he said he wouldn’t, but six years is a long time.

Ronaldo is not the blistering talent he was when he waved goodbye to Old Trafford but he is one of the very best players in the world and one of the greatest of all time. He’s been available all summer but is now, in the last days of August, close to moving to Manchester City. The numbers on the table aren’t unremarkable.

A possible £20m transfer fee, and if rumours are to be believed, a £250,000 per week basic pay, would make such a move a decent investment even at his age.  Even Paris might be able to afford that.

In the last few weeks since United signed Raphael Varane, it is commonly accepted by most that they need to sell players in order to raise more money for transfer fees. Nothing has changed in the last two weeks. No players have been sold.

United’s need for a midfielder was apparent at Southampton and glaringly obvious in the wake of Scott McTominay’s enforced absence. It doesn’t look as though they’ll be able to sign one, even though Solskjaer wants one in. They can’t afford one because of the financial situation of the club.

You might think the Ronaldo situation is completely unconnected to Solskjaer, because there are hundreds of transfers every day – and there are a number of big clubs who should be interested when a player like Ronaldo comes available. Any serious club who aren’t ‘dead’ or ‘finished’ would be in for him. So where are they?

You can blame Solskjaer for that. Not just for United not being in for him. Because, if we’re being that ridiculous, Chelsea fans might as well blame him too. But they’ve just signed Lukaku. Blame Solskjaer for that too.

Why aren’t Real Madrid using the Varane money to get their legend back? Blame Solskjaer for that.

Why can’t Barcelona sign Ronaldo? They’ve lost Messi. If they were a serious club they’d be in for Ronaldo. That would be a statement. But they’re a joke. It’s all Ole’s fault, too. He has no ambition.

Why don’t Arsenal sign him? Liverpool? They don’t have the money. Haven’t you heard – money means nothing. They haven’t spent this year’s money. Arsenal’s transfer fees have come from that year in the eighties they didn’t spend anything. And it’s all Solskjaer’s fault. He can’t be a serious manager. How can he be if Arsenal allow a player like that to go by?

Oh, and did you know that Manchester City signing Ronaldo reminds us that we’ll never win anything because Solskjaer lost a Cup Final to Villarreal? They might seem like two random football events but they are tied together purely by Solskjaer’s lack of ambition and tactical cluelessness.

Some are flipping their lid. The major movers and shakers in the United fanbase have had enough.

Totally Man Utd reacted to the Ronaldo news by asking if United’s match-going fans are happy with their £3 pint now? Well? Are you?

One chap based on another continent informed me that any right-minded fan will be protesting against the manager in reaction to this transfer. I’ll be honest – those match-going fans seemed terribly vocal in their support of the manager who has overseen steady improvement, but I’m not one to contest the knowledge of the green and gold shield education system, so I expect he’s right. They’ll be out en masse demanding that a manager who finished second in May should be sacked in August. That’s the action of a proper big club and it’s about time we acted like it.

One loud talker has informed his tribe that he’s finally ‘done’ with the Manchester United manager after hearing Ronaldo might move to Manchester City. He’s been done before, and finally done before, but never finally done in this way, and he’s just about had enough of it.

One can only presume the rumble from this seismic declaration might see the manager lose his job, so that the Glazer family can finally hire someone to spend some goddamn money.

Joel is on the phone daily, begging Solskjaer to sign Kane, Ronaldo and Neves. And Camavinga. He wanted him to get Messi too, but that ship sailed. Why isn’t he doing it? Why won’t he spend the money? Why doesn’t he share the Glazer family’s ambition to restore United to the top of the table? Why is he holding us back so much?

In an alternate universe, a group of United supporters actually went to Old Trafford – many of them the same who go on a match day – to voice opposition to the ownership and support of the manager. They wanted a change. If the owners would not sell, the fans wanted them to be better owners. Tiny steps have been made in the few months since that protest. Yes, cheaper beer on the day. Yes, token dialogue. But it’s early days. To the green and gold shields, it’s not enough.

Those fans who actually protested, who actually participated in dialogue, who actually forced change for the first time in over a decade, those same fans (and Ole, might as well blame him) are to be held accountable for the fact that the Glazer family haven’t sold their multi-billion club in the space of three months in the middle of the pandemic. Your little protest looks quite silly now, doesn’t it? Happy drinking your £3 beer?

Not quite as effective as their social media campaign to stop flying with Aeroflot. What do you mean you never flew with them? Well, you can thank the green and gold shields for that. Aeroflot are almost out of business thanks to that successful campaign. Don’t look it up. Trust me. They’re gone. Noticed how nobody’s buying Cadbury’s? What do you mean you had a sneaky Double Decker? Traitor. Don’t you care about the club?

If you’d only engaged some of these wise minds, the Glazers would be out, and a proper manager would be in, a manager with a track record of success and of signing players like Messi and Ronaldo would be in charge right now. United would be a proper club again. They wouldn’t have drawn at Southampton.

If only we got a proper manager in we wouldn’t have taken so long to get Varane sorted and we wouldn’t have this Cavani mess, because as we all know, Solskjaer was the lead campaigner for Brexit, and he was the one who started the pandemic. Right. You know who didn’t start Brexit? Antonio Conte. And he’s available.

What happens when he doesn’t have the requisite funds to challenge City? Will you say that he had £100m to spend when City spend £150m? Just how will the argument change? If we sack a man who has done a steady job in the middle of August to give the job to the best unemployed candidate, is that more of a ‘proper club’ move than building towards something?

If Solskjaer was a proper manager – a really proper one – he’d demand £60m to sign Neves AND Bissouma. And you know what? If he was a proper manager, he’d get it too. He’d get that money from somewhere because that’s what proper managers do. He’d get it like Barcelona got money to sign Coutinho. And then in five years time, when we can’t afford to give Greenwood a new contract and he goes to Manchester City for free because we bankrupted ourselves signing Ruben Neves, then at least he acted like a proper manager for once.

Did you know United lost 3-1 at Southampton in the 90s? It was pretty big news – they had to change kits at half time. They went on to win the title that season. Mad, eh? Solskjaer wasn’t even at the club then and it was all his fault. He was at the club the following season and completely to blame for the 6-3 defeat. We went on to win the title and he scored a bunch of goals, but we didn’t sign Brazilian Ronaldo or Shearer, so we were a finished club. We drew at Southampton in August 2021 and it’s the clearest indication yet that Solskjaer simply does not know what he is doing.

Are you still following?

Good. In case you couldn’t tell, most of the above was sarcastic (well, you never know, some might have missed it).

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer isn’t to blame for most of the above. Nor is he completely blameless for Manchester United’s present shortcomings. He made two significant signings this summer and the odds are if he had not signed one and signed a midfielder, he’d be getting pelters for being ignorant of a poor defence or blind to the chasm on the right side of attack.

The most golden logic of all. You know if we had £30m to spend on a player, and we spent it on Ronaldo instead of a holding midfielder, just as the green and gold shields want, then those same green and gold shields would be there to remind us how Ole is blind to the faults of the team because he didn’t use that money to sign a midfielder. They’re telling you as a fellow fan because they want, and know, what’s best for the club, and you don’t.

The truth is that Ole might well be culpable of missing a beat if it turns out, like Van De Beek last year, Sancho’s contribution is not what we expect, or Varane doesn’t adapt like we want. Maybe we’ll fail because of the decision to not prioritise a holding midfielder. That will be somewhat on the manager and if we don’t win a trophy or qualify for the Champions League, he will probably lose his job.

Even those of us who support the manager expect that, because that’s the level of expectation of the club. It’s disappointing to us that there is a large grey area between qualifying for the Champions League and genuinely competing to win the League, because that is traditionally where the gap in investment has been notable most years. Jose Mourinho had cause to grumble before he turned it all much worse than it needed to be. So too does Solskjaer. He’s not doing it publicly. In fact, quite the opposite.

Somewhere in Florida, if they genuinely keep their finger on the pulse of the fan support – particularly online, as divisive as it is – the owners, via whoever they have running the show for them, will not be blind to the nature of the commentary. They’ll see the toxicity aimed at the manager.

They’ll see how some of it is inflamed by the incumbent manager’s words of praise of the owners (just like his predecessors), and they’ll note how the figure that Solskjaer has been given to spend is quoted freely by his detractors.

They will love it. They’ll love how those who claim to hate them actually support them in saying the manager has had money to spend, regardless of context in the wider football world. Yes, it sticks in the throat that the manager praises the relationship he has with the owners. It did when Fergie was the manager too. I don’t, however, know of many football managers who regularly go to war with their employers and enjoy a long and fruitful relationship, I’ll say that much.

In some respects, those detractors have a point. £30m isn’t an extraordinary amount in today’s football – it’s enough to pay for a Van De Beek and have him do nothing all year. It’s a couple of dividend payments to the owners, who’ve managed to take out that payment in spite of the pandemic. It’s also money that the club clearly don’t have at the moment. Blame Solskjaer if you want, if you really have to say that it’s because he spent the money on another player we needed. But it always comes back to the owners.

Solskjaer brought Van De Beek to the club. He should give him a chance. He also sees him more regularly than any of us so is better qualified to make that decision – but we’d like to see him play nonetheless. And, if he does and is poor, then he can be blamed for that too. Isn’t it great?

If renewed protests should be for anything, they should be to demand the owners put the club’s money back into the club – for the first time, ever – and allow it to spend it for an area which is clearly needed. Not Ronaldo, who would have been nice, but that midfielder.

Right now, they’re probably breathing a huge sigh of relief that the masterminds of #LUHG university have temporarily lost sight of their high grades and are more Hate United, Hate Solskjaer.

They can spend much less money not backing Solskjaer, sacking Solskjaer, and then hiring someone else to not spend in his first window. Everyone can breathe a sigh of relief until we’re back on the perpetual cycle, set back years, becoming just like every other run of the mill club.

Divided we stand? Maybe. I’m just glad that supporters are back at the games to let it be known that a vocal minority is just that. I’m glad that I seem to share the opinion of many in the ground because for a while in lockdown you begin to wonder if you’re one lone voice, alone in a very shouty social media cloud of hate.

Maybe it’s me. Maybe I have lost sight of what United are supposed to stand for.

Maybe I’m being too generous – maybe for the money we spent under Ole, we should have delivered league titles, even if Man City spent more money on an already better squad than we had. Okay, so the economic geniuses won’t apply that argument across the board to take into account the resources and expenditure of other clubs, but maybe that’s why they’re geniuses and I am just a fan of history and finished FC.

Cristiano Ronaldo possibly going to Manchester City is really nothing to do with Manchester United, and even without our respective economic positions you could argue that it isn’t a move that makes sense; yet the reaction to it has showed everything that is wrong with a section of our support, exposing those who claim to be against the owners as people who genuinely do not comprehend the situation those owners have placed Manchester United in.

Wayne Barton

Wayne is a writer and producer. His numerous books on Manchester United include the family-authorised biography of Jimmy Murphy. He wrote and produced the BT Sport films 'Too Good To Go Down' in 2018, and 'True Genius', in 2021, both adapted from his books of the same name. In 2015 he was described by the Independent as the 'leading writer on Manchester United' and former club chairman Martin Edwards has described him as 'the pre-eminent writer on the club'.

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