Gordon Hill Column : Ole Knows The United Standard – He Might Get The Sack But Doesn’t Deserve Abuse

Manchester United's Norwegian manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (L) and Manchester City's Spanish manager Pep Guardiola look on during the English Premier League football match between Manchester United and Manchester City at Old Trafford in Manchester, north west England, on November 6, 2021. (Photo by Oli SCARFF / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or 'live' services. Online in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No video emulation. Social media in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No use in betting publications, games or single club/league/player publications. / (Photo by OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty Images)

It’s that time of season again, when owners and chairmen get their itchy trigger finger and fire the manager. Two so far this weekend in the Premier League and many are speculating that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will join them after the very disappointing 2-0 defeat to Manchester City.

Nobody is making any excuses about what was another bad day for the club. There have been a few too many and the pressure is on Ole. That should be the case, too.

He and I both played in Manchester derbies and against Liverpool. We played in teams that didn’t lose in the same way as these recent defeats, and I can tell you that the ones we did lose hurt like hell.

I can’t pass judgement on what that dressing room is feeling because they are their own men and it’s up to them to give a reaction. My concern is that the Liverpool result didn’t dent their pride so much as it did their ego, because there was a period in the City game where it looked like they were scared to go for it in case they were hit by the same score.

Is that what we’re reduced to? Look at the talent in that squad. There’s no disgrace in losing if you lose trying to play the right way. There is so much ability, enough to have given better accounts of themselves than they have been doing.

Something’s holding them back. Maybe it is Ole. Maybe it’s a case of him having done as much as he can – again, no disgrace. He can’t help it if he can’t put it together. He loves United, just like I do. But loving them and being the right man for the job are two different things and it’s worth remembering that men with more experience than him have failed in this job.

Ole knows the standards of Manchester United. He knows what is and isn’t acceptable. We’ve all seen what’s happened to previous managers in similar situations.

What I can’t abide is seeing the abuse put in his direction. It has been horrible to read and I honestly expected better.

I look around football and elsewhere there are crazy decisions that just show you how much football has changed. And management, for that matter. Nuno Santo was one of the most highly regarded coaches when he was at Wolves. He took over a difficult job at Spurs and has been given a matter of months before being sacked. Was it a case of seeing Conte’s name in the press and jumping before someone else got the chance? Spurs are a great English institution – it’s sad to see them act so impulsively. Levy might get what he deserves with the mess that he creates. But the fans don’t.

Nothing really shocks me in football anymore but I was sad to see what’s happened to Dean Smith. He’s done great things at Villa and after losing Grealish in the summer perhaps needed a little more time. I do worry for some of these bigger clubs – ambition is all well and good, but there is a lot of money at stake to be making gambles like this. Villa are a big club, but they are still consolidating in a league that’s getting more money all the time. Hadn’t Dean deserved time to turn it around? It’s five defeats – it’s not terminal.

You might say the same for Farke at Norwich, who’ve developed this yo-yo team reputation together. Nobody likes to be relegated but maybe that’s just Norwich’s place at the moment – what if the consequence of sacking him is not avoiding relegation, but not getting promotion next year? I worry about the long term vision some of these clubs seem to have. Or not have, as the case may be.

I include United in that. The future of the club shouldn’t just be decided on two individual results, damning as they may be.

It’s obviously much bigger than that, and the concerns are real and fair, even though the abuse is not. As with everything in football, it’s not so much the decision to relieve a manager but the process of bringing in his successor which reveals more about the planning. We’ll wait and see how that pans out as far as events at Old Trafford are concerned.

Gordon Hill was speaking exclusively to TalkOfTheDevils.co.uk.

Gordon Hill

Former Manchester United winger (1975-1978). 134 appearances, 51 goals. FA Cup winner 1977.

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