Rewarding someone for not actually winning anything yet is a bit strange.
You could say it’s really strange at a club like Manchester United, but this is a club that has focused more securing official mattress and pillow sponsors than actually bothering to rebuild a dynasty since 2013.
The latest from the United rumour mill concerns head coach Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who looks set to be rewarded with an improved contract amid a recent restructuring of the club’s hierarchy. And while United’s commitment to a manager and subsequent long-term project is by no means bad news, there are definitely more immediate items on the agenda that should be addressed first.
Solskjaer – for all his hard work in steadying the ship – is nursing a 0-3 losing streak in cup semi-finals, having fell at the second-to-last hurdle three times in the 2019/20 season. Unless of course there were trophies made for winning in Paris and topping the Premier League halfway through a season.
United have undoubtedly improved this season and their Premier League points tally supports that. The Red Devils were fifth and had accrued 45 points after 29 games in the 2019/20 campaign, but are 12 points better off and sit second to an almost flawless Manchester City side at the same point this season. Consider that they are also still in the Europa League and the FA Cup, and it still looks set to be an impressive, improved campaign for Solskjaer.
But he needs to win a trophy.
Laugh at the lack of titles all you want, but the Red Devils are founded upon success and winning silverware. Even in their lowest point as a club following Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement, they’ve managed to keep afloat by winning the FA Cup, Carabao Cup and Europa League. It’s been three years since the last trophy was won, though. Handing Solskjaer a new contract before he’s even managed to right the wrongs of last season’s shortcomings would be a touch concerning, and set a strange precedent in the squad that not winning is fine, so long as you don’t park in Fergie’s spot at Carrington.
Solskjaer is currently signed until the summer of 2022, having agreed to a three-year deal in March 2019. And while his stock has no doubt been boosted by his performances at the wheel and gone a long way in shaking off an ill-fated spell at Cardiff in 2014, he still won’t be eager to leave the Theatre of Dreams.
United don’t have to worry about the Norwegian jumping ship anytime soon, so it would be wiser to focus on more alarming issues such as the fact that the club’s best striker is a 34-year-old, and that they don’t have an official semi-skimmed milk sponsor.
For all of Solskjaer’s progress with his United squad this season, there are still obvious limitations with his current squad. A new striker is needed to bolster the attack, while a defensive midfielder and a centre back should also be recruited if United want to truly kick on and challenge for league titles again. The money should be spent on securing those in the summer and letting Solskjaer earn his contract extension with a more complete squad, rather than the seemingly back-to-front approach currently being taken.
By no means is this us calling for Solskjaer’s head on a chopping block or dubbing him a flop. His work in the hot seat has resulted in United looking the best they have done since 2013. It’s time to take the next step, however, and handing the manager a new deal before he’s managed to win anything would seem a little backwards.
Even waiting until the end of the season and assessing his performance in each competition would make more sense. The Red Devils are going in the right direction, but it is vitally important that nobody starts jumping the gun and repeating silly old mistakes of the past few years.