Born in the south east of Ireland, Simon put his life-long love of football to good use when he started a successful independent blog in 2010. That opened up an alternative route to a career in journalism, and having had work published across a number of sites and publications, Simon joined the staff at Spotlight Sports Group in 2018.
Manchester United have appointed former player Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as caretaker manager until the end of the season, just a day after the club announced the sacking of Jose Mourinho.
The 45-year old spent 11 glorious seasons at United between 1996 and 2007, where he won 6 Premier League titles, 2 FA Cups, a Champions League and an Intercontinental Cup title, scoring 126 goals in 366 appearances in the process.
Solskjaer temporarily leaves his permanent role at Norwegian club Molde, the club United signed him from as a player over 22 years ago, to take the reins at Old Trafford until May.
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) December 19, 2018
In a brief official club announcement, Solskjaer said:
“Manchester United is in my heart and it’s brilliant to be coming back in this role. I’m really looking forward to working with the very talented squad we have, the staff and everyone at the club.”
Ed Woodward, Executive Vice Chairman, also commented:
“Ole is a club legend with huge experience, both on the pitch and in coaching roles. His history at Manchester United means he lives and breathes the culture here and everyone at the club is delighted to have him and Mike Phelan back. We are confident they will unite the players and the fans as we head into the second half of the season.”
The news of Solskjaer’s appointment has been almost unanimously well-received by United supporters. The Norwegian’s exploits as a player earned him cult-hero status at Old Trafford, and Solskjaer’s legacy has already been immortalized on permanent banners inside the stadium.
It’s clear then, that Solskjaer won’t be short of support, but does the largely inexperienced coach have the acumen to spark a United revival?
Solskjaer and the new manager effect
Solskjaer’s first task as United’s caretaker manager will be to breathe new life into a changing room still choking on the fumes from Jose Mourinho’s malaise.
A restoration of United’s attacking values and spirit of expression should be Solskjaer’s priorities, and as a Ferguson glory years alumnus dipped and dyed in the club’s traditions, the Norwegian will certainly know what’s required.
As we proved last month, the new manager effect is real and measurable thing, rather than an exhausted football idiom with little basis, and looking at their next 6 fixtures, a positive spike in results for United could be imminent.
Manchester United’s next 6 Fixtures
Sat 22 Dec Cardiff v Man Utd Premier League
Wed 26 Dec Man Utd v Huddersfield Premier League
Sun 30 Dec Man Utd v Bournemouth Premier League
Wed 2 Jan Newcastle v Man Utd Premier League
Sat 5 Jan Man Utd v Reading FA Cup
Sun 13 Jan Tottenham v Man Utd Premier League
Solskjaer’s Cardiff City reunion
As fate would have it, Solskjaer’s first game as United manager sees him return to Cardiff City – the club that sacked him after an undeniably disastrous 8-month spell in 2014.
Solskjaer took the job at Cardiff in early January of that year, having won unprecedented back-to-back Norwegian championship with Molde.
However, Solskjaer struggled to replicate his Scandinavian success in England. The Bluebirds won just 3 Premier League games under Solskjaer’s direction, and were relegated to the Championship.
After a poor start to their second-tier campaign in 2014/15, where Cardiff won 2, drew 2 and lost 3 of their first 7 games, Solskjaer was axed.
On Saturday, Solskjaer’s motivations will be two-fold. A winning start as caretaker manager could be the catalyst for a United reawakening, though victory in Wales would also exorcise some of Solskjaer’s own personal demons.
Cardiff City won’t be willing participants in Manchester United’s positivity parade however. The Bluebirds have won 3 Premier League games on the bounce at the Cardiff City Stadium, and Neil Warnock will happily accept the role of spoilsport on Saturday.
Solskjaer will be keen to inject some attacking thrust into his United team as quickly as possible, and the players should respond enthusiastically to a more forward-thinking philosophy.
Finding a way to restructure a defence that has kept only 1 clean sheet in 9 Premier League away matches this season will be a trickier puzzle to solve however.
That combination of factors makes a Manchester United/both teams to score selection at 12/5 with bet365 a terrific looking bet.
Solskjaer’s ambitions for the season
Manchester United’s board are likely to have set a low bar in terms of their expectations for Solskjaer’s Man Utd tenure.
Solskjaer takes over United squad devoid of confidence, with the club a full 11 points behind Chelsea in the Premier League’s last Champions League qualification place in 4th.
There are still 63 Premier League points to play for this season however, and though it would take a lengthy run of title winning form to claw back the deficit, United won’t be writing off their top 4 hopes just yet.
You can still get odds of 14/1 with bet365 for United to finish the 2018/19 Premier League season in the top 4.
Even with the return of one of their club legends, United’s immediate future hangs in the balance. Solskjaer’s previous stint in the Premier League is bound to have raised some concerns, and with United’s players’ self-belief almost full eroded by Mourinho’s incessant criticism, there is still a chance that this short-term appointment could have disastrous consequences.
If you think United are on the road to ruin under Solskjaer, you can back them to finish in the bottom half of the Premier League at 25/1 with bet365.
For the optimists, United are priced at 7/1 to win the FA Cup this season with BetVictor. If you think the Solskjaer effect will have a positive impact on United’s continental aspirations, you can get odds of 10/3 with BetVictor on United coming through their Champions League Last 16 double header with PSG next year.
Read all of FST’s latest Premier League match previews, betting tips and predictions here.
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