Assessing Manchester United’s Managers Since Sir Alex Ferguson

Manchester United had one of their biggest nightmares against arch-rivals Liverpool in the Premier League on Sunday, 24 October. The Red Devils suffered a humiliating 5-0 loss to Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool side.

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, after the game, admitted that it was the darkest moment of his career leading the current group of players.

The performance was so bad that United were already trailing 4-0 at half-time with the game eventually ending in a 5-0 win for Liverpool and United finishing the game with 10-men after substitute Paul Pogba was sent off for a wild, studs up challenge on Naby Keita.

A disappointed Alex Ferguson was watching from the stands as his former team was humiliated. Ferguson’s face revealed much after Mohammed Salah grabbed his hat trick and it was a look of despair and loss.

Manchester United’s Managers Following Sir Alex Ferguson’s Departure

United Still Looking for the Perfect Fit

Since Fergusons’s departure, United have employed four different managers but the team is yet to return to the much desired glory days. Ferguson departed the club leaving a title-winning side and his successor David Moyes had already done a lot to start the decline after just 10 months. Although there is no doubt that the squad was ageing, the quality at Moyes’ disposal cannot be overlooked.

Looking back at the Post Ferguson era, Manchester United have spent a lot of money and hired some world class personalities. 

David Moyes’ Brief Spell

Sir Alex Ferguson’s successor, David Moyes was the ‘chosen one’ picked to continue the journey of 26-and-a-half years. 

Moyes brought in only Maroune Fellaini and later in the winter, Juan Mata. 

The former Everton Managers’ time at United was already over before it started. Ten months into his time as manager he was sacked following a 2-0 loss to his former club Everton. The club was in 7th place in the league with no hope of European Football for the following season.

David Moyes later said that he tried to bring in Gareth Bale and Toni Kroos to Manchester United, a claim Toni’s agent later confirmed.

There can be little excuse for Moyes as he had a title-winning team in 7th place after 10 months meaning that the answer here is clear –  Manchester United choose the ‘wrong one’

Louis Van Gaal’s Philosophy

The Dutch tactician had his ways of winning and stuck with them amidst dissatisfaction from United’s faithful. In terms of backing he could not have a lot of excuses as he was backed to an extent. Van Gaal signed 13 players during his two years at United but was not able to bring back the glory days.

In Van Gaal’s first year, he signed five first-team players; Luke Shaw, Ander Herrera, Marcos Rojo, Angel Di Maria, Daley Blind, and Radamel Falcao. United only managed a top-four finish and to many it seemed that progress was on its way. 

Van Gaal’s second season would see him try to put his philosophy into the players. The football was not what the fans wanted and the team was mostly tagged as being boring. At the end of the Dutchman’s second year, he finished fifth (no Champions league qualification) and won the FA Cup.

Despite his FA cup triumph Van Gaal was sacked two days later and the message was clear; his philosophy did not impress.

Positives from Van Gaal’s reign were not just the trophy. He maintained the club’s culture of promoting academy graduates with Marcus Rashford and Jesse Lingard the highlights of Van Gaal’s promotions.

The Special One

Jose Mourinho arrived at United in the Summer of 2016 with mixed opinions about his managerial style. The Special One was not the type to mince words and his only goal was one thing which was to win.

In the 2016/17 season, Mourinho’s side struggled in the league and finished 6th but the serial winner helped them to win the League Cup and Europa League which was not bad for the first season.

The goal in Mourinho’s second season was to win the League. He was backed by major signings like Nemanja Matic and Romelu Lukaku. Although Mourinho moaned about needing one or two more signings, he went into the season with the firepower he had. Although United strengthened in January with the signing of Alexis Sanchez, they were no match for eventual winners and rivals Manchester City.

United and Mourinho were early contenders for the title but an excellent Pep Guardiola City side ran away with the league. United finished 19 points behind City but Mourinho tagged it his biggest achievement.

Heading into Mourinho’s third season,  there had already been rumors of a rift with some senior players. Paul Pogba and Romelu Lukaku were among those who fell out with Mourinho.

Mourinho was sacked in December 2018 with his team languishing around mid-table. Strained relationships with players and everything you would expect to see when Mourinho is sacked from a club.

Mourinho’s positive side was his trophies and maybe -according to him- his 2nd placed finish.

Ultimately it was all back to square one once more.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s replacement of Mourinho in December 2018 was initially a temporary to steady the ship but the club’s hierarchy made the move a permanent one in March 2019 after an impressive few months. The 3-1 win at Parc de Princes in a Champions League knock-out stage must have been Solkjaer’s greatest moment at that time. Results after that famous win suggested that a rebuild was needed and who better to do it than one the clubs’ own. United finished sixth in the league and the rebuild was on.

In Solkjaer’s first full season, he signed three players; Harry Maguire, Daniel James, and Aaron Wan-Bissaka.

Despite the signings, the season was heading to another disastrous one for the Red Devils until Bruno Fernandes arrived in January 2020 from Sporting Lisbon.

The Portuguese playmaker was crucial as United finished in third place after the COVID-19 pandemic halted the 2019/20 campaign. The former Sporting Lisbon player has since continued to be a key player for the club.

Solkjaer’s second full season saw another poor start to the season with continued frustration from the fans.  Although the team improved following a 6-1 defeat to Mourinho’s Tottenham Hotspur, Solkjaer’s side was still not able to secure any silverware.

Despite a second-place finish, Manchester United finished the 2020/21 season with a disappointing loss to Villareal in the Europa League Finals. This meant more pressure for the manager ahead of his third full season as patience was already starting to run out.

Ole Gunnar Solkjaer’s Last Stand

United started Solkjaer’s third full season in grand fashion. A 5-1 win over Leeds United summed up a dominant performance. The team and the coaches had no excuse not to compete following the addition of Raphael Varane, Jadon Sancho, and the return of idol, Cristiano Ronaldo.

However, the team has continued to lose form and is already out of the League Cup after a loss to West ham United.

The squad have already produced a lot of below-par performances including losses to Aston Villa, Young Boys and Leicester City which all piled more pressure on Solskjaer. The 5-0 defeat to Liverpool has now left the manager’s job hanging on the thread.

The team is not what Sir Alex Ferguson would have imagined it to be after all these years. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer  also knows that Manchester United’s next game on October 30th against Tottenham is one of his last lifelines of not the very last.

Manchester United’s Managers Post Ferguson – Leaving a Lot to be Desired

The Scottish legend left the club with a title-winning squad but after seven years and over one billion pounds being spent, the glory days are still yet to return and currently look a long way from the doors of Old Trafford.

Main Image Credit Embed from Getty Images

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