The Difference Between Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Ryan Giggs as Caretaker Managers
Manchester United and romance are two things that have always gone well together. The club is all about honouring its traditions. It sticks to what got it here and pays homage to those who made it successful.
The “Class of ’99” are no different. In the last five-and-a-half tumultuous years, United have seen two of their greatest servants take the reins and try their luck as managers: Ryan Giggs and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
Giggs, admittedly, was only at the helm for a mere three matches. This came at the end of the disastrous 2013/14 season under David Moyes. However, his appointment aimed to serve more or less the same purposes as Solskjaer’s is meant to do.
Ryan Giggs started off his reign as caretaker boss with two, on paper, easy games at home against Norwich and Sunderland. A lot like his ’99 teammate, he would start off with a comprehensive win and a four-goal margin. However, this was to be a fake silver lining in a very dark cloud for the club. United lost their next home game to Sunderland.
The Welshman had inherited a team of serial winners, all of whom were Premier League winners under Sir Alex. However, they were well past their prime. That was not the biggest issue though. United’s biggest problem that season had been their tactical rigidness. Moyes’ insistence on following a strict crosses-only policy at the club had found the club wanting.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer also comes in with, thankfully, a little more time and room to work with than Ryan Giggs but an equally difficult, if not impossible, task. United’s season, just as it was when Giggs was brought in, is all but over. Champions League qualification will require an enormous upturn in the club’s on-field performances between now and May and ardent fans hold little hope of Phil Jones and Chris Smalling containing Edinson Cavani, Kylian Mbappe and Neymar come February.
Though Ryan Giggs inherited a squad that had the same playing squad, he took charge without any of the same faces in the coaching department who had been there during his heyday. David Moyes had decided to bring with him his own backroom staff from Everton. Due to this major pre-season blunder, United appeared for most games defeated even before the start.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has had better luck in this department. Mike Phelan, one of Sir Alex Ferguson’s trusted generals, is back and Michael Carrick, the man Ferguson signed as a player for his brain on the pitch, is also sticking around.
Former Manchester United first-team coach under Sir Alex, Rene Meulensteen, has also come out and talked about how he believes Phelan’s appointment could prove crucial.
“That’s massive,” he said. “Mike has been with the club a long, long time, as a player and then as assistant manager.
“He will be really important to help Ole to steady the ship and more importantly to get a smile back on the faces of the players and get the best out of them.”
Integration of Ideas: Past and Present
Solskjaer inherits a squad which, though devoid of leaders such as the likes of Rio Ferdinand and Wayne Rooney, consists of players with an enormous amount of misused potential under Jose Mourinho. The Norwegian’s first two teams have scored eight goals without last season’s top scorer Romelu Lukaku and star player Alexis Sanchez.
Another problem that Giggs experienced in his three games in charge was that “old habits die hard”. This has already been apparent in Ole Solskjaer’s two games so far. There are times where it has been visibly evident and possible to notice players like Nemanja Matic and Victor Lindelof hesitate and struggle for a split second before making up their mind about the next, forward movement. Creative expression is a trait United players were not well-versed in, neither under David Moyes nor Jose Mourinho, and this may turn out to be the current Manchester United caretaker manager’s biggest challenge.
If the Nou Camp hero and his coaching staff can successfully integrate United’s DNA and traditions into the current crop of players and instil in them Sir Alex Ferguson’s mentality, then a miracle may be on the horizon at Old Trafford season.