Sky Sports News' North West reporter
Manchester United reporter notebook: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will be given time at Old Trafford
Last Updated: 02/12/19 4:09pm
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer retains the backing of the Manchester United power-brokers and the majority of fans, and will be given time and money to turn his fortunes around at Old Trafford, says Sky Sports News reporter James Cooper.
Manchester United are in transition, that's what they want everyone to know. What they cannot tell you is how long that transition will take and just why things are quite as tough as they are right now.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has said on many occasions that there will be "bumps in the road" or "ups and downs". What nobody seems to have been prepared for is just how big some of those bumps have been this season, and what represents an "up" in an environment when "downs" have become the norm.
The facts are stark. Just two Premier League victories so far this season, 11 away fixtures without a win, one goal in the last three games and a 12th spot that puts Manchester United just two points above the drop zone, and some 15 short of their next opponents: league-leaders Liverpool.
But, to be fair to Solskjaer, another fact is a crucial one. He has only been able to play his strongest team once this season, something he has not hidden behind and currently has 10 of his first team squad on the sidelines.
On Saturday he told me a win at Newcastle would be "vital" to change the mood inside the club going into the international break, but that did not happen and the next 13 days now take on a new significance for the manager and his squad.
Solskjaer has to hope he can get back some of the more senior and important members of his squad. Paul Pogba is clearly a priority but adding Luke Shaw, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Victor Lindelof to the defensive mix, as well as Anthony Martial and perhaps Jesse Lingard, would suddenly make Manchester United's options look stronger.
However, what also needs addressing is an inability to create enough chances - let alone take them - and a lack of confidence among a group of footballers that sees them playing within themselves, unable to assert their gameplan and dominate an opponent nor establish some sort of identity on the pitch.
Solskjaer certainly enjoys the support of the power-brokers at Old Trafford, plus the overwhelming majority of the fans, something that was evident in Holland on Thursday night when supporters sang his name and warmly applauded him at the end of the game. He will also be backed in the January window, having brought in a summer salvo of players that improved his squad but did not go quite far enough.
No one could deny James, Maguire and Wan-Bissaka were not good signings so recruitment is something Manchester United under Solskjaer can get right. However, while he will have plenty of resources in the next window, clubs and players know exactly what he is looking for and actually doing similarly impressive business will not be easy.
A director of football role?
United are still in the market for someone who could be tagged as a director of football or technical director, but the parameters of the post will not see that person become an all-powerful figure at Old Trafford, rather part of a team of people assembled to address a whole series of challenges ranging from the buying and selling of players to the pathway from the Academy to the first team and everything in between.
Much like the transitional period the club's currently occupying, and arguably has since Sir Alex Ferguson retired in 2013, there's no timescale on when this new person will arrive on the scene.
So Ole will be given time and he will be given money but, for the Manchester United fans trying to understand the process and come to terms with it, they also have to have some progress to cling to.
'It's the worst it's been for 30 years'
Andy Mitten, editor of the United We Stand podcast, spoke to Sky Sports News to give his honest assessment of the first part of Manchester United's season.
"It's terrible. The football's poor, the team aren't scoring enough goals and not picking up points, it's the worst it's been for 30 years and it's very very frustrating for Manchester United fans, who are very angry about the situation," Mitten said.
"I think they accepted that this was going to be a season of transition. It's okay for the manager and club to build for the long-term, but you need results in the short term, and they're not coming, and that's a big problem for Manchester United.
"Fans sang his [Solskjaer's] name in Alkmaar, they sang his name at Newcastle. Not with a passion, maybe with loyalty, they want him to succeed and probably feel sorry for him, but there were also chants against the Glazer family, who own Manchester United, that's been new in the last couple of away games.
"United fans have been very supportive and patient, especially at the matches, but they have their limits as well, and they're paying good money to support a team which is failing them. The players are failing them, the players are failing their manager. Manchester United have got into a cycle now where good players become mediocre quite quickly.
"A lot of people are culpable for the things going on at the club, Ed Woodward, the Glazers, the manager, the players, and maybe even the fans who constantly demand new signings and a lot of those signings haven't worked out.
"I believe that Ole wants more time and deserves more time. I think that the answer is not to keep on sacking managers, that's not the right way to do things. The three players he brought in are good players, he's got a good eye, but I don't want to be talking about one transfer window - I want to be talking about four.
"I wonder whether it's beyond one person, it's not just the manager - the structure behind the manager has to be right. Manchester United have been talking about appointing a director of football for over two years now, and they haven't made that appointment. Why?"