Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has spent several years assembling his Man Utd side and, as he prepares for his third full season at the helm, he must deliver silverware at Old Trafford
Varane deal ‘a sign of Man Utd’s aims’
It’s now eight years since Manchester United were champions – and, as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer goes into his third full season as manager, he will know he has no excuses.
Not after the club has backed him to the tune of £400million in the transfer market during that time.
Signing Jadon Sancho and Raphael Varane looks astute business to me.
More new names might still arrive before United kick off their campaign against Leeds. But the bottom line is that this is now Solskjaer’s Manchester United.
His fingerprints are all over the squad he now possesses – and I am sure Ole will accept that it’s now time for him to put some silverware on the sideboard.
He deserved the new three-year contract he signed last weekend after bringing stability and a sense of long-term planning to a club that had been allowed to drift since Sir Alex Ferguson retired in 2013.
It seems United’s owners have also learned that their hire-and-fire approach hasn’t worked – and that a manager with the club’s DNA running through him needed both time and money to bring back the glory years.
During Fergie’s reign at the helm, we came to expect United to be fighting it out at the top of the Premier League every season.
But since the great man walked away, I have never really seen them as genuine title contenders.
Much of that has been down to the excellence of City and Liverpool in recent seasons.
But, in some ways, what has happened at Old Trafford has reminded me of the reality check that Liverpool got when I was playing for my hometown club.
Football is cyclical.
And, when teams have dominated for a decade or more, they can become victims of their own success.
Liverpool had to take it on the chin for 30 years before Jurgen Klopp delivered the club’s first title since 1990.
They were the major force of English and European football when I was a kid growing up in Toxteth.
And when I made my debut in 1993, you would have got massive odds on them going three decades without a championship.
That expectation and sense of history can weigh heavily. I played in some fantastic Liverpool teams and enjoyed some success with the club.
But, as the title drought went on, every year there would be comparisons made between our team and the greats of the 1970s and 80s.
You would read it in the media. You would hear it from supporters and family members.
Even I would do it, wondering and hoping if next season would finally be our year for the title.
Maybe it was because I was a local lad with a strong connection to Merseyside.
Looking back now, I know I was lucky to be part of some fantastic teams who played some thrilling football – and that the medals I have got should be cherished.
It just so happened that we were competing against United and Arsenal when both of those clubs were really in their pomp.
It has felt like United have always been two or three top-class players away from having a team capable of attacking the title.
That has been addressed.
United should be serious challengers this season.
A minimum requirement will be for Solskjaer to win his first trophy so that he has something tangible to show for the progress he is making.
Where will Man Utd finish next season? Comment below.
Losing the Europa League final last season was a huge blow because it was a chance to grasp a breakthrough moment.
United finally got through that psychological barrier of winning a semi-final only to fall flat against a Villarreal side they really would have expected to beat.
When Klopp lost in six successive finals with Borussia Dortmund and Liverpool, it was clear that he was haunted by those defeats.
He got the monkey off his back by winning the Champions League.
And that proved to be the springboard to lift the Premier League.
Solskjaer is now tasked with the same challenge.
Has he got what it takes to be a winner as a manager?