LONDON: When Sir Alex Ferguson retired six years ago it felt like, and in many ways was, the end of an era. Not just at Manchester United but for football in general. With “Fergie” went the days of giving youth a chance and allowing a coach time to create a side built for success.
Since his departure the events at Old Trafford have been depressingly familiar: Hire a new manager, give him lots of money, sack him not long after. That is the script at every club now and the revolving door of calamitous coaches and big-money buys sometimes leaves fans alienated and detached from their team.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s appointment as new United boss, therefore, seems like a welcome throwback. The Norwegian was not a big-name manager of the sort that invariably gets mentioned when a ridiculously monied club has a vacancy — think Zinedine Zidane, Carlo Ancelotti, Massimiliano Allegri or the latest bright young thing. He is also a former player who has made a big thing about wanting United to reconnect with the fans and promoting youth.
Solskjaer’s appointment is as much to do with his reconnecting with the ethos of the Ferguson era as it is with all the wins and points. Under David Moyes, Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho Old Trafford had become a dour place, listless and joyless, devoid of the swashbuckling football United used to serve up. In the three months Solskjaer has been in charge he has restored the soul of the club, pride in the shirt and been bold.
Ultimately, football is about more than just finishing in the top four and access to the riches of the Champions League. It is about connecting with the fans, giving them a reason to part with an ever-increasing amount of cash to see their club play week in, week out. As one supporter wrote on social media: “The last three months have been the best period supporting the club since Sir Alex’s final season in charge.”
Make no mistake, giving the job to Solskjaer is a gamble. But football is meant to be fun and the fact that the Norwegian gets that is the reason every football fan should be glad that he, rather than one of the big-name favorites, got the gig.