Time is a precious commodity for football managers. With fans demanding instant success, it can be hard to lay the foundations for the future, especially if you don’t get results in the short term.
It wasn’t actually that much different 30 odd years ago. Sir Alex Ferguson was famously one game away from the sack in 1990 before building a dynasty that was unprecedented in the modern game.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s attempts at creating a long-term project, have to be looked at through a similar lens. The signing of Daniel James and his pursuit of Crystal Palace’s Aaron Wan-Bissaka represent a return to a philosophy which was discarded by Fergie’s successors.
Moyes, van Gaal and Mourinho all brought in signings to bolster squads to satisfy short-term goals. Securing a 29-year-old Alexis Sanchez to a contract, worth a reported £500,000 a week, was the nadir of that short-sighted approach.
Solskjaer, it appears, will shun calls for marquee signings in order to begin building a sustainable base of younger players with the potential to improve, and with a stronger commitment to playing for the club.
The likes of James and possibly Wan-Bissaka will join the likes of Scott McTominay, Tahith Chong, Mason Greenwood and others that could form the basis of the team for years to come.
Ferguson in his later years, in particular, sought to bring in young players from outside United’s youth system like Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney, to supplement his squad.
They were players the legendary manager shaped from a young age, whilst playing alongside others who had grown up and had United’s philosophy ingrained in them.
Solskjaer can’t, of course, replicate Ferguson’s approach exactly. The Norwegian doesn’t have the same authority or the experience to mould these young players as his mentor did.
However, the fact that he understands the club does mean he can communicate the ethos of the United Way, as well as providing the passion to implement the changes from the ground up.
If results don’t start positively next season, though, there will be pressure to sack Solskjaer very quickly, and the club may be back to square one once again.
It will be up to the United board to decide whether it’s worth going through the pain with the Norwegian in order to create a brighter future for the club that many are hoping for.
At this early stage, we don’t know if this a fool’s errand or not, but what is important to point out is that you can’t build this type of system overnight. Time is required. Whether Solskjaer is afforded it, we shall have to see.