Manchester United sack Ole Gunnar after Watford defeat
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It is never easy getting the timing right when it comes to pulling the plug on a failing managerial regime. And such was the speed of decline under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer that it is easy to feel some sympathy with the powerbrokers at Old Trafford.
From the optimism which followed last season’s second-placed finish, the offer and acceptance of a new contract for the boss, and the excitement of signing Cristiano Ronaldo and Raphael Varane, to complete breakdown took little more than eight weeks.
Yet if there are mitigating circumstances in bringing the old regime to an end, there can be no such excuses about getting the next one off to the best possible start.
And for that reason Manchester United may be about to make another blunder if they persist in appointing an interim boss until they can get their preferred candidate across the line next summer.
Any manager who comes into United now has a huge stack of problems building in their in-tray yet if they know they are going to be jettisoned in the summer, precious little authority to solve them.
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At best they could right the ship and instil some confidence in a side lacking belief, they could perhaps shore up the defence and shake up the playing style.
They could, in short, solve some of the peripheral problems at United but would be largely powerless to tackle the real problems at the club or pull them out of the tailspin.
One of the biggest issues which helped to hole Solskjaer below the waterline was the lack of a quality defensive midfielder but an interim boss would almost certainly mean that will remains unresolved until next summer.
Another is the influence of Ronaldo on the playing style and mood. Would an interim boss be given the authority to urge him to press more, rotate him with Edinson Cavani and Mason Greenwood depending on the opposition or maybe even drop him for key matches?
Given his super agent Jorge Mendes reportedly sought assurances about the direction Solskjaer was taking the club just six weeks into his contract a ‘temp’ is unlikely to tackle that one.
Ronaldo is not the only personnel issue.
Bruno Fernandes, Harry Maguire, Marcus Rashford and Aaron Wan-Bissaka have all lost their way but would an interim boss have the security to tell them or drop them, or take the armband.
Is an interim boss going to make a call on David De Gea and Dean Henderson? Is he going to be the first United boss since Jose Mourinho to tell Paul Pogba his services, such as they are, are not going to be required going forward?
All decisions the new boss next summer would no doubt have something of a view on but no input.
Is the fitness of the squad what it should be? Certainly United have a lot of injuries or a lot of players who do not play with niggles. Can an interim boss effect any meaningful change in five or six months?
And what to do with the coaching staff of Michael Carrick, Mike Phelan and Kieran McKenna who, by several accounts, have left some senior players underwhelmed.
It would make no sense to keep them on under an interim boss if there was any real pretence to changing fortunes from now until the end of the season.
But if the interim boss was allowed to bring his own men in there could be three different coaching rosters within seven months which is hardly likely to offer clarity or direction.
The figure of executive vice chairman Ed Woodward will make the calls on this no doubt delaying his own exit until the new man or the new permanent boss has his contract agreed and feet under the table.
And he might find it difficult to walk away should the new regime offer signs of recovery and hope.
United do want to secure Mauricio Pochettino now and, if they are serious about playing Champions League football next season, they need to act now, not in the summer when the drift has continued and problems which led to Solskjaer’s departure have continued the rot which has set in.
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