The Different Tactical Eras of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer: Introduction
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has been in charge of Manchester United for two years and he's already had five distinct tactical eras. We're taking a deep dive into all five.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer simultaneously earned his three year contract as permanent Manchester United manager and was given the job too soon.
Over the first few months of his tenure Solskjaer proved his ability to handle the media, handle the players, and that he was tactically astute and flexible enough to handle the rigors of the Manchester United job. I’d still say they were a little hasty in handing him the permanent gig - two weeks after his big win in Paris, but would waiting until the summer have changed how United finished the season? I don’t think so.
It might have changed Ed Woodward’s decision, which is what many fans were hoping for as they wanted Mauricio Pochettino to get the job.
That resentment never really went away, and basically put Solskjaer under pressure right from his first summer in charge of United. For the fans that wanted Pochettino, any slip up from Solskjaer was proof that he wasn’t good enough. Dropped points against smaller clubs lead to the popular narrative that “Solskjaer has no tactics” to be formed.
To suggest Solskjaer doesn’t have tactics or is tactically naive is comical. He’s also really good at adapting.
In Ole’s two years at the wheel of United he has now had five distinctly different tactical eras, where he’s set the team up to play a certain way. Five is probably one too many given the amount of time he’s been in charge, but they’ve all more or less been necessitated by injuries to important figures.
Over the next five parts we’re going to dive in to each of Solskjaer’s different tactical eras.
At the macro level there are some themes that become apparent. Each era has a player who fit the system perfectly and thus shined brightest.
On the other hand, just like Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho’s United’s was described as “the island of misfit toys” due to United having signed many talented players who either didn’t fit together or United didn’t know how to use them, that problem has extended to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
United are still an island of misfit toys. That has been one of the biggest causes of the over-tinkering Solskjaer and why United after two years still don’t seem to have a consistent style of play.
That’s what we’re here to explore, and we’ll start with Part I - the caretaker manager stage.