Manchester United remain committed to supporting Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s project and that has well and truly been reflected in their decision to hand his assistant manager Mike Phelan a new bumper four-year contract out of the blue. Sir Alex Ferguson’s former right-hand man returned to Old Trafford back in December 2018 as he looked to help former player Solskjaer restore the good times and United’s DNA with some familiarity, following Jose Mourinho’s tortuous and prolonged departure.
Together, the pair would assemble an exciting, revamped team that United supporters could be proud of once again, even if results were not always up to scratch.
Solskjaer began to strip down his ranks, offloading those who did not feature in his long-term plans and the select few that were clogging up the wage bill and draining United of cash.
Soon enough a whole host of names including Alexis Sanchez, Marouane Fellaini, Romelu Lukaku, Chris Smalling, Daley Blind and Ander Herrera were out the door and the club were beginning to reinvest wisely.
The manager went public in his attempt to totally rebrand the club’s transfer policy, making it clear that he wanted to sign younger, hungrier players, who were determined to fight for the badge and play the best football of their careers at Old Trafford.
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Harry Maguire, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Daniel James and Bruno Fernandes soon arrived and their influence on this United side was soon telling. Solskjaer was building a new core to drive this team forward to new heights.
While Solskjaer does not yet have a trophy to show for his work, it is still likely he will be considered a relative success whatever happens next in his tenure.
The Norwegian will undeniably leave the club in a better place and gift his successor a shot at winning major trophies – having also restored United’s identity.
Nonetheless, there is no question that in some quarters – including the Stratford End – success is only defined by trophies when push comes to shove.
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That means Solskjaer has to deliver silverware, by hook or by crook, particularly on the back of such a statement summer which saw the club sign Cristiano Ronaldo, Jadon Sancho and Raphael Varane.
But just when Solskjaer looked to be up against it, United have moved to give him an important show of confidence.
The board have confirmed that assistant boss Phelan has signed a new four-year deal, which shows a level of commitment to Solskjaer’s project.
Recent results and performances have not been good by any stretch of imagination for United.
Defeats to Young Boys, Aston Villa and West Ham in the Carabao Cup would have left alarm bells ringing.
Draws with Southampton and Everton highlighted the same old problems for United, which would suggest this team is yet to evolve into something capable of pipping Manchester City, Chelsea or Liverpool in the title race.
Yet their show of loyalty towards Phelan once again reaffirms they are committed to Solskjaer’s long-term vision and that indicates they are prepared to take the rough with the smooth, however tiresome it may be.
Solskjaer’s job is certainly safe for now but he will have to showcase his character and worth as United prepare to embark on a run of games that includes facing City, Villarreal, Chelsea and Arsenal within the space of a month…
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