Opinion: Setbacks are expected at Manchester United, but a good run is needed
Solskjaer is struggling to find consistency in results (Photo: Stu Forster / Getty Images)

Manchester United have once again got themselves into a good league position, and once again failed to capitalise on some hugely positive results.

Defeats to West Ham,  Newcastle United and Bournemouth had been preceded by a decent performance or two but Ole Gunnar Solskjaer started to get a bit of flak for United's league position. 

Going into the Tottenham Hotspur game and with Manchester City to follow there was real speculation about his future. Two 2-1 victories and two excellent performances changed the dynamic. A top-four place was in their grasp.

Inconsistency

Optimism entered the fray and progress in both the Europa League and League Cup helped fuel that. A home draw against Everton was not inspiring, but the latest defeat to Watford was a huge setback. It wasn't in the script.

With every victory and every defeat, the reaction is over the top. Not just with United, but with any team. Supporters have voices on social media, and the media themselves are no longer reporting on games but are opinionated, often fuelling speculation.

So once again, Solskjaer must get the troops to regroup and go again, starting with Newcastle on Boxing Day. 

Patience is a virtue, but patience is not often afforded in football these days. So despite Solskjaer receiving backing from the club and the two huge victories giving doubters doubts, he needs to start getting his players to consistently win. 

If he does, then he is set, if he doesn't, then the ejector seat may come out - but it shouldn't. Rewind to 1995-96.

United had come within a whisker of a "Double double". In 1993-94 they strolled to the League and FA Cup but a year on an agonising draw with West Ham, when Ludo Miklosko had the game of his life in goal for the Hammers, condemned United to second place in the league.

A week later the players were clearly affected and succumbed to a defeat against an Everton side who had finished 15th in the league. The performance in a cup final was nothing you would expect of an Alex Ferguson team and the following summer he swung the axe.

Changing of the guard

Mark Hughes, Andrei Kanchelskis and Paul Ince were sold. All three of those players would walk into the current United line up. Big players. None replaced.

He went with youth. A 3-1 defeat to Aston Villa on the opening day of the '95-96 season had both fans and pundits in uproar. By the end of the year, 1995, United had also lost to Arsenal and Liverpool.

A defeat on New Years Day 1996 - to the tune of 4-1 - to Tottenham Hotspur meant that United had four defeats. Solskjaer has five now. Not much different.

One difference is the number of draws, but additionally, the defeats are to 'lesser' teams where the performances have been quite tepid.

The main difference, though, is that United had won numerous trophies in the previous years under Ferguson and United were the best team in the league. Removing high profile players was a risk, but the young talent he injected would become legends.

United won the 1996 FA Cup with a mix of old and young (Photo: Chris Brunskill / Getty Images)
United won the 1996 FA Cup with a mix of old and young (Photo: Chris Brunskill / Getty Images)

Solskjaer is building on a much softer foundation. He didn't have an Eric Cantona, Steve Bruce or a Roy Keane and a few other huge players and legends to help his chargers. Yet he has done a similar thing to what Sir Alex did all those years ago.

He has taken big players out of the club, whether on loan or permanent and put his faith in youth. He has also bought fairly astutely, albeit expensively.

Some of the players that Solskjaer has put faith in are clearly talented. Mason Greenwood has more goals for United already than Alexis Sanchez. But this is not 1996.

After United lost to Spurs back then, they lost only one game for the rest of the season. If Solskjaer managed to do that this season it would be brilliant. It would not win United the league though.

United chased down a talented Newcastle United team back then. The bar has been set so much higher now, with Liverpool and City surpassing any of Sir Alex's teams in terms of garnering points. 

So not only does Solskjaer have less of a foundation to start with, but he is also chasing not one but two teams with a winning mentality that Sir Alex never encountered. That includes the brilliant Arsenal and Chelsea teams that he faced.

It is highly likely that Sir Alex would find a way. Almost certain. Yet United have employed two managers that have CVs that are hard to beat and neither of them came close to getting United back to the summit. 

Sir Alex took over 3 years to win an FA Cup. From that point onwards he had the club's and the fans' backing - until the summer of '95 for a month or two. Louis van Gaal got sacked after winning one. 

Time of the essence

Juergen Klopp finished eighth, fourth and fourth in his first three seasons in charge of Liverpool. He didn't win a trophy. Had Spurs defeated his team in the Champions League final last year, he would have gone four years without a trophy.

They didn't. Liverpool are now European and World Champions. They look like ending their 30-year wait for a league title. They have some outstanding players and an outstanding coach. 

United are not a million miles away in terms of their playing staff and kids coming through. Solskjaer has had one year. His transfer business has been good. There is work to be done though.

He needs to eradicate the lacklustre displays and fast. And start winning games on a regular basis. Draws don't help. The youngsters will be afforded the time to develop, but not Ole.

It remains to be seen if a January splurge will come, but he needs time. It's quite critical for United. If they decide at some time in the next 18 months that he is not for United then Liverpool's 30 years could be United's next 26.

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