Give Ole Time And Patience

Well, what a game yesterday, and what a performance from Sheffield United.

I see a lot of impatience from supporters when it comes to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and the job he is doing. It is not easy for him because being at Manchester United means you get evaluated and criticised on a game-by-game basis and most people know that the job he is doing is going to take time.

People want instant success and they want it with the culture of everything good that United stand for, but as I’ve said so many times over the years, you can’t just say it’s the case and then make it so.  It takes time, patience and a little bit of luck.

Yesterday’s game, despite the various disappointments, was an example of all of that. Brandon Williams didn’t have the best game of his young career but he was kept on and scored a vital goal. Mason Greenwood has been used sensibly and came on to score. Some people would still rather Sanchez or Lukaku had been kept at the club; hopefully, though, United will stand to benefit more in the long term from Greenwood’s experiences this season. Yesterday was not a great showing for most of the game, but it was nonetheless a good experience for these young lads who contributed so much to a positive response.

They were the bright spot of a game which looked pretty poor, I must admit, in a classic match of two halves. United were awful in the first half and although some of that was down to having a threadbare midfield, the defending was poor and I saw strikers only interested in playing for themselves when their teammates desperately needed them.

When Ole made the changes, United bucked up their ideas and got a positive result from a game where it looked like they might lose, and lose heavily.

If they had lost, predictably the press would have been on Ole’s back. But I’ll say this for sure — however tough it is at the minute, this is much more the United way of doing things than it was under Mourinho. Ole has made mistakes, he’ll continue to make mistakes, nobody is perfect. But he is trying to win games, trying to do it with exciting players, and he is bringing through young players at the club.

Of course it’s Mauricio Pochettino and not Jose Mourinho that people will be mentioning when it comes to Ole’s job being under pressure.

Nothing really surprises me in football anymore, but I’m relatively amazed that Daniel Levy made the decision he did last week — I would have been more inclined to invest more time and money in Pochettino, he deserved it after the work he has done on the budget he has had. Now Jose has come in and will spend to take advantage of a stable set up in London. How long will everything be rosy in that garden?

I just hope people continue to give Ole time to do his work. There is no guarantee it’s going to go right in the long term but the sort of team spirit that was shown from the kids in getting a turnaround result yesterday is the sort of thing that takes time to work on.

We have to believe in young players and we have to continue moving on the players who are just not good enough to play for the club anymore.

I’m not blind, it’s not perfect. I wonder and I doubt that the coaching staff around Ole are tactically good enough to manage at this level. I wonder that about Ole himself. We got out of jail yesterday but football is about the right preparation as much as it is the right reaction and against better opponents, we won’t be so lucky to still be in a game after being exposed like we were.

Patience then becomes the key word in seeing how it will unfold – will Ole get that?

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AN EVENING WITH GORDON HILL
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ANDY MITTEN & JOHN STILES

Saturday 10th August
at
The Bishop Blaize, Stretford

Join us for a night of fun, laughter and revelling in
Manchester United nostalgia at The Bishop Blaize
with legendary United winger Gordon Hill.

He’ll be recounting his times at United – dressing room tales,
shenanigans with team mates, that glorious 70s team of Doc’s Red Army,
the ’77 Scouse Busters Final, The Doc, the lot!

Andy Mitten will be extracting all the inside stories.
Comedian John Stiles (Nobby’s son) will be providing more laughs

More details and tickets here:
www.UnitedFanEvents.com

The Wrong Direction

So it’s back to winning ways for Manchester United and Jose Mourinho. It’s always good to get those wins, that’s the aim of the game, but as we know, that’s not all that matters at United.<!–more–>

The pressure is on Mourinho and you may well know my view on the manager. I am still not convinced. There is the suggestion that the penny has dropped and he is starting to play attacking football. I will need more evidence for that I’m afraid. But he has to change, otherwise he will be gone.

It is a new game he has to play and learn, to please the United fans who expect their team to play exciting football and attacking football. We will see.

It was good to see United get off to winning ways in Europe but, I’m sorry to say yet again, the number of foreign players in the United team just as all English teams worries me. The number of English players in the league went under 33% a couple of years ago and hasn’t improved.

United had Chris Smalling, Luke Shaw and Marcus Rashford last night – 3 from 11, even lower than 33%.

People are raving about Diogo Dalot at right back, another foreign import. They hope he will do what Matteo Darmian couldn’t do and dislodge another foreign right back, Antonio Valencia.

Meanwhile, the impressive Ethan Laird, who has started the season so well for the academy, will have all three of those in front of him and probably won’t even get a chance in the League Cup next week. It’s the same up front for Mason Greenwood. Don’t get me wrong, United do it better than most, and I wouldn’t <em>especially</em> criticise Jose Mourinho for this as he’s no different to any other manager with this, but in years gone past those exciting players would be given a chance against Derby.

I think that this is very destroying to our game, and the future of young players, when you see young players from other countries coming in and being bought by clubs which leaves our players not getting a look in. They have to look at the Championship, or lower leagues, to get game time.

Gareth Southgate is making the right noises when he says he is looking at the situation. I look at the games very closely and in my opinion around half of the foreign players are not good enough — and by that, I mean, they’re not good enough to justify blocking the pathway of so many young homegrown players — but, in some cases, the manager had them at their clubs abroad and so brings them in because they’re familiar.

The Premier League is just about money. That’s not new. Richard Scudamore is a joke. Our national teams at a younger age are doing great — world champions in two age brackets — but these players never get to see first team football because of the foreign players.

We should be capitalising on the good mood from the World Cup to build for a better future.

What A Summer!

Well, what an interesting summer of football it was. It was a brilliant World Cup in Russia made better for me by England’s unexpected progress.

Like everyone else I wasn’t sure what to expect from Gareth Southgate’s team. It’s no secret that I have concerns about the growing number of foreign players in the Premier League so I was wondering how that would effect England’s performance, considering their weak showings in recent tournaments. Read More

Rebuilding US Soccer

Many of you may know I recently moved from Florida to Seattle; just like in the UK, the North West is a real hotbed of soccer.

Despite their problems, and I’ve gone on record many times to say what I think they are, England qualified for the World Cup next year. The United States, however, did not.

There is no doubting that the US have had a generation of very good players; the likes of Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey and Tim Howard made household names of themselves.

However, just like in the UK, I have long aired my thoughts and concerns about the future of US soccer and it brings me no pleasure to see the national team fail to qualify for Russia. Make no mistake about it – the ‘team’, if you could call it that, was comprised of individuals who were overly reliant on senior players and that is not a strategy that is sustainable.

It’s a huge shame, but the US has to take a thorough approach in its rebuilding and it needs to take a long and hard look at the things it needs to overhaul. Working as I do with young footballers of differing ages, I’m noticing more and more that these are good athletes – that’s all well and good, but I don’t want athletes, I want to see footballers.

I’ve said it for many years, the US have suffered by trying to fabricate this illusion of a culture of excellence. They have learned the hard way that you can’t just pretend. There is no quick and easy route to the top and you cannot afford to rest on your laurels. Perhaps the powers that be saw the US as constant qualifiers for the World Cup and hoped that one day they would put in a performance to get to the semi-finals or further; but you cannot plan on hope alone.

I keep going back to the same things but the organisation at youth level leaves a lot to be desired. It is a game for the elite and it should be a game for everybody. They have all the facilities in place but their attitude to youth development has been behind the times for a number of years. It was only a matter of time before it caught up with them.

I only hope that moving forward, these problems are addressed, instead of doing what they do in England, where they try and jump on the latest fad instead of returning to the core strengths of what is traditionally good about England teams. Then again, with the number of English players available to choose from in the top flight continuing to hit record lows, I don’t see that improving any time soon. But that’s a different kettle of fish.

England used to be the home of great wingers. It’s a dying art; but all things in football go and come around again, and the next time a team comes through with proper right and left wingers, they will surprise everyone. Hopefully that will inspire a generation to follow suit, because there is no better sight in football than a winger taking on a defender and whipping a ball in.

At Manchester United Frank Blunstone, a former winger himself, would relentlessly tell us about the importance of crossing and would have us going at it for ages. “We only need one on Saturday, Gordy,” he would say. Nowadays you have specialised coaching for every area of the team but wingers, and it’s no surprise to see that the standard of crossing is so poor.

All you need is a blank page to start working on these sort of ideas. And the United States have it. Whether or not they will address what needs to be addressed, well, I suppose we’ll only find out in four years.