It was difficult not to think of Frank Lampard and the dreadful closing weeks of his Chelsea tenure when Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, with grief in his eyes, looked down the Sky Sports camera after Sunday’s humiliation and spoke of Manchester United being too close to giving up.
There are more relevant comparisons than a former player turned poor head coach that must serve as the foundation for a decision that has appeared inevitable at Old Trafford for several weeks. When a club, especially one of the world’s biggest, is floundering so badly, nostalgia has no place.
Chelsea, despite the many accusations of short-termism leveled at them over the last 18 years, have long recognized this and were rewarded handsomely last season by parting with Lampard once it became evident that he was past his prime.
Solskjaer appears to have reached that point multiple times in the last 12 months, only for startling performances to be followed by individual brilliance from one of several great players at his disposal, continuing the cycle and delaying the inevitable.
Chelsea realized in mid-January, with the culmination of a dreadful loss away to Leicester, despite the signs being evident after the Boxing Day disaster away to Arsenal, that sticking it out of a peculiar feeling of loyalty would just prolong their exile from the top table. The speed with which they transformed under Thomas Tuchel demonstrates the importance of sound decision-making once a replacement is better-equipped and has a track record.
This is also an era in which the top coaches in the world are also superstars. The fact that the top three teams in the country are coached by the best coaches in the country cannot be considered a coincidence. While fans are enthralled by big-name additions, both Lampard and Solskjaer have demonstrated that a squad’s composition means little if there is no logical tactical plan, individuals are incapable of operating as a unit, and some players are mysteriously absent from the setup.
Meanwhile, many of the team members appear to be suffering from brain freeze. Harry Maguire is an outstanding centre defender, but despite his athleticism, he has appeared frail and hesitant. Perhaps this is the result of having a two-man midfield in front of him that is drowning as a result of an attack that only appears to track back twice every game.
It’s easy to imagine a scenario in which a proven replacement inspires many of United’s underperformers, and the team goes on a long winning streak. Perhaps a new manager will be able to achieve the inconceivable and persuade Paul Pogba to stay.
Tuchel’s presence also demonstrates how swiftly the pain of a failed predecessor may dissipate. Many Chelsea fans were disappointed to see Lampard leave, but that disappointment faded fast once the team began to play to its potential. His reputation as a player at Stamford Bridge was unblemished, and there was still a fondness for his early work, particularly during those heady months when the club was stacked with Cobham graduates.
Solskjaer is in the same boat. Supporters of a certain generation will remember Nou Camp, 1999, and try to forget about this unsuccessful venture in a few decades. Following Chelsea’s approach will benefit all parties, a troubled manager will be freed of pressure and criticism, and the club will be allowed to preserve their season. And, who knows, with the proper man in charge, they might still win a trophy at the end of the season.
Should Manchester United sack Ole Gunnar Solskjaer now??