Northern Football Correspondent
James Ducker
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer - Manchester United can look at Liverpool for proof that trophies are not as important to a rebuild as a successful transfer window
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has kept up his end of the bargain by delivering Champions League football - now he needs transfer backing Credit: SHUTTERSTOCK

You have to go back 14 years to a League Cup final victory over Wigan Athletic for the last time a trophy proved a genuine springboard to bigger and better things for Manchester United. After three seasons in the shadow of first Arsenal’s Invincibles and then Jose Mourinho’s relentless Chelsea machine, that 4-0 win over Wigan at the Millennium Stadium in February 2006 marked the start of Sir Alex Ferguson’s empire striking back. It was the beginning of the end for Ruud van Nistelrooy at Old Trafford - the Dutchman reacted angrily to being benched by Ferguson and was sold to Real Madrid a few months later - but a brave new world, spearheaded by Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo, was opening up for United. That pair scored three of United’s four goals against Wigan and, the next season, the duo would prove the driving force behind a march to three successive Premier League titles and the Champions League.

三级成人视频Since Ferguson retired in 2013, United have won three trophies but none have been a catalyst to greater riches, not even close. The champagne on Louis van Gaal’s suit was still to dry out when the Dutchman was sacked after winning the FA Cup in 2016 and, for all the promise of Jose Mourinho’s debut season after a League Cup triumph was followed by victory in the Europa League final against Ajax three months later, the great unravelling of his regime was underway by January of the following year.

Of course, that has not prevented the same questions being asked of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as he prepares for the third semi-final of his first full season in charge on Sunday night, against Sevilla in the Europa League, and there is little doubting his team would far sooner taste success than not. Yet perhaps victory in the competition would not provide the most accurate gauge of where this team are heading and rather, after the botched recruitment of the Van Gaal and Mourinho years and some unfathomable football, greater stock should be placed, for now at least, in the building blocks currently being put in place.

For the first time in seven years, United have a playing style and nucleus of talent at least identifiable with the club’s attacking DNA and clarity over the type of player they want and do not want which, after so long fumbling around, feels a more substantial basis from which to kick on than any fleeting high they may experience in Germany over the next six days. That is not to downgrade the importance, in any way, of what Europa League glory might do for the mindset of players hungry for a first piece of silverware, from youngsters such as Mason Greenwood and Brandon Williams to captain Harry Maguire, and it would certainly burnish Solskjaer’s reputation. But it should probably not be a fixation when, of more importance to the longer term target of winning the title back, is the work the club’s hierarchy do in the transfer market in the weeks ahead.

Solskjaer has kept up his end of the bargain by delivering Champions League football and giving United some of their identity back, now it is time for Ed Woodward, the club’s executive vice-chairman, and his transfer negotiator, Matt Judge, to do their bit. They got off to a good start this summer by swiftly extracting Alexis Sanchez’s exorbitant salary from the wage bill. But the pursuit of Jadon Sancho三级成人视频 already threatens to be a protracted process and, while the reasons for balking at Borussia Dortmund’s demands for £108 million are understandable in this Covid-19 climate, it is feasible the England winger could cost even more 12 months from now and United’s stance will be hard to square if this negotiation simply proves a repeat of the Maguire saga. Leicester were clear all along that they would not accept less than £85m for the England centre-half. United originally valued him at about half of that, ummed and ahhed and, three days before the close of the window and after months of valuable time wasted, ended up paying what Leicester wanted in the first place.

United fans will be hoping that executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward will give Solskjaer the transfer backing he craves Credit: PA

Solskjaer is a company man and not one to rock the boat or speak out publicly against his employers, as the likes of Mourinho and Antonio Conte are unafraid to do. But do not be fooled into thinking the Norwegian would easily brush off any failure to capture Sancho, a player he has made it quite clear for over 18 months he badly wants, just as the need to offload a glut of fringe players is not something the manager would be happy about, going down to the final days of the window.

With United forecasting losses in excess of £150m due to the pandemic, Solskjaer’s desire to add other players to a squad he considers much too light to challenge for the title will be influenced significantly by the money the club can bring in through sales this summer. As such, moving on those Solskjaer does not want quickly is a must, even if that is not something at which United have proven particularly adept. 

For all their improvement this year, the reality is the team still feels fragile and more careful, and extensive recruitment is a necessity. Where, for example, would an injury to their ever-present captain, Maguire, or the transformative Bruno Fernandes, leave them? 

United often look a different team when Bruno Fernandes is playing - but do they have an understudy? Credit: GETTY IMAGES

If United beat Sevilla in Solskjaer’s 90th game in charge, he will become the fastest post-war United manager to 50 wins after Mourinho. The mere fact the Portuguese holds that accolade is a reminder that such statistics are not always the most useful barometer of success and can be just as easily used to embellish a manager’s record as disparage it. More instructive maybe, certainly given the parallels between the rebuild facing United and the one achieved at Anfield, is that it took Jurgen Klopp 99 matches to chalk up 50 wins as Liverpool manager三级成人视频 and three-and-a-half years to win his first trophy after defeats in the finals of the League Cup and Europa League in his first season.

It is far too early to know if Solskjaer could follow in the footsteps of Klopp, who, let’s not forget, also had a fine track record of success at Dortmund behind him, but the main currency for Liverpool in those first couple of years was not silverware but the signs, on and off the pitch, of a team and club getting its act together.

Defeat to Sevilla would be a blow to United but not a crippling one. Far more damaging would be a wasted transfer window.