Manchester United are looking for another manager after parting company with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer over the weekend after an embarrassing 4-1 defeat at Watford signalled the end for the Norwegian.
After nearly three years in charge of the club he represented with such distinction as a player, emotions ran understandably high as Solskjaer bid farewell.
“I’m so honoured and privileged to have been trusted to take the club forward, and I really hope that I leave it in a better state than when I came,” he said in a tearful interview broadcast on United’s in-house TV channel.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer says farewell to the fans of Manchester United after departing as manager.
Solskjaer was United’s fourth permanent managerial appointment since Sir Alex Ferguson’s era ended. The Scot has proven a tricky act to follow since his retirement at the end of the 2012-13 season and he remains a formidable presence at Old Trafford — not least because of the stand which bears his name.
Indeed, none of his successors have lived up to the weighty expectations that come with managing United in the modern era, with David Moyes, Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho all falling short — some further than others.
But how do United’s post-Ferguson managers rank once compared against the legendary boss, and with each other? For context, here is what they are being measured against:
Sir Alex Ferguson (November 1986 to May 2013)
Appointed Manchester United manager back in 1986, Ferguson rode out a rocky start to his career to become the club’s greatest manager of all time, even ultimately outshining the great Sir Matt Busby by delivering two decades of near-unbroken success.
Games managed in all competitions: 1,301
Overall record: Wins 798/Draws 274/Losses 229 (win percentage: 61.34%)
Goals scored/conceded: 2,498/1,215
Major trophies won: Premier League (13), FA Cup (5), League Cup (4), FA Charity Shield/Community Shield (10), Champions League (2), European Cup Winners’ Cup (1), European Super Cup (1), Intercontinental Cup (1), FIFA Club World Cup (1)
Highest league finish: 1st in the Premier League, on 13 occasions.
Lowest league finish: 13th in First Division (1989-90)
Best signing: Too many to mention — Peter Schmeichel (£500k from Brondby, Eric Cantona (£1.2m from Leeds), Roy Keane (£3.7m from Nottingham Forest), Andy Cole (£7m from Newcastle), Cristiano Ronaldo (£12m from Sporting Lisbon), Wayne Rooney (£25m from Everton) etc.
High point: Undoubtedly winning a historic league, cup and European treble in 1999, including the most dramatic of late finishes in the Champions League final against Bayern Munich when Solskjaer scored the winner in injury time.
Low point: In January 1990, many disgruntled United fans were calling for Ferguson to be sacked as United began the new decade hopelessly out of form; recently thrashed 5-1 in the Manchester derby, winless in six and hovering just two points above the First Division relegation zone.
An infamous banner appeared in the Stretford End calling for the Scot to be axed and chastising him for overseeing “three years of excuses” amid widespread reports that another defeat against Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup third round would be his last.
Thankfully, a fateful headed goal from Mark Robins at the City Ground was enough to steal the win for United, who duly went on to lift the FA Cup several months later by beating Crystal Palace in a replayed final — the first, but certainly not last trophy of Fergie’s imperious reign.
And now for his successors, ranked in reverse order:
4. David Moyes (July 2013 to April 2014)
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) August 11, 2013
Hand-picked by Ferguson to take the reins from him, three-time LMA Manager of the Year Moyes had built a good reputation at Everton and was handed a six-year contract by United. However, things soon turned sour and his disappointing reign at Old Trafford lasted less than 10 months.
Overall record: W 26/D 10/L 15 (win percentage: 50.98%)
Goals scored/conceded: 87/56
Trophies won: FA Community Shield (1)
Highest league finish: N/A
Lowest league finish: N/A (sacked with team in 7th and four games of season remaining)
Worst signing: Marouane Fellaini (£29m from Everton)
High point: Finishing top of their Champions League group, and then making it past Olympiakos in the round of 16 despite losing the first leg (thanks to a hat trick from Robin van Persie). United were eliminated by Bayern Munich in the quarterfinals.
Low point: Could be getting knocked out of the FA Cup by Swansea City at the first hurdle in January 2014, or perhaps losing 3-0 at home to Liverpool two months later having already infuriated United fans by publicly admitting that the Reds were “favourites” to win before the game.
3. Louis van Gaal (July 2014 to May 2016)
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) July 16, 2014
One of the most decorated Dutch managers of all time, Van Gaal made it his business to arrest the slump at United and tighten them up defensively. Despite being popular due to his beguiling and charismatic personality, Van Gaal’s overly cautious approach soon began to frustrate fans.
Games: 103 Overall record: W 54/D 24/L 25 (win percentage: 52.43%)
Goals scored/conceded: 159/101 Trophies won: FA Cup (1)
Highest league finish: 4th (2014-15) Lowest league finish: 5th (2015-16)
Highlight: Winning the 2016 FA Cup final by beating Crystal Palace in extra time at Wembley
Low point: Getting sacked just two days after winning the 2016 FA Cup final by beating Crystal Palace in extra time at Wembley.
2. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (December 2018 to November 2021)
✍️ How long would you like on your contract?
💷 What do you want your salary to be?
🗿 Where would you like your statue?@GNev2 puts the big questions to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer!https://t.co/0OKMYBJ8Ca#beINUCL #UCL #MUFC #PSGMUN pic.twitter.com/drUsFRfbao
— beIN SPORTS (@beINSPORTS_EN) March 6, 2019
There can be little doubt that Solskjaer leaves the United squad in a much better state than he inherited, having at the very least restored some of the goodwill that seemed to ebb away under previous managers. He departs without a trophy to his name but there were still enough sporadic moments of greatness during his tenure to ensure he can leave with his head held high.
Overall record: W 92/D 35/L 41 (win percentage: 54.76%)
Goals scored/conceded: 323/198
Trophies won: N/A
Highest league finish: 2nd (2020-21)
Lowest league finish: 6th (2018-19)
Worst signing: Donny van der Beek (£35m from Ajax)
High point: Solskjaer can be rightly proud of reaching the Europa League final in 2020-21, improving United’s league positions and the atmosphere within the squad and embarking upon several impressive unbeaten runs. However, THAT special night in Paris is the one that will live longest in the memory of most fans. Arguably the result that got Solskjaer the job full-time, United battled back from 2-0 down in the first leg of their Champions League round-of-16 tie against Paris Saint-Germain to win 3-1 at the Parc des Princes, courtesy of a 94th-minute penalty from Marcus Rashford, and progress on away goals.
Low point: The recent 5-0 humiliation by Liverpool at Old Trafford that brought about the beginning of the end for Solskjaer’s rollercoaster stint in charge.
1. Jose Mourinho (May 2016 to December 2018)
Twelve months, three trophies 🏆🏆🏆
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) May 27, 2017
The most successful Manchester United manager of the post-Fergie era, Mourinho did at least deliver silverware even if it wasn’t any of the game’s biggest prizes. We shouldn’t gloss over the fact that the atmosphere around Old Trafford was verging on toxic in the months that led up to his unceremonious exit, with Solskjaer coming in to pick up the pieces, but when it is laid out in black-and-white then it is hard to argue with his claim as the best of the post-Fergie bunch.
Games: 144 Overall record: W 84/D 31/L 29 (win percentage: 58.33%)
Goals scored/conceded: 251/129
Trophies won: League Cup (1), FA Community Shield (1), Europa League (1)
Highest league finish: 2nd (2017-18)
Lowest league finish: 6th (2016-17)
Best signing: Zlatan Ibrahimovic (free from Paris Saint-Germain)
High point: Reuniting with Zlatan Ibrahimovic to win a treble (just not the treble) in his first season in charge at United, culminating with a win over Ajax in the Europa League final.
Low point: Finishing 2017-18 trophyless after finishing second in the league, losing 1-0 to former club Chelsea in the FA Cup final and getting eliminated from the Champions League by Sevilla in the round of 16.
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