• Anna Dugdale


After a week filled with talk in the press, a lot has been made of the relationships that players at Manchester United had with managers before the arrival of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

It was blatantly obvious that the relationship between players like Luke Shaw and Paul Pogba under Jose Mourinho was not a positive one, both players being relentlessly slated in the press by Mourinho. A similar relationship occurred between Louis Van Gaal and Robin Van Persie, which arguably contributed to Van Persie’s decision to leave the club.

If anything, this toxicity proved to everyone at the club that a quality that the next manager needed was good man management. Enter Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

During the Norwegian’s tenure he has been almost demure in the press when it comes to players. If an agent is speaking out of turn, he doesn’t add fuel to the fire and create headlines. He doesn’t slate the player; he just refocuses and redirects the question he’s been asked to something else. A big example of this is his relationship with Paul Pogba and his talkative agent, Mino Raiola. Raiola speaks to the press constantly about Pogba’s future and it used to ignite a fire within Mourinho. Having a manager who does not make his displeasure known in the press has dulled the fire of the ever present rumour mill that surrounds the club.

Luke Shaw is an excellent example of a player who thrives off confidence, off a manager believing in them. The left backs performances this season has been worlds away from the lacklustre performances we saw after his leg break. After receiving constant criticism under Mourinho, it is clear to see the positive impact that Solskjaer has had on him. His performances reflect the relationship that he shares with Solskjaer. It is clear to see that the manager recognised what Shaw needed to succeed and become the player that United desired when they signed him years ago.

It has become clear that having a manager who is an expert in man management is crucial at Manchester United. It was arguably one of the biggest parts of Sir Alex Ferguson’s managerial make up. He knew when to protect his players and to keep their names out of the media’s watchful eye. He had control over what was said about his players because he controlled the narrative; a trait the club sorely missed after his departure.

There was always the assumption that this trait was something that Solskjaer would’ve inherited, as he still shares a close relationship with his former gaffer. Possessing this trait has aided Solskjaer in his time at United thus far. With so much media attention surrounding the club, having a manager that adds fuel to the fire in every press conference is the last thing that United would ever want. Whilst many would like to say that Solskjaer is just a ‘PE teacher’, ‘he’s not cut out to manage such a big club’, it is clear to say that he knows how to manage his players in a way that keeps the press, mostly, at bay. That is a quality of a manager that is not easy to find.