Roy Curtis: “Solskjaer is the Fred of management – Hard worker, but always outclassed at the top of football”
It wouldn’t have blown up the gates of Old Trafford in the manner of Cristiano Ronaldo’s convulsive second advent.
Anchester United supermarket checkouts barely registered his arrival; Disconnecting the grenades of hype and hope, his signing would have been a thousand times longer than Matt Busby Way behind CR7’s messianic comeback.
Yet in terms of Making United Great Again, the suspicion here – based on evidence of his immediately metamorphic work 210 miles to the south – is that he could have left even the incredibly athletic and charismatically gargantuan 36-year-old Portuguese in his wake. .
Thomas Tuchel was comfortably the most prodigious gamechanger to parachute into the Premier League in 2021.
The innovative German coach could have been United’s in January if Ed Woodward hadn’t been mesmerized by a baseless fairy tale, the one where Ole Gunnar Solskjaer gave House Fergie back its whirlwind of old glories.
In just eight months of meteoric changes, Tuchel has delivered to Chelsea the kind of cultural revolution that Solskjaer is unlikely to match if he lasts as long in Manchester as the eternal Sir Alex himself.
What Tuchel executed in the blink of an eye is, almost to the letter, the job specification required to renovate the tattered theater of dreams, to restore the red machine to its long-lost Ferguson-era factory settings. .
He replaced a beloved but over-promoted club legend (sounds familiar, United fans?)
Where Roman Abramovich acknowledged that Frank Lampard fell short and didn’t hesitate for a millisecond to send the iconic former captain to Siberia, Woodward remains a slave to sentiment and illusion.
Servant of a twisted fantasy, he simply won’t accept that his emperor isn’t wearing clothes.
Solskjaer, all cherubic smiles and even-tempered reasonableness, is a decent human being clearly out of his depth among the great tactical masters and cold-eyed reptilian killers of the secondary swamps.
He is by no means a terrible manager: it’s just that at the highest level, placed next to Klopp or Guardiola or Tuchel, he is exposed as a full-fledged civil servant in the company of an impatient, innovative genius. and inspiring. .
Solskjaer is the Fred of management: a hardworking craftsman who is surpassed on the highest rungs of the football ladder, his limitations brutally exposed in penthouse suites where aristocrats like Manchester United reside and compete for scarce resources.
Tuchel inherited a disoriented scoundrel, who trailed, among others, West Ham, Everton and Aston Villa in the Premier League standings in mid-January.
In his first 81 days, he beat Pep Guardiola, Jurgen Klopp, Carlo Ancelotti, Diego Simeone and Jose Mourinho without conceding a single goal.
Barely four months after starting his imperium at Chelsea, he offered Abramovich the Champions League which is the measure of the Russian’s dreams.
On that May night at the Estadio de Dragao, Tuchel became just the second man alive – after Klopp – to inflict three consecutive head-to-head defeats on Guardiola in all of the Spaniard’s treasure-laden years. at Barca, Bayern and City.
This is the level at which the visionary leader of Stamford Bridge operates.
Solskjaer, meanwhile, is the oldest United manager not to win a trophy since the hapless, monochrome Dave Sexton.
Three years after his ascension, there is still no obvious tactical master plan; his team remains philosophically bipolar, their personalities changing from week to week in an unconvincing mix of strategies.
Compare that to Chelsea under Tuchel, Liverpool under Klopp or Manchester City under Guardiola, clubs with an immediately obvious ideology, style, system and doctrine clearly defined and understood by everyone at the club.
In times of crisis, Ole seems dazzled and crippled by the blinding headlights of pressure.
Compare the Norwegian’s ineffective trial and error when United were reduced to ten men in Bern a week ago with Tuchel’s masterclass after Reece James was given a red card at Anfield.
Where United ceded their momentum and victory to the eager, but C-List Young Boys, Tuchel shut down and frustrated an outstanding Liverpool side in what appeared to be a defining push into this year’s title race.
Tuchel’s ability to influence a contest even as it is unfolding was again evident on Sunday.
The Spurs had dominated Chelsea in the first half of their London derby, prompting the visiting manager to hit the Botox needle, N’Golo Kante replacing Mason Mount in a tactical facelift that gave the Blues a vital new look.
Tottenham were immediately suffocated, their enemies across town heading for a three-goal win. Tuchel had been a deciding factor.
United and Chelsea have each accumulated 13 points in five games.
But where Solskjaer has been held by Southampton and has yet to face a Top Four rival, Tuchel has already sidelined so-called Big Six clubs Spurs and Arsenal (by an aggregate score of 5-0) while making this resounding statement from 10 men at Anfield.
On Saturday noon, Chelsea host Manchester City in a Champions League final rematch which, even in these early chapters of the season, looks like a big plot about how the whole story will ultimately play out.
Already this season’s Top Four seems set in stone: it’s almost unthinkable that anyone other than Chelsea, Liverpool and the two Manchester clubs are clearly vying for the quartet of visas on offer for the Champions League.
United’s summer spending gave them depth and attacking talent on par with their rivals; there is optimism that the immensely decorated Raphael Varane could be their Van Dijk or Dias.
Other than a top midfielder, their team have no obvious cracks.
Rather, the tear in the fabric is on the sidelines.
Remember Solskjaer’s trial and error in the Europa League final last season, his inability this same campaign to escape the Champions League group stages, the ominous catalog of semi-final failures.
Ole is behind the wheel, a Mister Nice Guy who on biggest days looks like a nervous Sunday driver, safety belted and observing the speed limits, dazzled by the sonic boom as Tuchel and others are born for the fast lane race on the horizon.