One of England’s great clubs has lost a manager and got a new one, another has not; Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur have both been seen to underachieve this season, at least so far, but the meeting between them at Old Trafford last night (Wednesday December 4, 2019) belied the view that neither are playing well.
Marcus Rashford (Sky Sports)
United’s home may not be quite the fortress it once was but any fixture there is usually a difficult one for any visiting team and this occasion had a little added spice with the return of Jose Mourinho, almost a year after he left. Not that the Portuguese showed any sign of fist bumping or chest tapping; he was rather restrained throughout.
Manchester United’s display might have had something to do with that and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer remains at the helm and continues to speak of a long term project. Certainly his team have a youthful look to it although that can be a little misleading. United has missed Scott McTominay over the last few games and while most consider him to be one of Old Trafford’s rising young stars, he is actually 23 and it was Mourinho who gave him his first team debut last season. There is a very well-established school of thought that suggests if one is good enough, one is old enough and McTominay is proving important to his club’s progress.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Jose Mourinho immediately after United's 2-1 win over Spurs
(Stu Forster/Getty Images)
So why hasn’t he made a breakthrough before now? Like a number of other young British players his way has been blocked by the number of foreigners plying their trade in English football but this season has, if nothing else, shown that the country as a whole – not to mention England – can and do produce young talent good enough to hold their own. Daniel James is another; despite being born in Kingston upon Hull, James is Welsh and played for Swansea City before moving to Manchester last summer. James is only a year younger than McTominay (who by the way, is Scottish but was also born in England, in Lancaster. Not a million miles away from Manchester, which is why he is a product of United’s youth academy).
(Robbie Jay Barrett/AMA/Getty Images)
The stand-out performance for the Manchester club against ‘Spurs however, was Marcus Rashford. Local through and through, his two goals won the game for United and as another product from the youth set-up, he is the epitome of the direction English clubs need to go. Tottenham also have players of similar background, most notable Dele Alli (still only 23) and Harry Kane, a little older at 26. Alli’s goal for the North London side was a thing of beauty although he is yet to truly discover the consistency, week in, week out and just as importantly, match in and match out for England. That he will is not in doubt and most would agree that Alli will go on to be one of England’s greats. Arguably his club and country captain already is.
But it is still the conundrum of English football that not only players but also managers need to be given the opportunity – and significantly, the time – to make their mark. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer graced the game in England as a player for Manchester United and if he is allowed to get on with it, knows what it takes to make his club great as a manager; talk of bringing in the now ex-Tottenham boss Maurico Pochettino is premature. Jose Mourinho has also brought much to England and although he has been shown to become a little frustrated after a relatively short time at the clubs he has managed, he also deserves a more long-term period - assuming of course, that he wants it.
Another manager whose future at his present club may be over by the time the next day’s headlines are read is Everton’s Marco Silva. The Merseyside derby between the Blues and the Reds is not a game upon which decisions really ought to be made but the 5-2 defeat by Liverpool could spell the end for him.
This would be a shame on a number of fronts not least that Everton made Silva their target for the job after sacking Dutchman Ronald Koeman. Koeman is of course, now manager of his country and not doing too badly so the lack of success he had at Goodison Park didn’t do him much harm. But is Everton now to admit they made a mistake with Silva’s appointment? If so, why give the job to him when his track record was not particularly impressive?
Everton’s problem is that following the loss to Liverpool they now sit in the relegation zone. But sacking Marco Silva is not necessarily the answer. Silva himself was a hoped-for saviour at Hull City but he couldn’t keep them in the Premier League so why will a new manager at Everton now?
At least when Tottenham gave Pochettino the push, there was little danger of relegation but perhaps it could be said the Argentinian sacked himself by his noticeably moody attitude – the same of course can be said of Jose Mourinho, both at Chelsea and Manchester United. Whatever their immediate futures, managers need time to put their stamp on their clubs however and the regular sacking of team bosses has been shown not to be the saving grace it is often made out to be.
Just ask Watford.
© Kevan James 2019