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It's Solskjaer! But for how long? Why Man Utd must change more than the manager

COMMENT: He has it. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. The asterisk is gone. The Norwegian now the outright manager of Manchester United. It was quick. It was clean. And the timing of it was actually a good footballing decision from Ed Woodward and the top brass...

This international recess always looked the right time to get it done. Avoid the speculation should things fall flat against Barcelona in the Champions League. Resist distraction as the top four race reached it's final stretch. And assure reps of those players United have in mind this summer that Solskjaer will be in charge next season.

But the timing of today's announcement was impressive. While many, including this column, banged on about Woodward messing about Solskjaer and his staff. Seemingly refusing to settle terms with Molde early into this recess. The decision to wait until now shows genuine football sense. To wait until all the players had returned from different parts of the globe. To have them all assembled at Carrington. And then for Solskjaer to declare his appointment to the squad face-to-face. It was a real display of spirit and unity. Qualities that Solskjaer has managed to reintroduce since his December 19 arrival. And it even appears Woodward has caught the bug.

So the details? Well, it took just over 24 hours for United's vice-chairman exec to settle things with his counterpart at Molde, Oystein Neerland. The managing director taking a call from Woodward on Wednesday morning and matters being finalised earlier today.

While Solskjaer had confirmed his contract with Molde was ripped up to initially make the move, there was always assurances between all three parties that a realistic compensation fee would be due should everything go to plan. That Solskjaer had only penned new terms to 2021 with Molde that month left the Eliteserien outfit well within their rights to insist on a transfer fee.

In the end, terms were struck last night. And confirmed in the morning. The fee understood to be in the region of £7-8m.

Neerland today summing up what we've all witnessed since Molde agreed to this ground-breaking move late, last year: "I had faith that he could succeed. He just had to be himself, he is a skilled trainer and good with people.

"I had thought that this would be temporary until the summer, but then he has delivered these fantastic results..."

And rather lament losing a manager only a month into a three-year contract, Neerland admits it's been exciting to be part of it all.

"It's been a little adventure. Ole has been here since 2011, been eager and always dreamed of returning to United. This has been clear all the time. That dream has now come true. It is absolutely fantastic."

So today. For United. There's excitement. A new era. A fifth go at it in six years. But that's where the joy must be tempered.

Why will it be different this time? Why him? Why Solskjaer and not the four previous managers? A different face. A different personality. But he's working inside the same structure. The same that eventually caught up with Jose Mourinho, Louis van Gaal, David Moyes and even Ryan Giggs. How long before we see Solskjaer butting heads with his CEO?

He'll have already sussed it. But working with Woodward will be a very different experience compared to Neerland. The key being the Molde managing director was actually a decent pro in his younger days. Six years with Molde leading the line. A fellow ex-player to bounce ideas off. To discuss transfer targets. An opinion to trust.

As Van Gaal stated earlier this week, Solskjaer won't find that football know-how at United.

"At the moment there is a structure with a scouting division and above that is someone at Woodward's right hand. The structure is not so bad but the right hand has to be a technical director with a football view, not somebody with a banker's role," Van Gaal declared, with the "banker" in question being long time financial investor Matt Judge.

"Unfortunately, we are talking about a commercial club, not a football club," added the Dutchman. "I spoke to (Sir Alex) Ferguson about this and in his last years, he also had problems with it."

Which could be Solskjaer's one hope to avoid the pitfalls that befell his predecessors. If Woodward continues to drag his feet regarding the appointment of a technical director, the situation could yet be rescued if Ferguson was to get himself more involved. He still has an eye for a player, does Sir Alex. As was confirmed by Edwin van de Sar, now Ajax chief exec, when revealing his old manager was asking after Matthijs de Ligt three seasons ago.

A different personality. A different approach. It will only get United's latest managerial appointment so far.

For Solskjaer to be a success. To outperform all those since Ferguson. He needs a circuit breaker within the higher ups. That is where change is now required. Otherwise, this higher and fire cycle will surely continue.

Chris Beattie
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Chris Beattie

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