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Ole's snowflakes? Why Ten Hag has Man Utd working towards spirit of '99

COMMENT: If a week is a long time in football, then 18 months is surely an eternity. But is it still long enough for this Manchester United team to have transformed from the "snowflakes" of Ole's lot...?

He really dropped a grenade on the club last week. Or at least the way he was interpreted. Ole Gunner Solskjaer, in the first genuine 'tell-all' since his November '21 sacking really didn't miss. The Glazers. The facilities. And his former players. They all bore the brunt, as Solskjaer gave us his side of those final months in charge at Old Trafford.

But before anything else, we must say Ole is insisting he was talking in generalities when that "snowflake" comment was made. A source close to the Norwegian insisting to us on the Friday that Ole was talking "more generational" than airing a personal grievance towards any particular player.

In a wide-ranging interview, Solskjaer discussed the '99 Treble winners and what made them tick, declaring: "The lads in that dressing room were absolutely fantastic. Keano was the leader, the one everyone looked up to.

"David May was the joker, the clown. Gary (Neville) is still the busiest and was the busiest back then as well. Nicky (Butt) and Giggsy (Ryan Giggs) were the entertainers.

"It was just a fantastic dressing room. Winners, who hated losing. They had a few fights, like you should do, after bad games. You had to shake each other up.

"If you do that to the boys now, they will get their dad, or their mum, or their agents… snowflakes. Not many of today's lot would have survived in that dressing room."

Only Ole can confirm who the target of his ire was. But for this column, we're with our source. It just isn't it in his character to hang his players out to dry like that. Though it must be said - for the dressing room he left - the cap does fit.

Eighteen months on and we'd argue things are changing at Carrington - and for the better. Erik ten Hag and his staff aren't there yet. But the mentality inside this United dressing room is improving. Ten Hag, with John Murtough taking a backseat as football director, was allowed to assess the locker room he inherited and target players he believed would solve long-standing problems.

Lisandro Martinez and Casemiro stand-out as transformative additions. He may divide the support, but we'd include Antony, with his grinta, in that category too. Alejandro Garnacho, so impressive off the bench yesterday against Wolves, is another to possess that winning character.

And we can also say the determination with which Ten Hag is pursuing Harry Kane behind-the-scenes carries the same moniker. The England captain has been studied by Ten Hag for the past 12 months. The ability. The goals. Of course, that's what Ten Hag wants in his XI. But it's also the drive and leadership which is attractive. Kane's comments about "falling standards" at Tottenham weren't missed by Ten Hag. This wasn't so much a shot at the chairman, but at those he shares a dressing room with at Spurs Lodge. Although his words were given scant regard - particularly when compared to Ole's "snowflake" claim - Kane called out his teammates in public. He wants better from them. An attitude which would fit seamlessly into the new United dressing room.

With those he's targeted, you can see Ten Hag moving away from the soft, entitled caricature of a Manchester United player over these past five years. There's no denying it. But we'd argue the bigger impact has been made from those he's jettisoned.

Cristiano Ronaldo, of course, stands out. But it was also the decisions to cut loose Jesse Lingard and Paul Pogba which have made a difference. Pogba, who it must be said was always indulged by Solskjaer, has not been missed. Indeed, just last week the Frenchman infuriated Max Allegri by talking back to the Juventus coach after coughing up possession late on in victory over Atalanta. Allegri was furious to be told to "calm" down by a player he's been unable to count on all season due to the club indulging his World Cup ambitions. An attitude not created in Turin, but in Manchester and the 'Rolls-Royce' treatment he enjoyed with United.

But that's changing. We've argued in this column that Ole - and those above him - was too soft with Pogba and his sponsors. Just as we stated he wasn't strong enough with Marcus Rashford as his off-the-field commitments threatened to derail his career. Solskjaer gently called him out - once - but then backtracked and claimed the press were trying to drive a wedge between him and the player. But it's clear now that under Ten Hag and with his focus on his football, Rashford is fulfilling his potential.

Perhaps the board support wasn't the same as it is now. But as much as this column supported Solskjaer as Manchester United manager, he did contribute to that "snowflake" attitude his successor is now grappling with.

Ten Hag is changing things. They're not there yet. But the attitude of '99 and the character shown needn't be a thing of the past.

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Chris Beattie
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Chris Beattie

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