Ferdinand: Solskjaer set the standard as a player; Man Utd must back him
Rio Ferdinand has urged the Manchester United hierarchy to halt the decline that has dominated the post Alex Ferguson-era at Old Trafford by handing interim manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer the permanent job for years to come.
David Moyes, Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho failed to recreate the iconic success that turned United into a winning machine under Ferguson, who Ferdinand spent 11 years as a player under.
But the six-time Premier League title winner believes former team-mate Solskjaer and his assistant Mike Phelan need to be given time and money to put United back at the top.
“We have tried different managers, tried different philosophies and finally we have gone back to what worked in the past and what will work in the future,” Ferdinand told Planet Football.
“I just hope the club’s owners realise that the way they have run the club and the managerial changes they have made at a rapid rate is not how United works. You need people in charge of the team that understand this club and that is what we have got now.
“Manchester United is not like every other club and people who don’t understand that will fail when they go there. The pictures are on the walls to remind you of United’s history and in the last few years, the club has moved away from what makes it special.
“Every player who walks through the door at United needs to have a certain DNA and too many have been signed by the club in recent years that lack those qualities.
“It’s not just talent, it’s much more than that. Are you good enough to be a United player, do you want it enough, do you understand what it means to wear the shirt and represent the club?
“I remember Bobby Charlton coming into our dressing room a lot when I first went to United and that was a reminder of what this club is all about, but we have not seen enough of those qualities in the last few years and maybe now that will change with Ole.
“When I was at United and a new player arrived, we all eyed him up and assessed whether he was good enough to play for the club. You have to expect that scrutiny when you are at a big club and there is no bigger club than United.
“You also need players in that dressing room who will show people what it means to be a United player. I had people like Roy Keane, Ryan Giggs, Ole showing me what it meant when I went there and we haven’t seen enough of that since Sir Alex retired.
“Ole was one of the players who set the standards when I first went to United, so it doesn’t surprise me that he has gone in there now and changed the mood of the club in such a dramatic way.
“He has my old coach Micky Phelan alongside him and what they have done in the last couple of months confirms they are the right men for this job, so the club need to give them long contracts and back them with the players they want in the transfer market.
“United had stability under one manager for 26 years and what we have seen since then has been the opposite. It has been short-termism and that needs to change.”
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Ferdinand believes leaders are emerging in Solskjaer’s dressing room after a sparkling run of form over the last two and half months, and he suggests the ultimate bad boy of the Mourinho era will emerge as the shining light of the future United.
“A lot of people wrote Pogba off, said he wasn’t trying hard enough, said he was not good enough to play for United, but I knew that was nonsense, total nonsense,” he says.
“This is a guy who has already won so much in his career, who scored in a World Cup final last summer and people were saying he wasn’t up to the task of playing at the highest level? Give me a break.
“Instead of picking out the negatives and trying to find what Pogba can’t do, find the positives and realise that he is the most effective midfielder in the Premier League when he is played in his proper position and utilised in the right way.
“Ole and Micky didn’t need long to understand how to get the best out of Pogba and almost from the moment they arrived, his performances changed. The same can be said of Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and a few others because they are now enjoying their football again.”
United set a new club record when they won their eighth successive away match in all competitions by beating Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park four days ago, yet Solskajer faces the most daunting task of his reign as United manager as he strives to overturn a 2-0 first-leg deficit in the last-16 clash against Paris Saint-Germain next week.
While Ferdinand thinks United will come up short in the French capital, he insists that failure should not be placed at the door of the current manager as he points accusing fingers at the decisions made by United managers and executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward for years of decline.
“Recruitment has been an issue for United in the last few years, with massive money spent on players who have not worked out,” he says.
“The managerial situation has also been a problem, clearly, but the club has a chance to halt the decline now and start to move forward. They have to take this chance.”
By Kevin Palmer