What does Jose Mourinho’s departure mean for United in January?
Last Updated: 20/12/18 2:46pm
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has taken over as Manchester United’s caretaker manager following Jose Mourinho’s dismissal, but what do the changes mean for the club’s transfer plans?
And how much say will Soskjaer have in what happens in January?
We answer the key questions with the help of James Cooper from Sky Sports News.
What were the reasons behind the timing of Mourinho’s sacking and Solskjaer’s appointment?
According to Cooper, the winnable run of games ahead – United face Cardiff, Huddersfield, Bournemouth, Newcastle and Reading in their next five – was the biggest factor.
“United see the next clump of games as an opportunity to start getting points on the board,” he said.
“The interim solution is not a perfect one but it was the only option, given the circumstances, to improve the atmosphere across the whole club.
“It means that key candidates for the permanent job aren’t available right now and it gives Manchester United a chance to have a bit of a run at it as opposed to repeating the situation when Louis van Gaal was fired after the FA Cup final in 2016.”
Solskjaer will be helped by the return of Mike Phelan, Sir Alex Ferguson’s former assistant.
“It’s my opinion, and probably one that’s shared by others at the club, that the appointment of Mike Phelan is seen as being as important as that of Solskjaer – bearing in mind his experience at the club and some of the big characters he’s dealt with.”
What are United’s January transfer plans?
Speculation is rife that United intend to bolster their squad in January, with the Daily Mirror reporting that Solskjaer will be backed to the tune of £50m in order to salvage a top-four Premier League finish.
Cooper agrees that there could be new arrivals at Old Trafford, but the club traditionally leave their business until the summer and he insists panic buys are off the agenda. United, Cooper says, will only pursue existing targets.
“As ever for Manchester United, January is likely to be a quiet month, but I understand that if a target that they have already identified becomes available then they will move for him,” he said.
So Solskjaer won’t have a say on targets?
Solskjaer arrived at Manchester United’s Carrington headquarters on Thursday morning to take his first training session, and it is there, on the training pitch, that Solskjaer’s role will be focused, according to Cooper.
“Solskjaer will be a part of the process regarding transfers, but it’s really about using the lists of players that have been agreed on already – rather than him submitting his own targets,” he added.
“Solskjaer’s primary role at Manchester United is not to identify transfer targets but to unite the talented squad of players they already have at their disposal.
“His task is to get them playing to the standard their transfer fees and wages suggest they should be at.
“Meanwhile, Ed Woodward will oversee United’s transfer business.”
Are United worried about players approaching the ends of their contracts?
Manchester United have already triggered one-year contract extensions for David De Gea and Anthony Martial, as revealed by Sky Sports earlier this season, but their long-term futures remain uncertain and there are still several squad members whose deals are due to expire at the end of the current campaign.
As things stand – Ander Herrera, Juan Mata, Phil Jones, Matteo Darmian, Andreas Pereira, Ashley Young and Antonio Valencia will all be free to discuss moves away from the club next month.
“Those decisions will come down to United’s recruitment team, which liaises with Ed Woodward,” said Cooper. “But Solskjaer, Phelan, Carrick and McKenna will also have some input on any imminent decisions on personnel.”
What’s the latest on United’s hunt for a new technical or sporting director?
United remain keen to appoint a technical or sporting director, with Sky sources saying Tottenham’s former head of recruitment Paul Mitchell, who currently holds a similar role at RB Leipzig and worked with United’s managerial target Mauricio Pochettino at Spurs and Southampton, is one of their targets.
“There is still no exact timescale on that appointment, but it will certainly precede the appointment of the next permanent manager,” Cooper said.
What are Solskjaer’s prospects of getting the manager’s job permanently?
United are expected to move for Pochettino in the summer but Solskjaer will be eager to put himself in contention for the job.
“If Solskjær performs miracles they would have to look at him as a permanent appointment,” Cooper added.
“When I talk miracles I mean transforming the style of play, the atmosphere of the club, winning a trophy, getting into the top four and getting to the latter stages of the Champions League.
“Such a situation is highly unlikely but would be win-win in many ways for Manchester United.”