Confronting data for Solskjær at Man Utd

What do the statistics say for the position of Ole Gunnar Solskjær? Is it really that bad? Let’s find out.

Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

The tabloids are having a wonderful time with the apparent implosion of one of England’s biggest clubs. Despite the financial injections, despite the Premier League title worthy team that is on the pitch, drama simply cannot seem to be diverted. All signs point toward the sacking of Ole Gunnar Solskjær and have been ever since he started really. But where the club was really impatient with David Moyes, Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho, Ole has been manager now for more than 3 seasons. And although the third and second place in previous seasons are by no means bad, you never had the feeling that the club would win a title with Ole at the wheel. 

Perhaps it is due to his status as a club legend that he, like Ronald Koeman at Barcelona, it is hard to run out of credit. But even Ronald Koeman got sacked.  Whatever the reason, it is quite remarkable that a manager of a top team got away with a 0-5 against Liverpool, 0-2 against Manchester City and 2-4 against Leicester City in the first half of the season.

A betting perspective

As a bookmaker, we are interested in data more than media headlines. Are Manchester United’s results in the Solskjær era really that bad? How do the results match up against the odds? We want to focus on results, but also on transfers. The success of the transfer policy could give us information about the long term results. So let’s start there:

Manchester United Transfers under Solskjær:

For each player, we make a judgement on whether it was a successful transfer or not. Admittingly, this judgement is not totally based on data but also on what we regard as a successful transfer. It has to be said that the failing of a player could also be due to the relationship with the manager.  The general opinion is that there are managers out there that would be able to turn this group to champions. We’ll look at the top purchases (in terms of value) of the last three seasons. Note that the net total cost of the transfers during this period is €328.320.000..

Season 2021/2022

Jadon SanchoBorussia DortmundDortmund85,00 mln. €
Raphaël VaraneReal MadridReal Madrid40,00 mln. €
Cristiano RonaldoJuventus FCJuventus15,00 mln. €

When Jurgen Klopp has to defend your purchase, you know that you are not yet where you want to be. Although we believe firmly in Jadon Sancho’s potential, we can’t say it has been shown fully just yet. Varane is another question mark due to a lengthy injury. Ronaldo himself is still a machine that guarantees a lot of goals, so in that regard he is a successful transfer. The problem however is that if you let Ronaldo play (which you do), Pogba goes to central midfield, leaving your defences too vulnerable. What that resulted in this season, Manchester United fans know all too well. For us, there are three question marks.

Season 2020/2021

Donny van de BeekAFC AjaxAjax39,00 mln. €
Amad DialloAtalanta BergamoAtalanta21,30 mln. €
Alex TellesFC PortoFC Porto15,00 mln. €
Facundo PellistriCA PeñarolPeñarol8,50 mln. €

Only Facundo Pellistri has some notable minutes and seeing his age, there is a lot of growth potential. Though even his market value has gone down since he joined MU. Donny van de Beek and Alex Telles have absolute horror statistics; we can’t say there is one really successful transfer between these. 80+ million not well spent.

Season 2019/2020

Harry MaguireLeicester CityLeicester City87,00 mln. €
Bruno FernandesSporting CPSporting CP63,00 mln. €
Aaron Wan-BissakaCrystal PalaceCrystal Palace55,00 mln. €
Daniel JamesSwansea CitySwansea City17,80 mln. €

Harry Maguire, should play far more consistently to legitimize his price tag. Not a bad transfer, just overpaid. Bruno Fernandes is the first transfer (and the last) that can be regarded as a good purchase. A very good one. Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Daniel James (the latter sold with a little profit) we regard as also not living up to the expectations.

Concluding the transfer policy of Manchester United under Solskjær’s reign: one top transfer, some acceptable ones, some questionable ones and some utterly bad ones. 

Solskjær’s Man Utd results against the top 5

For our analysis, we discard the results against Burnley, Norwich and other clubs in the lower region of the table. A club of this stature should be measured by the performances against clubs of equal grandeur. This is why we looked at Solskjær’s results against Liverpool, Manchester City, Leicester City, Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur.

Versus Liverpool: win 1, draw 3, lose 3

Versus Manchester City: win 3, draw 1, lose 4 

Versus Chelsea: win 1, draw 3, lose 4

Versus Leicester: win 3, draw 1, lose 3

Versus: Tottenham: win 4, draw 1, lose 1

Total versus top teams: win 12, draw 9, lose 14

This is a win percentage of 32% against the direct competitors for prizes. Are these figures that legitimize a manager of a club that aspires to titles? We believe this season is do or die for Ole, with emphasis on the latter (figuratively speaking of course). This opens up interesting bets about the future manager, who would be your favourite?

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