HAVE NO DOUBT – it is going to take one Herculean effort from Michael Carrick to lift the Manchester United players for the trip to Villarreal.A very dark cloud hangs over the club and the players are feeling it.
Michael Carrick has been appointed as Manchester United’s interim manager following Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s departureCredit: Rex
Solskjaer was sacked after the Red Devils lost 4-1 against Watford at Vicarage Road on SaturdayCredit: Reuters
This is unlike the departure of the last three Old Trafford managers.
The players wanted David Moyes out and celebrated Ryan Giggs taking temporary charge.
Louis van Gaal was popular with many of the players but they felt shackled by his tactics and were bored senseless by his endless repetitive training techniques and video analysis.
In the end they just stopped looking at the private videos they were sent about their individual performances.
While Jose Mourinho had a good first two years and could really motivate the players the toxic end left everyone at the club from top to bottom relieved to see the back of him.
This is very different. This feels like a bereavement.
This is Ole.
This is Man United royalty.
The baby-faced assassin who plundered the most famous goal in the club’s history.
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A man who even in the darkest times, still spoke up for his players, still gave a positive front, still smiled, still clapped and waved.
There were no tears amongst club staff when the previous three managers went, there were plenty over this weekend.
Many managers when they are coming to the end start thrashing around and pointing fingers.
The media nearly always gets a mouth full.
Carrick’s first game in charge of United will come against Villarreal in the Champions League on TuesdayCredit: AFP
Solskjaer picked up just four points from his last seven Premier League fixturesCredit: PA
Not with Solskjaer. He remained a gentleman to the very end.
Never once did he lose his cool in a press conference. Even when he came close a couple of times he was smiling again within seconds.
How many managers have ever sat down and done a lengthy interview with the club’s own TV channel after they have been fired.
The pain and emotion in his voice during that was there for all to see.
The image of him getting out his car to hug a fan on his final drive away from Carrington said it all.
Indeed the dressing room after the Watford game told you everything about how the players felt.
You might have expected shouting and screaming. It was just silent, sorrowful.
Solskjaer spoke as if he knew what was coming, as if he was saying goodbye.
Solskjaer hugged a fan outside Carrington on Sunday after being relieved of his dutiesCredit: PA
He told the players he still believed in them.
He instructed them to make those same fans who were so angry at the final whistle at Vicarage Road, happy in the next game against Villarreal.
A game he knew he would not be taking charge of.
There is always talk of a ‘bounce’ amongst players when a manager goes.
There is more bounce in a burst balloon than at United right now.
The players are genuinely at an all-time low.
They are baffled as to what to do.
Some of them fear they have hit some sort of mental block.
Carrick spent 12 years at Old Trafford as a player, where he scored 24 goals in 464 gamesCredit: EPA
Can Carrick, Mike Phelan and Kieran McKenna change that on Tuesday, after all they have been the voices trying to change things for the last three months.
While Villarreal are hardly pulling up trees right now as they stand mid-table in La Liga they have won two and drawn one of their last three games played.
They were very unlucky to lose to a last minute goal from Cristiano Ronaldo in the Group F game at Old Trafford having lead 1-0 at the break largely out playing United.
As the group stands the two teams are level on seven points with Atalanta on five and Youngs Boys still with the three from beating United in game one.
Were Villarreal to beat United and Atalanta beat Young Boys then United are third.
While United would be expected to beat Young Boys in their final game, a victory for Atalanta against Villarreal and then the abacus is out.
Goal difference in the head to head games between United and Villarreal will be the first deciding factor as each will have won a game against each other.
So the expected qualifying mark of ten points may not be enough.
United sit eighth in the Premier League table after 12 games playedCredit: Reuters
Win tomorrow however and United are through to the next stage for even if they were to lose their final game to Young Boys they are guaranteed at least second spot as their head to head results over Villarreal will be better.
That then offers the new boss the extra incentive of Champions League knockout football come February.
There is so much on it but is in the hands of someone with no managerial experience.
Carrick is a good man who served United well playing 464 games over 12 seasons winning five titles and the Champions League.
He could never have imagined, however, that he would be stood in a Manchester United jacket in the technical area as the club’s boss.
Tasked with trying to pit his wits against a wily campaigner in Unai Emery, ten years his senior at 50 and someone who has been a manager now for 16 years with eight different clubs.
United have better players, but as we have seen this season, other teams have had better managers and that has made a big difference.
Carrick will be positive in his press conference about what the players can achieve in Spain tomorrow night.
He will send out the message the fans will have wanted to hear.
There of course will be that sense among the players of ‘do it for Ole’.
It’s just a shame they did not do it for Ole these past three months.
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