Prominent Manchester United figures who are unfit for purpose

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<span>Photograph: Oli Scarff/AFP/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Oli Scarff/AFP/Getty Images


Ole Gunnar Solskjær must be yearning for days of yore when the only pile-ons to which he was subjected came in the wake of match-winning goals, his ecstatic teammates burying him at the bottom of an exultant pile of suffocating humanity, from which he would eventually emerge with a beam of genuine pleasure lighting up his pixie-like features. Whatever your allegiance, it was nigh on impossible to dislike Ole the player. But while sticking the boot into Ole the manager seems tantamount to seal-clubbing, the past 24 hours have seen plenty give it a right good go.

After Sunday’s shellacking at the hands of Liverpool, the honeymoon is officially over and in the press, on increasingly anti-social media disgraces and now apparently within his own squad, the knives are well and truly out for a nice man whose only crime is not being as good at managing a massive football club as those who support it would like him to be. As the officially designated lightning rod for fan displeasure and opprobrium, the jig looks up for Ole, whose imminent scapegoating now seems a formality. At which point, other prominent figures in the Manchester United hierarchy whose track records suggest they are similarly unfit for purpose when it comes to football matters – if not noodle sponsorship-procurement and like-harvesting – will be tasked with finding his replacement.

“I have come too far, we have come too far as a group,” honked Ole, channelling his inner Frodo Baggins in the wake of Sunday’s humiliation. “We are too close to give up now. [True] the results lately haven’t been good enough, it’s hands up and that brings doubt in anyone’s mind probably, but I’ve got to keep strong and believe in what we’re doing.” Sadly, reports from unnamed dressing-room sources suggest that while his squad of players think Ole is a top bloke, his lack of tactical acumen is a source of grave concern for various senior players. It’s a bit rich, really, because while nobody thinks Ole is some sort of elite-level managerial genius, The Fiver is going to go out on a limb and suggest that no part of his plan for Sunday’s game involved various United players repeatedly getting caught out of position and randomly running into each other while losing the ball, the opponents they were supposed to be marking and their heads as Liverpool ground them into submission.

While they have never seemed particularly interested in winning trophies, United’s owners are very keen indeed on Big Cup qualification, plus the global profile and sweet moolah that comes with it. And with a tough run of Premier League fixtures featuring games against Tottenham, Manchester City, rejuvenated Watford, Chelsea and Arsenal ahoy, they may feel compelled to pull the trigger. Touchline rage and intensity’s Antonio Conte has apparently let it be known he would be interested in the job should a vacancy arise, and with his track record there is every chance he could briefly restore United to former glories before his inevitable fall-out with club hierarchy. As a manager who is rumoured to have had his potential reappointment as Juventus manager vetoed by a certain Portuguese superstar, his first teamsheet, should he end up at Old Trafford, could make for riveting and Ronaldo-less reading.


“If you have sh1t on your shoe, you have sh1t on your shoe” – Mark van Bommel on Wolfsburg’s missed opportunities in their sack-inducing Bundesliga defeat by Freiburg. “I am surprised and disappointed by the decision,” tooted the Dutchman.

Van Bommel during his final game in charge of Wolfsburg.
Van Bommel during his final game in charge of Wolfsburg. Photograph: Stuart Franklin/Getty Images


Get your listening gear around the latest Football Weekly podcast. Right here.


“Thought this might tickle you. The timing of the Burton drummer for our (Oxford United) first goal on Saturday could not be more perfect” – Richard Prangle.

“On the subject of embarrassing shellackings (Fiver letters passim), I was watching Sky on Sunday afternoon and Liverpool got to play this team of rank amateurs. It could’ve been a cricket score. Anyway, once they get back to the Toughest League In The World™ I’m sure they won’t have it all their own way” – Craig Fawcett.

“A quick question for readers. How many big-name attackers do you need to sign to overcome the problem that both your defensive midfielders are still Scott McTominay and Fred? Asking for a Norwegian friend who, to be fair, probably won’t need to know the answer to this by the time the next transfer window comes around” – Noble Francis.

“Think of poor old Paul Scholes right now. Sitting at home, sobbing into a fresh, piping-hot bowl of his daughter’s toenails” – James Vortkamp-Tong.

Send your letters to And you can always tweet The Fiver via @guardian_sport. Today’s winner of our letter o’ the day is … Craig Fawcett, who wins a copy of John Nicholson’s excellent Was Football Better in the Old Days?


The fuzz have decided to take no action against Crystal Palace fans for revealing that banner condemning the Saudi takeover of Newcastle.

The banner in question at Selhurst Park.
The banner in question at Selhurst Park. Photograph: Julian Finney/Getty Images

Barcelona have condemned the “violent and disdainful acts” faced by manager Ronald Koeman – which seemed to involve his car getting gobbed on and shaken by a group of angry fans – as he left Camp Nou after the 2-1 defeat by Real Madrid.

Nuno Espírito Santo has lifted his head out of the sand to parp that Spurs deserved to beat West Ham, despite a collection of stats and a 1-0 defeat suggesting otherwise. “There are not too many positives when you lose a game like that,” he yelped. “I believe we were the better team.”

Fran Kirby can’t wait to win her 50th England cap in Tuesday’s World Cup qualifier against Latvia. “[It] will be really special,” she cheered. “It’s been a rollercoaster for sure but it’s a journey I have been really proud of.”

And Dumbarton boss Stevie Farrell still has the raging funk on after his eight-man side fought back to 2-2 at Airdrie, only for their Scottish League One hosts to grab a winner six minutes into added time. “I’m not going to speak about the referee’s decisions as I don’t want to get myself into bother,” fumed Farrell – himself sent off – before going on to speak about the referee’s decisions. “My issue is where the rest of the injury time comes from.”


Ten Premier League talking points ahoy!

“Inept, weak, no plan”: yes, it’s Barney Ronay on The Fiver Manchester United.

United’s 5-0 rout had been coming, writes Jonathan Wilson, who to be fair, has been telling us about its impending arrival for quite some time.

Vinícius was too hot for Barça to handle in a clásico that was far from classic, writes Sid Lowe.

Andy Brassell on RB Leipzig and the curious purgatory they find themselves in.

It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new life for the Derby d’Italia, but the same old story for Inter, croons Nicky Bandini.

This interview with Gary Lineker is ace.

And if it’s your thing … you can follow Big Website on Big Social FaceSpace. And INSTACHAT, TOO!


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