Manchester United manager Olé Gunnar Solskjaer is enjoying unrivalled success in the Old Trafford dugout as he gets further and further into his interim role.
By the time this goes to print, he may well have even seen off one of Europe’s big guns, Paris Saint Germain, in the first leg of United’s Champions League last sixteen tie. It is fair to say Solskjaer’s managerial career was a fairly humble one until these last two months. Failing to keep Cardiff City in the Premier League and otherwise plying his trade in the Norwegian league do not necessarily suggest a successful career in management.
So what exactly has made all the difference at Manchester United?
Some renowned sports journalists may try to tell you he has simply steadied the ship and released the shackles after Mourinho’s departure, getting the players to play freely once more.
But a story broke recently that at least to my mind seems for more romantic.
The ‘baby-faced assassin’, as he was known when he led the line for the reds two decades ago, credits much of his success to Football Manager, a computer game. Quotations of his include: ‘It’s a fantastic game, I have learned a lot about football. I have learned a lot about players, especially young talent.
‘It resembles real life, when it comes to who will be good players. They have done incredible research.
‘I remember thinking the same then [when he played the computer game as a player], you want to give young guns the chance, see them develop.’
So no wonder Solskjaer has got England talking about Marcus Rashford – fresh from winning January Player of the Month – more than ever before.
He expertly explains how on the game ‘you can push a few buttons and get extra millions to buy a player. I never enjoyed that. I would rather win in spite of, than because of.’
Again, it is unsurprising that Solskjaer, at the helm of one of the richest clubs in the world, did not make any signings – let alone for many millions of pounds – in the recent January transfer window.
I myself enjoy a bit of Football Manager from time to time.
Maidstone United – for no particular reason other than I fancied a challenge – are currently leading English football’s fifth tier under my leadership, despite the board only asking us to avoid relegation in the summer.
Darius Osei simply can’t stop scoring goals for us. At the age of twenty-one, he is my Marcus Rashford. When that Solskjaer story broke I began to see the striking similarities between him and I.
As you may expect, Maidstone United do not have many millions to spend on household names. Indeed, my spell as their manager has seen me sign an eighteen-year-old Somalian on a free transfer, as I prepare to nurture him on his way to a career in the professional game.
For those of you who have never tried your hand at Football Manager, I can only echo Solskjaer in recommending it.
But do not expect plain sailing. The game is hard work. It is not like FIFA where you can just sit back and make use of the world’s best players having found them in a pack.
Football Manager is about real life transfer budgets – you cannot cheat your way to signing Messi or Ronaldo – running training, speaking to players and scouting opposition. You don not actually play the games of football on a Saturday, you watch.
Sound dull? Absolutely not.
You may even be Manchester United manager in the future.
Image: steamXO via Flickr