It’s safe to say that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is a man under pressure at Old Trafford, with results not going as the Manchester United boss would have originally hoped for. Antonio Conte was one of the managers to be linked with the job with the Red Devils, although the Italian boss went on to be appointed as Tottenham Hotspur’s new manager. 

Former Manchester United defender Mikael Silvestre issued his thoughts on whether Manchester United made a mistake in not appointing Conte when they had the opportunity to do so.

“No, I don’t think they missed out on anything. I believe Ole has the support of the club. There was no missing out on Conte.”

“Conte can definitely improve that team. He needs to be given some resources to recruit in the transfer window. He’s a proven manager and he’s won trophies. It’s a new experience for him, a new club, new players, and joining during the course of the season is never easy because you don’t have as much time to work in training with players on your principles.”

Manchester United drew with Atalanta recently, and they’ll have concerns heading into their game against Manchester City this weekend, with Pep Guardiola’s side in a strong run of form themselves, and they’re unlikely to be taking any prisoners. Silvestre is confident that his former side can avoid defeat this weekend, and that Solskjaer’s job will be safe, even if they are defeated against their local rivals.

“I don’t think the team will suffer another heavy defeat. They will put on a fight, especially at home, for the supporters. Ole’s job is safe because he’s got enough credit and the players responded at Spurs. Even one point away from home against Atalanta, they are a decent team. United are still leading the Champions League group, so it’s a good response after the 5-0 defeat [to Liverpool].”

Silvestre still feels as though Solskjaer deserves more time to turn things around at Manchester United, and highlighted the importance of finding the right balance between the new players, which is a task that can take some time when things don’t get off to the ideal start.

“At the moment he needs more time because we’re only at the beginning of November and players joined late in the window. He needs time to find the right balance with the new players, it’s not easy. Nine times out of 10, changing the manager is not the answer. 

“The target is to win trophies, so you need to be in the race in March and April. That gives him a lot of time to improve the team.”

Manchester United were being talked up as title challengers before the start of the season, but failed to live up to that expectation, much to the frustration of many of their supporters. Silvestre was keen to state that his former side have to target qualifying for the Champions League, as well as winning a trophy, which could be a tough ask with the likes of Manchester City, Liverpool, and Chelsea catching the eye with some impressive displays of late.

“You’ve got to qualify for the Champions League, that’s the reality. You’ve got to be there challenging in March/April otherwise it’s another season where you’re going to be looking at winning a cup. 

“That’s the target – to win a trophy. Last season, losing against Villarreal was a blow because you’re there and the only way out is putting the winners’ medal on or go home and be extremely disappointed. It’s important to get to a final and win it.

“It doesn’t matter which trophy it is, it’s got to be a trophy. Again, this team is capable of doing it. I think it’s important for United to be in the Champions League, so it’s got to be both.”

One of Manchester United’s legends from over the years is Cristiano Ronaldo, with the Portuguese forward rejoining the club not so long ago, despite heavy interest from arch-rivals Manchester City. Silvestre had his say on Ronaldo’s decision to sign up at Old Trafford for a second stint, and felt as though if he had moved to Manchester City instead, it won’t have tarnished his legacy with Manchester United.

“His legacy is his whole career. So Sporting, United, Real Madrid, Juventus and it could have been City, but now he’s back at United. His legacy is with Portugal too, so as an individual, he’s proven it doesn’t matter who he plays for, which shirt is on him, he scores goals.”

Harry Maguire has struggled for a positive run of form in the Manchester United team, which has led to calls for the England international to be dropped in the future, although it remains to be seen as to whether that will happen anytime soon. Silvestre is keen to see an upturn in form from Maguire, whilst also claiming that his standard is higher than what we’ve seen from the former Hull City man recently.

“Harry was injured and he came back in the moment when there was a lack of confidence and the team started conceding more goals than usual. He wasn’t able to stop that. So being the captain, he needs to be on top of his game all the time and to protect David [de Gea]. Over the course of the season, there’s going to be a time when you’re not going to be at your best, so hopefully this is the time he will respond.

“Yeah, it’s important that he stays [in the team]. He hasn’t been awful, he just hasn’t been as good. His standard is higher than what we’ve seen over the last two or three games.”

One player that has also struggled to recapture his best form is Jadon Sancho, with the former Borussia Dortmund winger making a slow start to life at Old Trafford. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has also reverted to a defensive five in recent matches, which has seen Sancho’s game time reduced further. Silvestre issued his thoughts on the situation, and felt as though Sancho’s ‘time will come’ eventually.

“He needs to rediscover his form that led to his signing at United. His time will come, I’m sure of that, the sooner the better. He needs to stay focused and believe in himself because he’s got talent, that’s for sure.

“When you change the formation like that, you overload the defensive part if you play with Fred and Scott [McTominay], so you have to sacrifice a forward. But the season is long, there are a lot of twists and turns, suspensions, injuries, so Sancho’s time will come. He has enough qualities to break into the team and to bring what he did at Dortmund.”

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Silvestre will also be a familiar face around The Emirates Stadium to this day, with the former French international making 43 appearances in total for Arsenal. He’s been impressed with what he’s seen from the Gunners in recent weeks, and is pleased to see Mikel Arteta being given time to make his mark on their squad.

“They had a difficult start playing some top teams and they also lost to Brentford. So clearly they were not ready to perform. I’m not saying the preparation wasn’t good, but clearly there were suspensions, COVID and the team wasn’t ready to beat any type of team in the league.

“Now, it’s a different Arsenal with more certainty in what they’re trying to do, offensively, defensively, players individually, they’re much more on par. Some players like [Thomas] Partey, [Emile] Smith Rowe, [Bukayo] Saka are a big part of the jigsaw, so it’s good for Mikel that he’s been given time.”

Arsenal’s push for the top-four looks as though it could go down to the wire, with the likes of Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United staking a claim for a spot in the Champions League places next season. Silvestre expects the Gunners to finish better than their eighth-place finish last season, in what was a forgetful campaign for the club and their supporters.

“The places are super expensive in that top four now. They should be close enough, just thereabouts. They should finish better than where they finished last season if they can keep everybody fit.

“It depends on how quickly Conte can impact that (Tottenham) team and bring some new faces in the transfer window. I think that those teams will be challenging each other for places, but I don’t know which one will finish on top.”

Arsenal are a great example of a club that have shown promising signs when they’ve given a manager time to make their mark on a team, and Silvestre was quick to highlight that point when quizzed on whether Manchester United should give Solskjaer more time to have an impact at Old Trafford.

“Every time you change a manager, the manager will want his own players, so you have to wait two or three transfer windows to have his squad the way he wants it. Then it’s a change of a training regime and sometimes the style of football. So it’s better to stick with the managers and try to improve and ask the right questions to the players, try to stimulate within rather than completely shuffle things with a new manager and new backroom staff.”

Aaron Ramsdale has made a strong start to his time with Arsenal, and has certainly silenced many of the doubters he had when he signed with the Gunners, with many questioning whether he’d have been a good enough signing for the London-based side. Silvestre has been impressed with what he’s seen from the former Sheffield United shot-stopper, and is keen to see him play his part in Arsenal top-four push.

“He’s clearly done his bit for Arsenal to climb up the table. He’s a good goalkeeper, he’s still young. So it’s a mixture. He needs to bring confidence to the back four or back five and they need to trust him. It looks like it’s on a good way at the moment for him and for Arsenal.”

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