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Parker: Solskjaer and Van der Sar double act could be United's dream ticket

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Ole Gunnar Solskjaer shares a joke with Edwin van der Sar ahead of the Ole Gunnar Solskjaer Testimonial match.

Image credit: Eurosport

ByPaul Parker
31/01/2019 at 11:26 | Updated 31/01/2019 at 12:29

Old Trafford favourite Paul Parker believes Edwin van der Sar as a sporting director working alongside Ole Gunnar Solskjaer could be the long-term answer for Manchester United.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has done really well at Manchester United since he came in. People are saying the fixtures have been kind to him, but you can’t change the fixture list. He’s had to deal with those matches, and so far he’s dealt superbly well with the challenge of getting the squad motivated again.

He won eight straight matches, but the late, late show in drawing 2-2 with Burnley in the Premier league on Tuesday was equally important because it shows the players are digging in for him to get results.

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It’s all about the manner in which it has been done by Ole. Any manager coming in after Jose Mourinho was always going to make a difference.

When you’ve gone from a grouch to a smiler, you are definitely going to get more out of people.

It is human nature. Everybody has been through a time when a line manager or a boss has not treated them properly, and they’ve not felt good about themselves.

They end up not enjoying the job or not going to work to do their work properly. It is the same in football.


Ole has walked in with massive respect from what he achieved as a striker at United, but he still had to go and earn the respect as a manager by doing the job.

He is doing that so far. Do United still go out to get out a bigger fish? At the moment, Solskjaer is making a strong case for the job on a permanent basis.

People talk about interim managers, and they always bring out Roberto Di Matteo’s experience at Chelsea when he won the Champions League in 2012 as an interim coach. It didn't work out the following season, but I feel that was down to lacking the proper support network behind him.

Roberto Di Matteo interim manager of Chelsea lifts the trophy in celebration after their victory in the UEFA Champions League Final between FC Bayern Muenchen and Chelsea.

Image credit: Getty Images

If Ole reached the semi-finals of the Champions League this season, or finished in the Premier League top four or won the FA Cup, there would be a strong case for him. Something achieved that was unexpected from the way United started the season, I think you would have to give him the job.

The difference I see between Solskjaer and Di Matteo is that he wasn’t really ready for the Chelsea job.

The Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich gave him the job which he was right to do for winning the Champions League. But you have to make sure the person who is learning their trade as a manager in the Premier League has the right people around them to help.


Ole is very fortunate that he has got the Godfather above him with Sir Alex Ferguson back in the building, and offering an expert input. What I think maybe could happen is that United go out and now and seek a sporting director to maintain this momentum.

Mikey Phelan is doing a good job as Ole's assistant, helping out with tactics and coaching. It was a wise move bringing in someone with that level of experience.

Looking ahead, I feel they need a sporting director in the European model. Someone who has been around, is respected by agents, and knows them well enough to go and get the very players because of his reputation.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Coach Mike Phelan of Manchester United congratulate Marcus Rashford after the Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United.

Image credit: Eurosport

Manchester United would be in a position then to attract serious players when they are competing against similar heavyweight clubs in the market.

I really think the sporting director model can work for United. Fergie is obviously there for advice whenever Ole needs it, but a sporting director would be a big help for a young coach moving forward.

I think someone like Edwin van der Sar, the Ajax chief executive, would fit the bill because he has football and business experience which would make him the ideal candidate. He knows the club very well, is well respected at Manchester United as a person and for the fact that top players know his name too.


Every player loves a bit of bling, and respond well to someone they know. Van der Sar and Ole know each other very well too. I think that helps a lot when you are searching for a dynamic that would work. .

Everyone will ask Sir Alex’s opinion on the playing side of things, and I think this is an idea he would endorse.

The best thing you can be in the Premier League is a top London-based club with a big-name manager. That is a massive starting position to be in.

Ole Gunner Solskjaer, left, is appreciative of Sir Alex Ferguson's guidance

Image credit: PA Sport

You look at Tottenham, Arsenal and Chelsea. Every player wants to be in London.

Liverpool and Manchester United have history, but that doesn’t come into it for the top players these days.


Players look at the present and how they are moving forward in their careers. They are not like Mourinho, living in the past with his treble from Italy.

United and Liverpool are moving forward now. We have to say that if you get the right manager, you can get the right personnel. You look at the impact Jurgen Klopp has had on Liverpool.

Players look at Klopp first as a coach. Secondly, they look at Liverpool as a club.

Edwin van der Sar is working at Ajax.

Image credit: Getty Images

It is vital to get the right people in the right positions. The more bling you have round your neck, around your football club, you will attract the top talent to play at that club. United have to compete again in attracting the top talent.

Players can see adulation, and they can smell success that brings more adulation.

That is what you want as a player at any club. You want the feeling that you are joining a club on the up.

If United have Van der Sar involved on the business side, and Solskjaer on the coaching side, it would be an attractive proposition for any player.

Paul Parker @realpaulparker2

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