Solskjaer and the modern concept of support
As a fan of any club in any sport, you never want your team to lose a game to anyone. I would even go further to argue that you never want your rivals winning their own games let alone advocating for the team you claim to support to lose to them. It’s the precise antithesis of what it means to be a supporter. Manchester United fans have understandably been dissatisfied with the team’s performances in recent weeks. However, some are so disgruntled that they want the squad to lose to other teams so that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer can be sacked.
After the 4 nil loss to Everton back in 2019, the Norwegian said “I’m going to be successful here and there are players there that won’t be part of that.” He has assembled a squad within two years that many had predicted would take about five years to put together. He did it despite immense pressure and unfathomable abuse from some fans and a section of the media on a weekly basis. Few managers would have accepted the position at the time he was appointed. Even fewer “elite managers” would have taken on the challenge of rebuilding a squad from the ground up, especially a club like United, where the stakes are always so high.
Please understand that this article is not an encomium for Solskjaer. Even his most ardent supporters acknowledge that he isn’t without flaws. When a team is underperforming, the manager is the first to be blamed, and you can criticize him accordingly, as long as it’s within reason. Actual criticism, especially from the media and a small group of supporters, is becoming increasingly rare these days. Instead, you get mockery, ridicule, hatred, vileness, and abuse, and many people seem to think it’s acceptable. There are a lot of things to criticise about him but there is a failure to accept or even recognise that he is the reason the standards at the club are so high right now.
United have kept only 1 clean sheet in their last 9 games and have conceded 16 goals across competitions since the start of the season. This is appalling and falls far short of the expectations of the fans. The majority of the goals they conceded were as a result of clumsy individual errors on the pitch. It’s understandable for fans to have serious reservations about the coaching staff’s competence and the abilities of the players when they see things like this. However, it is absurd to wish for the team to play even worse than they already are.
As fans, The expectation should be for the team’s performances to improve, not deteriorate further. Offensively, the team has been good but still lack a clinical edge.
Whether you believe Solskjaer is good enough or not, supporting the club should always come first. Majority of supporters who love the manager understand that he could be let go at any time but they also understand that they will be fine if or when that happens. I’m willing to bet that they’ll support his successor in the same way they’ve backed him.
Meanwhile, A certain group has been trending a certain hashtag for over two years, regardless of the team’s performance. This group has already written off the manager and seizes any opportunity to amplify the vitriol propagated by the media and some fan channels. The same group never miss a chance to latch on to every single out-of-context quote that is twisted to fit their preconceived notions.
There is a term in stoic philosophy that can also be applied to the very essence of modern football fandom that is called a “Preferred indifferent.” It essentially means that you could want something to happen but will survive if it does not. In this sense, you want Solskjaer to succeed, and you’d be delighted if he does. However, in the event that he doesn’t, you’ll be fine and, as I already stated, you will back his replacement all the same.
The word “indifferent” connotes neutrality in this context. In its most basic form, fans who want the manager to succeed are the most neutral, as opposed to those who shout for him to fail by wanting the team to lose every game they play. It’s worth noting that I’m using the term “neutrality” in the stoic sense here. It does not necessarily imply that you’re a rival from another club.
But ultimately, this neutrality stems from a strong desire to support the team. Like it’s written into your genetic code. The fans who back the manager wish for the success of everyone involved with the club, no matter what. There is absolutely no room for anything else, especially failure. It’s entirely possible to respect him as a player and hold the belief that he’s not a good enough manager. But you’d never want him to fail. And this thin line is what separates you from being a rival, at least in my opinion.
While fans “support” their clubs in various ways, ideally, a manager’s contract is always terminated if he becomes toxic, loses the dressing room and the players stop playing for him, or fails to meet the targets set by the board. Until any of those things happen, it does seem pointless (and odd) to wish your team failure because you don’t like the manager.