Manchester United: Give Ole Gunnar Solskjaer time, says Robin van Persie

By David OrnsteinBBC Sport
Everyone should look at the bigger picture with Solskjaer - Van Persie

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is the right man to lead Manchester United and must be given a fair chance to reverse their decline, former striker Robin van Persie told BBC Sport.

After impressing as interim manager following the sacking of Jose Mourinho, ex-United forward Solskjaer oversaw a dismal end to the season as they missed out on a top-four finish.

But Van Persie said: "I think it's the perfect match, it's just they're having a bad spell."

He added: "Back in the day it was normal for a manager to get time. Nowadays if you lose six games, you're out. Is that the solution?

"Give someone time, especially if it's a kid from the club."

United dismissed Mourinho on 18 December and planned to make a temporary appointment until the summer before filling the managerial vacancy permanently.

A day later, 46-year-old Solskjaer was named caretaker manager and United went on a 15-game unbeaten run in domestic competition, including a 100% record in his first eight matches.

The Norwegian oversaw a dramatic victory over Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League last 16 and, despite then suffering two defeats, he was given the job full time on 28 March.

United finished the campaign with six losses and two wins from their final 10 fixtures.

"It's funny because when he started everyone was so positive, they were winning and they made a miracle by beating PSG," said Van Persie, who helped United to the Premier League title in 2013 and scored 58 goals in 105 games for them between 2012-15.

"Everyone was screaming like, 'Give the guy a permanent deal'. And then since that permanent deal the luck went away a little bit; they've been losing more games than they want to.

"But he got a three-year deal and everyone should look at the bigger picture. His presence, the way he presents the club, is the proper way in my opinion. He's positive, he wants to achieve big things with the club and that is the only way forward.

"He's a man of the club, he played there for more than 10 years, he won the Champions League - actually his goal got them the Champions League - so he has a big part over the years at the club.

"He's been a coach of the reserves, he is Manchester United. Similar, in a different way, to Ferguson. He was Manchester United and Solskjaer is Manchester United as well.

"Everyone has that at a certain time. He had a fantastic first period - now the last 12 games have been tough. OK, but next season they have to pick themselves up and go again."

Robin van Persie holds up a Manchester United shirt bearing his name after signing for the club
Robin van Persie won the golden boot in his first season at Manchester United, helping them to win the 2012-13 Premier League title

Van Persie joined United under Sir Alex Ferguson, having spent eight years playing for Arsene Wenger's Arsenal, and he believes the pair prove the importance of patience.

That is a value he feels should also be applied towards players, suggesting United's current problems will not necessarily be solved by more heavy spending in the transfer market.

"In that way I'm a little bit old school," the Dutchman argued. "Major changes, what do they do? Arsene stayed at Arsenal for 22 years, Sir Alex at United for 26 years.

"If he wants absolutely the best and only the best for the club, give him time. Is it going to change, to find a new manager now after a bad run? And then, so what, he will have a good start and then they will be in the same position.

"Nowadays, as well, if you look at the news, if you hear stories, it's so business-wise.

"If a player has a couple of bad games, 'OK, sell him!'. If he doesn't score a few goals, 'OK, he's out, he's finished'.

"Back in the day you used to get time, you can make mistakes, you can learn. Now I get the feeling that time is less. Ideally, you would get time - as a player, as a coach."

Arsenal have the edge over Chelsea

Arsenal failed to qualify for the Champions League via the Premier League, but they could yet clinch a place if they beat Chelsea in the Europa League final on 29 May.

"Personally, I think Arsenal have the edge," Van Persie added of a side now coached by Unai Emery, who succeeded Wenger a year ago.

"They're a little bit better. But Chelsea have Eden Hazard and he is a very special player - at any time he can come up with something."

The Gunners have not won the Premier League title since 2004, shortly before Van Persie joined them, and the 35-year-old thinks they are capable of challenging again.

"Of course they can, yes, because they're close already, they've been close for so many years," he said. "It goes in periods. Now you have Manchester City, who are doing unbelievable. To win back-to-back titles is very special - that shows, really, that you're a proper team.

"But it goes in phases. Maybe [City manager] Pep Guardiola will leave next year and that does something to a club. Maybe Liverpool will take over and they will dominate for the next few years. But I hope and wish Arsenal all the best to win the title. I know how difficult it is."

  • You can read more from our exclusive interview with Robin van Persie on the BBC Sport website on Thursday, as he talks about his controversial move from Arsenal to Manchester United, retirement, and going into coaching.

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