Manchester United victories over Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City have eased the pressure on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s shoulders, but there had been plenty of pressure rising on the Norwegian prior to the pair of morale-boosting wins.
The fact those two victories were enough to temporarily quell speculation over his future offers an indication into the tumultuous world of modern football management.
Even before these brilliant results for the club, former right-back Paul Parker was fully behind the 46-year-old because of what he has done away from the pitch.
Speaking exclusively to Football FanCast on behalf of Bonus Code Bets, he explained: “You have to look at the other side of the job, he’s playing younger players, he’s trying to change it, he’s improved the club, not just the team, he’s improved the club from what it was.
“Previously the club was in a bad space. Everyone around the club wasn’t feeling good within themselves and with what was going on. He’s improved that, he’s put a smile on a lot of the departments within that club by the way he’s gone in there and managed that situation.”
The defender, who also represented England, took issue we the potential way Solskjaer was going to be treated: “Him as a player, as a legend, as a great player for the club, a very important player in the history of Manchester United, he deserves to be treated with respect.
“If it means him staying there or if they’re going to let him go, they should let him go with respect as well towards him. Because at the end the day, Manchester United need to come away from this with their integrity.”
Parker alludes to Solskjaer’s emphasis on youth integration, but he is not fully convinced they are ready to make an impact akin to that which Chelsea’s youngsters are making at Stamford Bridge: “These [United] boys, they are boys, when people talk about them and Chelsea, Chelsea’s young players are young men that have been out on loan to clubs in Europe.
“They’ve stayed in digs on their own, they’ve looked after themselves, they’ve played in tough games, they’ve mostly been lonely in a foreign country, so they have had hard knocks, so they’re coming out of their battles and you know they’re battling, and now they’re ready to have a go.
“The Manchester United ones, they haven’t had that, they’ve been playing Premier League 2 games, so it’s a bit soft-centred.”
He also drew a comparison with them and one arguably United’s most iconic groups of youngsters, The Class of 92.
“The class of ’92 were a different mentality. They were boys who had done an apprenticeship, they were cleaning boots, they were doing the hard yards at that age. They knew it, they were rough and ready to go in there. And they had this belief because the manager gave them that belief that they were going to be taking certain players’ spots.
There is one youngster he has been especially impressed by though, namely Brandon Williams: “He’s done well and he’s come as a young lad and I just think when young players come in, you still have to monitor him.
“You have to keep an eye on him, but I think you have to still encourage them and let them know that you are looking at them as being a number one.
“I think he needs to recognise that he’s there and in the manager’s mind he’s going to play. He doesn’t need to be left out for two or three. He doesn’t deserve that at this moment of time.”
Parker has also been impressed by Aaron Wan-Bissaka, who has taken his former position, but has admitted the 22-year-old still has improving to do: “He’s going to have to work on his game in the attacking third, because defensively, he has to be one of the best defenders in the Premier League, with his tackling, his willingness to get back.
“Very rarely misses a tackle, his timing is absolutely excellent, his recovering, his willingness to defend is second-to-none. He will prove himself a good fullback at Manchester United.”
Parker hasn’t been impressed by everyone at United though, as he feels they could be better off without Paul Pogba: “If there’s a possibility to move him on I think we need to move him on pretty soon, maybe the effects around the club and the effects on the pitch.
“Has he been effective when he’s been there? Yes, he has on occasions, you see the talent, but you’re not seeing the talent enough. Now Manchester United need players who are going to give 100%.”
Despite the upturn in form, there is still no guarantee that United will have a successful season and get into the top four.
With that in mind, while it would be great to fight on all fronts, Parker has suggested that the league should be prioritised over the FA Cup: “I think at the moment, it’s a double-edged sword for United.
“If they go out in the FA Cup, then everyone’s going to be biting two on the bounce against Wolves, but the league position is important and they need to finish as high as possible, just for ego.
“If it’s sacrificing the FA Cup and guaranteeing a high finish, then it has to be done.”
Speaking to Parker, it was apparent that he felt there is a long way for United to go until they are able to return to their former glory, but he clearly has every faith that Solskjaer is the right man to steer the ship in the desired direction.