Wednesday 29 January 2020

Eamon Carr: 'Duncan primed to be Toffees' Solskjaer solution'

Another iconic caretaker manager could be on path forged by Ole if Everton go on a good run

CHARACTER: Duncan Ferguson celebrates with a ball boy during the Chelsea clash. Photo: PA
CHARACTER: Duncan Ferguson celebrates with a ball boy during the Chelsea clash. Photo: PA

Beware the iconic caretaker.

Around this time last year Manchester United bit the bullet and sacked Jose Mourinho.

To tide them over until they agreed on a new full-time manager, club bosses brought in a former striker as caretaker coach.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's experience as a Premier League manager was confined to a brief stint at Cardiff City where he lost a relegation battle before being sacked following a poor start in the Championship.

In 18 games in charge at Cardiff, Solskjaer had managed just three wins.

The Man United side he took over had just endured the club's worst start to a Premier League season. The omens weren't good.

"My job is to make them enjoy football," said the temporary boss. "It's down to me to work towards getting us happy, getting us smiling, getting us winning games."

Starting with a 1-5 away win at Cardiff, the history books show how Solskjaer made good on his stated ambitions.

By mid-January, having scored 17 goals in six games, Man United's win against Spurs saw the smiling Norwegian surpass Matt Busby's 72-year-old club record of five straight wins at the start of a managerial reign.


Last Saturday, as relegation zone side Everton ran riot against Chelsea in a 3-1 win at Goodison Park, there was more than a sense of deja-vu.

Watching Everton folk hero Duncan Ferguson inspire a team that had been on a disastrous losing streak, appearing to crush a ball boy with his exuberant celebrations, it was as if someone had slipped Everton's owners the Solskjaer blueprint.

As with Man United in the first months of Solskjaer's reign, Everton played with a passion and commitment that had drained from an anaemic side under previous bosses.

That Ferguson had engineered such a dramatic transformation in just two days made Everton's performance all the more remarkable.

Ferguson, the legendary centre-forward affectionately known as "Duncan Disorderly", will be in charge again when The Toffees visit Old Trafford on Sunday.

When Solskjaer was caretaker coach, his results were so impressive, the club's hierarchy didn't wait until the end of the season to appoint a full-time coach. They gave the Norwegian a three-year contract in March.

Ferguson's coaching experience has been as a member of Everton's coaching staff under a range of managers. But as with United's appointment of a club goalscoring legend, the move to install Ferguson, Everton's fearsome, totemic and physically imposing striker as their stop-gap coach now seems inspired.

Ferguson, who's worked at Goodison under Roberto Martinez, Ronald Koeman, David Unsworth, Sam Allardyce and Marco Silva and witnessed the club's gradual decline, has his own ideas of how the game should be played.

"We are not going to play pretty patterns," barked the Scottish bruiser following the win against Spurs. "We have got to make sure the work ethic, running around and covering the grass - doing the things they should be doing, anyway - remains. There is no walking. You have to cover the full-backs. You must run."

Everton bosses say they're searching for a more experienced manager to replace Silva and in the past week Unai Emery, David Moyes, Mikel Arteta, Carol Ancelotti, Vítor Pereira and, even, Eddie Howe have all been mentioned in dispatches.

But it will be Big Dunc who'll be in charge on Sunday and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will know what to expect from the caretaker.

"We have to bleed for this club," declared Ferguson before the Spurs' match. "We have to bleed on that pitch."

With just six league wins this season, Man United are in fifth place, five points behind Chelsea. Solskjaer will want to maintain momentum and build on impressive wins against Man City and Tottenham.

However, following his managerial debut, Ferguson sensed he could be in charge for a second time and admits, "You start thinking right away about Manchester United."

His objective is to neutralise Solskjaer's counter-attacking side and take the points tomorrow that will put more distance between Everton, currently 14th on 17 points, and the relegation zone.

Ferguson dreams of being Everton manager but he says, "Realistically the club needs a really top manager."

But, who knows, a second inspiring victory, this time at Old Trafford, might create an unstoppable wave.

Solskjaer, and Ferguson, will know this is not impossible.

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