“Tis not for Money they contend, but for Glory”.
Herodotus, The Persian Wars, 5th Century, BCE
I don’t follow the fortunes of football teams, Premier or otherwise, but I cannot avoid reading about the downfall of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, the erstwhile manager of Manchester United, following their 4-1 defeat against Watford yesterday. Apparently, Solskjaer signed a 3-year contract in March 2019 as Manchester United’s manager but the club’s recent track record shows only one win over the last seven Premier League games and, today, poor old Ole Gunnar has been sacked but with a golden farewell reported to be in the region of £7.5M.
Why has he been sacked? In the good old days, people went to watch a sporting event in the full and accepted knowledge that either one team will beat the other, or it will be a draw. What mattered was that the game was exciting, the players gave of their best, and the entertainment value was high. Sure, we would root for our own team but if they lost, so be it. As long as we had enjoyed the competition, the final result was but one factor in the overall enjoyment. Nowadays, and particularly in football, the only thing that seems to matter is who wins. I rarely watch football because I find most of the game boring but I do watch international rugby and, of course, I root for my home team, England. But I also applaud superb play by the opposing team. Yesterday’s Autumn International Rugby Series match between England and South Africa was a classic example of a match that either side could have won. The final score of 27-26 to England reflects a game well played with terrific place kicking from the South African kickers, Handre Pollard, Elton Jantjies and François Steyn, and a classical run-for-the-line try by England’s Raffi Quirke followed by a 79th-minute game-clincher penalty placed right between the posts by England’s new wonder boy, Marcus Smith. I was highly entertained for the full 80 minutes of the game and had Marcus Smith failed to nail it for England, I still would have enjoyed the game. It was marvellous rugby from both sides and both the winning manager, Eddie Jones (England), and the losing manager, Rassie Erasmus (South Africa), can take pride in a job well done.
Back to the Norwegian, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. I know nothing about him but I see he has a win percentage of 54.17% compared with, for example, 59.67% (Alex Ferguson, 1986-2013), 52.43% (Louis van Gaal, 2014-2016), and 58.33% (José Mourinho, 2016-2018). 54.17% is better than a 50% average and yet Solskjær has been booted out. Maybe it’s just a career move for him? Apply for a 3-year manager’s contract with Manchester United; build in a substantial early-termination severance payment; wait to be fired; buy a luxury yacht and cruise the world.
That would work for me but is it in the spirit of sport?
“It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game.”
Grantland Rice (Sportswriter), 1927