Ole Gunnar Solskjær

Saw this Mayapple in the woods the other day (its flower is hidden beneath the leaves). It reminded me of Ole because of its impish smile (to anyone who’s English out there, his name is not pronounced Olé). Having an impish smile doesn’t mean that Ole is naive–nor does the fact that he’s Norwegian–though there is a natural tendency to think that a Norwegian with an impish smile rolls that way. The pundits generally believe our Ole is a good coach, but lacks nous, the English term for gravitas. For example, he doesn’t understand how to defeat the low press. He doesn’t rigidly choreograph his players movements like Conte or Guardiola (less rigidly) or map out complex movements on the field like Bielsa. The complexity of football has increased tenfold since he was a player and he is in over his head. He’s too nice a guy. Ole just wants everyone to have fun, be creative, and score goals the good old fashioned Ferguson way.

I personally don’t know. I’m not privy to anything that Ole or his staff does on the field in practice or in individual and group talks. The thing is nobody else is either. He is being defined by surface qualities that may or may not accurately reflect his intelligence and ability as a football manager. But, of course, in a world in which image is everything, why is this surprising? The criticism by the pundits implies that being a genuinely good and decent human being isn’t enough, that you can’t win unless you’re ruthless, obsessed, and narcissistic. I wonder.