Mourinho v Solskjaer: Who Was Genuinely Worse?

Jose Mourinho

James Budgen

A rivalry nobody needed

Since the very start of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s tenure as Manchester United manager he was always compared to Jose Mourinho, one reason being because he was his direct replacement, but also he was brought in as manager for just being ‘anti-Jose’.

The rivalry intensified more when Jose became Tottenham Hotspur manager, with both managers taking digs at each other in press conferences and they clearly have a rivalry neither wanted to admit.

Both had very different jobs when taking charge of the club, as Mourinho's job was to make United title challenges and win trophies as soon as he took charge, but that ultimately didn’t go to plan, forcing in Solskjaer.

His job then was to take over and rebuild the club from its broken empire under Mourinho, getting rid of the players that have been unsuccessful at United for years and have a view of long term success and stability but still have some success in the short term.

With two different views, two different outcomes, and two different conclusions: we take a look at Ole v Jose in a statistical breakdown.

Manchester United Odds

skybet betting tip

MAN UTD TO WIN THEIR NEXT 3 PL FIXTURES: CHELSEA (A), ARSENAL (H), CRYSTAL PALACE (H) (WAS 8/1) @ 12/1

Mourinho time in Manchester

Mourinho had a better record at collecting trophies at Old Trafford, as he won three trophies during his time at the club, but all of this came in his first season in charge where he won the Community Shield in his first game against Leicester City, the Carabao Cup in a dramatic final against Southampton, and the Europa League against Ajax to secure Champions League status the next season too.

Mourinho reigned over Old Trafford from August 2016 to December 2018, completing 144 games as manager whereas Ole had a longer reign at the helm, taking over in December 2018 - initially as interim manager - and lasted until November 2021, managing 168 times at the helm.

Mourinho had a better record as United manager, as he had a 58.3% win percentage, winning 84 games, drawing 32, and losing 28 times during his time in charge. An ultimately, winning two major trophies on the side of this gives him the statistical edge over Solskjaer, but in reality, with a club like United in such disarray, the problems ran much deeper than just not getting trophies, something the Norwegian later resolved.

Manchester United Odds

skybet betting tip

MAN UTD TO LOSE THEIR NEXT 3 PL FIXTURES: CHELSEA (A), ARSENAL (H), CRYSTAL PALACE (H) @ 50/1

Solskjaer's time at United

Ole had a 54.2% win rate in charge of United, winning 91 times, drawing 37, and losing 40 games. A decent, but far from great record.

Solskjaer made one final in his time as manager, the Europa League final in May 2021, but lost on penalties to Villarreal. He did manage to also reach four semi-finals, losing twice to Manchester City in the Carabao Cup, losing to Chelsea in the FA Cup, and Sevilla in the Europa League.

What Solskjaer did give to United fans was a lot more goals, however, with Mourinho's emphasis always on defence. During Solskajer’s reign, his team scored 308 goals, an average of 1.83 goals per game, which is the highest post-Sir Alex Ferguson, whereas Mourinho scored 244 goals, an average of 1.69 goals per game. A huge contrast overall.

Solskjaer’s teams were a lot more attack-minded, with that showing in some results including a historic 9-0 win over Southampton, a 5-0 win over RB Leipzig in the Champions League, and scoring six goals against Roma in the Europa League semi-finals first leg.

The goals did come at the cost of defensive issues, which ultimately led to Solskjaer’s dismissal. He conceded 183 goals, an average of 1.09 per game, compared to Mourinho conceding 121 goals, an average of 0.84 per game. Their goal differences did end up very similar, as Solskjaer ended up with a goal difference of +125 compared to Mourinho who had a +123 goal difference.

It was attack versus defence, and there was barely a winner, in truth.

The lasting effects: Who did it better?

There is a massive difference in what state they left the club in. Mourinho left Solskjaer a team that had a lot of issues, including 10 players with contracts expiring in the summer, and a team whose potential was clearly not one that could possibly challenge for league titles.

When Solskjaer came in, he had to get rid of a lot of them, including Alexis Sanchez, Chris Smalling, Ashley Young, and Antonio Valencia who were clearly past their peaks and were not of United quality.

Solskjaer has left a squad that under another manager and a few tweaks could easily reach another level. Young players like Marcus Rashford, Mason Greenwood, and Jadon Sancho will only get better, and have a very high potential for many years to come where they all learned something from Solskjaer.

It is very relative to compare how successful the two were at United, the main reason being that they had different jobs to fulfill: Jose’s job was to win trophies with a short term vision, Solskjaer objectives were to rebuild the team and bring the clubs values back with a view of long term success.

Mourinho was successful in his first season, winning three trophies, but in the one and half years following, he finished second and reached the FA cup final, so for all that had to be rebuilt after his reign, the short term successes were not so great for what had to be rectified afterwards.

With Solskjaer, his effects on the club could carry over for the next decade, his management of young academy players like Mason Greenwood and Marcus Rashford to propel them to be major contributors in the first team is what United are all about, so even without winning a trophy during his tenure, if you are looking at the bigger picture for being successful, Solskjaer could be seen as more successful for what he has built.

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