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06th Jul 2019

Frank Lampard will be the new yardstick against which Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is judged

Wayne Farry

The 2019/20 Premier League season is going to be an interesting one

Manchester City and Liverpool look as strong as ever, while Tottenham Hotspur have actually signed a human football player – Tanguy Ndombele – in a move that will shore up one of the problem areas for Mauricio Pochettino’s side.

The power in the league appears to have switched to those three sides, but for two of the league’s traditional powerhouses, the new season represents something of a step into the unknown.

Chelsea and Manchester United come into the new campaign off the back of very different seasons but are in similar positions.

Both clubs are experiencing a period of transition and are being led into this moment of uncertainty by club legends in Frank Lampard and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer respectively.

The challenges that each face, and the limitations each encounter, will go a long way to deciding which – if either of them – are to remain at their clubs in the long term.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has been the recipient of a huge amount of good faith from Manchester United supporters since the club’s nosedive in form and confidence following their surprise elimination of Paris Saint-Germain in last season’s Champions League second round.

That comeback precipitated a collapse in the league and was the first step of a sad journey which saw them end the domestic campaign with a defeat to already relegated Cardiff City.

Appreciating the difficulties in managing a football club possessing vast resources which are controlled by owners with apparently no clear to desire to win, the general reaction from supporters has been one of sympathy for their manager.

The cache the Norwegian has built up from his playing escapades and his initial impact at the club after the sacking of Mourinho has lasted through the tough times to date, but should United struggle to start the season in a positive manner, pressure will mount, last minute winner in Barcelona or not.

Lampard’s appointment at Stamford Bridge has been met with universal delight by supporters of the club. The 41-year-old is an undisputed club legend and was one of the greatest footballers of his generation.

He has no easy task on his hands, taking over a team which has just sold its best player to Real Madrid and is unable to replace him due to a transfer ban.

Add to this a Chelsea squad which has inherited its predecessors’ attitude of ‘if we don’t like you, you’re out’ and it’s clear that it won’t be plain sailing for the former Derby County coach.

But like Solskjaer before him, the goodwill is there and he will be given time. For any manager lucky enough to receive goodwill rather than lurking suspicion from the off, it’s imperative that they take advantage of it.

For Lampard, that is making the most of an unfortunate situation and using the current transfer embargo to foster a culture of togetherness and a siege mentality among his players.

If he can do that, he might just bring the best out of a group that has a nice blend of experienced internationals and wet-behind-the-ears young players eager to prove themselves at a club that has no choice but to keep them after years of loaning them out.

Doing that could see this group of hungry players, and their manager, shock a few people and finish a lot higher than expected.

It could also, if their results continue to go the way they went towards the end of last season, cast a stark and unwelcome light on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

Managers are always compared to each other regardless of the resources at their disposal. But the link between Lampard and Solskjaer – both heroes back at the scene of their most brilliant acts – means that their results will be scrutinised against the other’s far more than usual.

Should Lampard succeed in getting Chelsea off to a good start and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer fails to do so with what by the time the season starts should be a much stronger Manchester United squad, he will – rightly or wrongly – face an increased level of scrutiny from his club and his supporters.

There will be question marks over why one returning legend can motivate his team, without new signings, while the other is unable to do so. Crucially, it will also make Manchester United’s decision-makers ask questions over his suitability for the role.

It will make his star players look with envious eyes at Stamford Bridge, wondering why their manager can’t do what Lampard is doing, and it will make supporters, eventually, call for his head.

A good start is always important for any football manager, but for Lampard and Solskjaer – in this most unique of situations – it could be the difference between keeping their job and losing it.