IT is convenient for the Manchester United hierarchy that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s swingometer veers so wildly between triumph and disaster.
Because debate over the manager’s future serves as a smokescreen when there are more fundamental questions to be answered.
Are United even serious about wanting to be an elite football club any more?
From the boardroom to the dressing room, are United actually willing to commit to the highest standards needed to challenge for the Premier League and the Champions League?
Can they be bothered to strive for excellence?
Do they have sufficient motivation to be relentlessly successful?
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Are the Glazer family merely content to take millions out of the club in dividends each year, or are these Donald Trump supporters genuinely driven to make United great again?
Does managing director Richard Arnold care about major trophies when he is happy to claim the club’s social media reach makes them bigger than Jesus?
Is executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward only now interested in self-preservation, given that his own future is bound so tightly with that of Solskjaer?
Do any of them want a proper director of football, employed to recruit the footballers that United actually need, rather than those with the commercial clout and social-media reach?
Does Edinson Cavani want to warm up properly for £174,000 per week?
Is Paul Pogba’s heart really in it? Truly? Week in, week out? A world-class footballer who costs United as many matches as he wins them.
Did Solskjaer even particularly want Cavani or Donny van de Beek, when the club should obviously have prioritised a top-class centre-half?
Solskjaer is patently not the best man for the manager’s job.
He got the gig on a caretaker basis because he was a terrace idol and he was very definitely not Jose Mourinho. Then he kept it after an extraordinary early burst of form.
The Norwegian is not a disastrously poor manager but he certainly isn’t a great one.
So the old swingometer swings – and this season more wildly than ever.
A 6-1 home thrashing by Tottenham, then two outstanding results in Europe, then a grim home defeat by Arsenal leaving United without a win in six home Premier League matches.
But sticking with Solskjaer suits the players, directors and owners – all very nicely off in their comfort zones – because he is not sufficiently demanding enough of any of them.
Would Solskjaer’s most obvious successor, Mauricio Pochettino – out of work for almost a year now – even want to commit to a club so accepting of mediocrity?
Pochettino, who made a rare public appearance on Sky’s Monday Night Football last night, has the highest footballing standards. Alex Ferguson recognised it in him.
The Argentinian wouldn’t accept the lack of focus on sporting excellence among United’s directors or their players.
United might have moved for Pochettino on several occasions, both before and after he left Spurs.
That they haven’t suggests they are prepared to drift along – sneaking into the top four being deemed a success, maybe a domestic knockout trophy thrown in if they can stop bottling semi-finals.
It feels as if too many people at United think that is good enough.
Despite those Champions League successes against Paris Saint-Germain and RB Leipzig, United are not in a false position in the Premier League – unless you argue that they should actually be lower than 15th.
Solskjaer’s men have been comprehensively outplayed in four of their six fixtures – their 3-2 victory over Brighton was utterly freakish, the Seagulls hitting the woodwork five times and United scoring the winning penalty after the final whistle had blown.
And in the goalless draw against Chelsea, United survived a shout for a stonewall penalty against Harry Maguire.
So United might easily have lost five out of six and stood 17th.
This is not to suggest that they will finish in the bottom four, even the bottom half.
United have enough good players to win a fair proportion of matches.
They may defeat a below-strength Everton next weekend and will probably end that horrible home run against West Brom, allowing the Solskjaer swingometer to move away from the disaster zone.
However, those underlying issues won’t have changed. From top to bottom, United must now prove they are serious.