For a long time, Chelsea chased the success of Manchester United. Specifically, Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United. There is no shame in saying that. Every club in the world wanted a manager that would stay for decades and bring success nearly every year.
But Chelsea couldn’t be that club. If a manager began to struggle, they would be sacked. The idea of a long term manager melted away, only briefly reviving with “what ifs” around Jose Mourinho’s return or Antonio Conte’s title win.
All was not right at United however. They have chased their past success ever since Ferguson retired. The closest they got, whether or not they would admit it or not, was when Mourinho was their manager. Mourinho did as he does though and burned bridges. It left United, after years in their own wilderness, looking for their soul again.
They seemingly found it with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. He came into the club, a former player but an inexperienced manager, and made United feel like United again. He was hardly the first former player turned manager in the world, but his achievements got many clubs thinking.
Chelsea was one of those clubs. When Maurizio Sarri quit to go to Juventus, and with a transfer ban coming, the Blues knew they needed someone to bring some of the club’s soul back. The Blues followed United’s lead. Frank Lampard returned and set about making Chelsea feel like Chelsea once again.
On that, he succeeded. Though the internet trolls will cry about the disaster that was Lampard’s tenure, for what it was it was a success. He made Chelsea feel like itself again and he laid foundations that will continue for years. But, when the results turned against Lampard, Chelsea did something United hesitated to do: they sacked Lampard.
Thomas Tuchel has been fantastic. He’s continued the feel good feeling that Lampard began and took it to another level. But more than anything, let’s talk about how he arrived. It is pretty clear that Chelsea had begun the process of hiring Tuchel before sacking Lampard. Lampard, legend that he may be, didn’t prompt handwringing with the Chelsea board. They knew something had to change and there was no room for sentiment.
That hasn’t been the case for United. There are about a dozen times when Solskjaer could have been sacked but wasn’t. This season alone, it has seen them miss out on Antonio Conte to a league rival. In fact, they are sacking him now for results that have been in place for a while. They have just sacked him when the manager pool is as shallow as it has been in some time.
So, while Chelsea may have looked at Solskjaer’s success and appointed Lampard, they did not wait when Lampard began to fail like United did when Solskjaer started to fail. The Blues got a fantastic manager with a good platform whereas United will have a weakened foundation as they look for someone, anyone, willing to take charge.
The Blues used to follow after United. Now United will be following the Blues. The balance of this game is shifted and United’s come up short, even if they did arrive at the right decision eventually.