THEY are both club legends and folk heroes, immortalised for their parts in Champions League glory and title wins.
Frank Lampard and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer claimed the manager’s jobs at Chelsea and Manchester United on account of their storied playing careers — and neither would deny it.
Until now, both inexperienced bosses have enjoyed honeymoon periods, both have benefited from lowered expectations, both have been offered more patience than any of their recent predecessors.
Soon, though, all that will change. Soon, they will face the demands and pressures they thrived upon as players.
Soon, there will be no hiding place.
Soon we will discover whether these unlikely lads really are the right men to lead their clubs back to serious title contention.
Chelsea and United are now emerging from the coronavirus crisis in positions of relative financial strength.
While champions-elect Liverpool plead poverty, Spurs take a £175million bank loan and Manchester City face the prospect of European expulsion, Chelsea are already tearing it up in the transfer market.
Great players tend to have great egos and if they don’t fit in, they can become troublesome."
United, despite taking out a £140m loan of their own, are promising to make some major signings too.
Lampard’s period of grace has been somewhat more obvious than Solskjaer’s, given Chelsea’s transfer ban last summer — plus the feelgood factor generated by the blooming of his club’s once-stunted youth policy.
But with Timo Werner and Hakim Ziyech in the bag, and with Bayer Leverkusen’s Kai Havertz on the radar, Chelsea look like they could be returning to the peak years of owner Roman Abramovich’s reign.
Lampard knows Abramovich’s Chelsea better than anyone. He knows ambition is vast, patience is thin and signings are not always the manager’s recommendations.
Of course Lampard also knows that world-class signings were needed if Chelsea were to once again challenge for the title and Champions League.
The home stuffing by Bayern Munich shortly before lockdown was sobering and stark.
Yet Lampard will remember stellar names such as Andriy Shevchenko, Michael Ballack and Fernando Torres arriving at Stamford Bridge when managers had their reservations about them.
Great players tend to have great egos and if they don’t fit in, they can become troublesome.
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