Being a victim of keyboard warriors, Steve Darby was always sympathetic towards Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
The Manchester United manager was abused by fans after a poor start which saw the club languishing in the lower reaches of the Premier League.
Adding fuel to the fire was United’s exit from the Champions League despite winning three of its opening four matches.
That resulted in #oleout trending on social media, but the United board stuck with its man and the club is now reaping the benefits.
Since the Champions League exit, Solskjaer has steered United to the top of the Premier League.
United, however, faces its biggest test of the season against arch rival and defending champion Liverpool on Monday (12.30am).
“I thought the #oleout calls were pathetic, fuelled by social media,” said Darby who turns 66 today.
“I’m glad he was given the time to turn things around. My feeling is the key issue of how Ole handles (Paul) Pogba.
“He could be cancer to the team. But the key to United’s success is without doubt (Bruno) Fernandes … and, of course, penalties!” added the former Perak, Johor and Kelantan coach.
Pogba has voiced his intention of leaving United but with Fernandes fitting in so effortlessly into the side, won’t be missed.
Fernandes has been a revelation since joining United last January. In that time, the Portuguese international has assisted 14 goals and scored 19, including nine penalties.
More importantly, United has won 11 and drawn two from the 13 league matches in which the 26-year-old has set up a goal.
“(Jordan) Henderson has to win his battle against Fernandes if Liverpool is to win this game,” said Darby who has also coached in Vietnam, Thailand, India, Laos, Singapore and Australia.
Asked what has gone wrong for Liverpool in recent weeks – it has only collected two points from its last three matches – Darby said it could be teams have begun to nullify the threat Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold.
“It is not a crisis as the club can go back on top if it beats United.
“Tactically, it may well be that teams are blocking TAA and Robertson, who are major suppliers,” said the former goalkeeper.
“Without Thiago (Alcantara), the Liverpool midfield tends to be hardworking, instead of creative. Thiago has just returned from injury but I believe he will start the game.”
Darby feels Xherdan Shaqiri, another who has just returned from injury, is a good attacking option to have off the bench. Darby also said he doesn’t see Liverpool buying any centrebacks as Covid-19 has made finances complex.
“It is freakish for one team to lose three centrebacks (Joel Matip, Joe Gomez and Virgil van Dijk) to injury.
“Fabinho has been excellent in the heart of defence but the two young boys (Rhys Williams and Nathan Phillips) are not there yet,” he said.
“Gomez and van Dijk are unlikely to play again this season but I don’t see Liverpool buying anyone. What happens when all are fit? Sell one of them?”
Separately, Darby hopes everyone stays safe as Merseyside has recorded a 300 per cent increase in Covid-19 cases this month.
FIXTURES (Malaysian time)
Wolves vs West Brom (8.30pm)
West Ham vs Burnley (11pm)
Leeds vs Brighton (11pm)
Fulham vs Chelsea (1.30am)
Leicester vs Southampton (4am)
Sheffield United vs Tottenham (10.05pm)
Liverpool vs Manchester United (12.30am)
Manchester City vs Crystal Palace (3.15am)
Arsenal vs Newcastle (4am)