Is Solskjaer on the brink at Man Utd?

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October 27, 2021
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    Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar SolskjaerOle Gunnar Solskjaer has overseen a 6-1 loss to Tottenham and now a 5-0 defeat by Liverpool since October 2020

    Manchester United's embarrassing 5-0 home defeat by Liverpool at Old Trafford has been followed by an avalanche of criticism towards manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

    Many fans believe the Norwegian should be sacked immediately after the worst home defeat to their biggest rivals, a result eclipsed only by a 7-1 defeat at Liverpool in 1895, when the club was still known as Newton Heath.

    Former players have said Solskjaer has got to go and although Gary Neville has said he would not call for the dismissal of his former team-mate and friend, the former United skipper did not hold back in his condemnation of an awful performance.

    Here, BBC Sport looks at what is going on at Old Trafford.

    • Solskjaer 'won't give up' after thrashing by Liverpool
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    • Football Daily podcast: The Manchester United inquest

    Could Solskjaer be sacked?

    Until someone from United says otherwise, yes. David Moyes and Jose Mourinho were both dismissed after Sunday afternoon defeats. In Moyes' case, it was a 2-0 defeat at Everton, which meant the club could not finish in the top four. For Mourinho, a 3-1 reverse at Liverpool proved to be his last game in charge.

    In both instances, their dismissal did not come until the Tuesday.

    United officials have said for months that Solskjaer is taking the club in the right direction. The Norwegian was given a new three-year contract in the summer. His assistant, Mike Phelan, was given one earlier this month and talks have been continuing with coaches Michael Carrick and Kieran McKenna.

    Given the way United tend to operate, it does feel telling in terms of Solskjaer's position that there has been no deviation from that position since the Liverpool game. It is clear any decision to remove Solskjaer would only be taken after a lot of thought and not as a knee-jerk reaction.

    That said, the sheer magnitude of the Liverpool defeat demands serious questions being asked of Solskjaer and his staff, and especially because United have now taken one point from their last four games – and have three difficult games against Tottenham away, Manchester City and Chelsea, plus Watford, to play in their next four.

    Solskjaer described the loss as his darkest day as United manager, but vowed to carry on despite the extra pressure the result puts on him. The club is seventh in the Premier League with 14 points from nine games – already eight points behind leaders Chelsea.

    Executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward talks to the Glazer family almost every day. Managing director Richard Arnold, expected to replace Woodward when he leaves at the end of this year, also has regular communication with the club's owners.

    It is inconceivable the manager's on-going future has not been part of those regular discussions. That does not necessarily mean Sunday's humiliating result will lead to them sacking him though.

    What do the players think?

    BBC Sport understands an increasing number of players are starting to lose faith in Solskjaer. They don't trust his tactics and feel he is out of his depth compared to managers at the bigger clubs, namely Pep Guardiola, Jurgen Klopp and Thomas Tuchel.

    This could be viewed as players trying to absolve themselves from responsibility over a collective mess. However, numerous ex-players have also condemned Solskjaer for the way his team performed against Liverpool, for both their individual and half-hearted approach to pressing Klopp's side and their inability or unwillingness to track runners.

    After the victory against Atalanta on Wednesday – when they were 2-0 down at half time – former United midfielder Paul Scholes said he feared for what would happen against Liverpool if his old club played in a similar way.

    They did, with exactly the same starting line-up, and the outcome was embarrassing.

    Players in a team coached by Guardiola, Klopp or Tuchel would not get away with the lack of energy or discipline shown by United against Liverpool or last week at Leicester City, the narrative goes.

    One visible difference between the coaches is their relative presence in the technical area. While the Spaniard and the two Germans are an almost constant pitchside presence during matches – with other coaches rarely offering instruction – United tend to rotate their staff to impart advice.

    That said, it was noticeable that Solskjaer – who doesn't take training sessions – was more visible against Liverpool than is usually the case.

    What is beyond doubt is that whatever tactics and patterns of play Solskjaer wants his team to use, his players have been unwilling or unable to carry them out – with the Liverpool thrashing the culmination of a season of modest United performances.

    What are the options?

    Clearly, the easiest decision would be to leave Solskjaer where he is. Many fans feel that is unacceptable but United stuck by Moyes, Louis van Gaal and Mourinho long after many thought they should have been dispensed with. In addition, their desire to stick to the 'club DNA' model that brought Solskjaer to the club in the first place should not be underestimated.

    However, the scale of the Liverpool defeat has undermined the confidence of even less reactionary supporters, who feel the club should act decisively.

    That would however create another obvious problem for them to solve. When Moyes and Mourinho left in mid-season, United turned to a celebrated old boy to steady the ship, first Ryan Giggs – who was part of the coaching team already – and then Solskjaer, who was called in from Norway, where he was in charge of Molde.

    The idea of replacing Solskjaer with a United legend as an interim – even if one could be found who was willing to take over from, potentially, a popular former team-mate – does not seem to fit.

    There are two high-profile potential candidates out of work in former Chelsea boss Antonio Conte and ex-Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane.

    Conte would seem at odds with United's long-term approach and his feisty personality may not appeal to the club's hierarchy, but his Serie A title success in Italy last season with Inter Milan proves he retains an ability to win major prizes.

    Zidane won every honour in the game at Real, but there is uncertainty over the amount of hands-on coaching he did and, with the likes of Klopp and Guardiola lauded for their improvement of players, United may feel they want to match their rivals with a new appointment.

    The Frenchman also has no experience of the Premier League and does not speak English – although Leeds' Marcelo Bielsa has proved that is not a barrier to success.

    Beyond that, Ajax's Eric ten Hag refused to leave mid-season when the vacancy at Bayern Munich arose in 2019, while it is not known how seriously United would consider another manager in the ascendancy in Leicester City's Brendan Rodgers, given his Liverpool connection.

    It may be that a lack of an attractive available replacement may count in favour of Solskjaer being given time to make up for his "darkest day" against Liverpool.

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    3767 commentsShowLatestOldestHighest RatedMost Replied

    • T

      Comment posted by tashyboy, at 20:40 25 Oct

      Vote up to keep him
      Vote down to go1772283

      • B

        Reply posted by brave as a lion, at 20:43 25 Oct

        "Vote up to keep himVote down to go"brave as a lion replied: What if you don’t care ?36552

      More replies (51)

    • W

      Comment posted by Wolfman1982, at 20:39 25 Oct

      Liverpool fan here. Ole brought a feel good factor again, like Klopp did initially. He’s spent lots but still has a team of individuals, he doesn’t seem to have that X factor the Peps, Tuchels of the world have to step up in big games. United need a top manager, but again it’s a long term project. United fans, this is what the 90s felt like for a Liverpool fan, its gonna be a long winding road.83414

      • D

        Reply posted by DegsyB, at 20:57 25 Oct

        "Liverpool fan here. Ole brought a feel good factor again, like Klopp did initially. He’s spent lots but still has a team of individuals, he doesn’t seem to have that X factor the Peps, Tuchels of the world have to step up in big games. United need a top manager, but again it’s a long term project. United fans, this is what the 90s felt like for a Liverpool fan, its gonna be a long winding road."DegsyB replied: I totally agree with you and as a Utd fan Utd, Liverpool as well as utd took a while to get over the likes of the Fergie / Shanks / Benitez, Nowadays too many fans think of instant success after a successful manager has left, but as we know it all takes time34913

      More replies (89)

    • D

      Comment posted by DGD1968, at 20:41 25 Oct

      Stuck with Moyes, they hung him out to dry after giving him virtually no backing until he had to panic buy. Man Utd treated Moyes atrociously and didn’t give him even a season. Yet Ole given time and money and still flopping.78823

      • P

        Reply posted by Pat Pending, at 20:49 25 Oct

        "Stuck with Moyes, they hung him out to dry after giving him virtually no backing until he had to panic buy. Man Utd treated Moyes atrociously and didn’t give him even a season. Yet Ole given time and money and still flopping."Pat Pending replied: And look at West Ham now.64612

      More replies (39)

    • W

      Comment posted by waghelak, at 20:36 25 Oct

      Please don’t sack him79945

      • T

        Reply posted by toffeeforever, at 20:47 25 Oct

        "Please don’t sack him"toffeeforever replied: Most Man Utd fans want him to go – fans of every other club want him to remain, preferably with a longer contract. Given his ‘popularity’ with everyone but his own supporters probably means he’ll be sacked. Shame.29429

      More replies (30)

    • H

      Comment posted by hunkydory, at 20:46 25 Oct

      It’s all very well putting the blame solely on the manager but players like Pogba earning millions of pounds a year have been taking the Mickey out of the club and it’s fans54516

      • N

        Reply posted by nick_tt, at 20:49 25 Oct

        "It’s all very well putting the blame solely on the manager but players like Pogba earning millions of pounds a year have been taking the Mickey out of the club and it’s fans"nick_tt replied: He has….but yet again that is still the fault of the Ole and the club for continually sticking up for pogba and for not selling him, it was clear at least 2yrs ago that he was useless32914

      More replies (34)

    • O

      Comment posted by ObjectOne, at 20:39 25 Oct

      Wait, didn’t McNulty only just write a “Man United turning the corner” piece a couple of weeks ago…4588

      • S

        Reply posted by Scamp, at 20:41 25 Oct

        "Wait, didn’t McNulty only just write a “Man United turning the corner” piece a couple of weeks ago…"Scamp replied: Poorer than the United team yesterday but stays in his job24413

      More replies (22)

    • Q

      Comment posted by quietvoice_of_reason, at 20:37 25 Oct

      Any Man Utd manager is Dead Man Walking until the influence of Alex Ferguson is knocked back.37937

      • J

        Reply posted by Jase, at 20:38 25 Oct

        "Any Man Utd manager is Dead Man Walking until the influence of Alex Ferguson is knocked back."Jase replied: Come on , if Ferguson had any influence , they wouldn’t be playing so badly.122178

      More replies (27)

    • I

      Comment posted by Indefatigable Spirit, at 20:39 25 Oct

      Keep him on! Let the fun continue for fans of every other club.35833

      • F

        Reply posted by Fan Of Whoever Plays Man Utd, at 20:54 25 Oct

        "Keep him on! Let the fun continue for fans of every other club."Fan Of Whoever Plays Man Utd replied: Come on Man Utd you can’t sack a manager that is loved by other teams fans, it wouldn’t be right nor proper.21216

      More replies (3)

    • A

      Comment posted by Azathoth, at 20:34 25 Oct

      Long may he reign!25917

      • L

        Reply posted by Lets Agree To Disagree, at 20:51 25 Oct

        "Long may he reign!"Lets Agree To Disagree replied: I hope he doesn’t get the sack, it will take the gross of yesterday’s win.5725

      More replies (12)

    • P

      Comment posted by Perry Scope, at 20:38 25 Oct

      The elephant in the room …… Sir Alex Ferguson. Until his interfering omnipresence is terminated, the club will never come good again.28274

      • B

        Reply posted by bunny westmore, at 20:58 25 Oct

        "The elephant in the room …… Sir Alex Ferguson. Until his interfering omnipresence is terminated, the club will never come good again."bunny westmore replied: Dont you think its obvious he plays no part? After backing the Glazer takeover he has been left to realise his legacy is tainted5651

      More replies (16)

    • M

      Comment posted by MarkC, at 20:40 25 Oct

      Steve Bruce available……21319

      • B

        Reply posted by bunny westmore, at 20:50 25 Oct

        "Steve Bruce available……"bunny westmore replied: What…to replace Maguire at the back?5982

      More replies (17)

    • T

      Comment posted by thickskinned chemistry , at 20:39 25 Oct

      please don’t sack him. its pure comedy.20620

      • K

        Reply posted by KR, at 20:42 25 Oct

        "please don’t sack him. its pure comedy."KR replied: Best comedy since Only Fools and Horses9819

      More replies (9)

    • P

      Comment posted by Pete_B, at 20:42 25 Oct

      A championship standard manager who tactically hasn’t a clue, can’t even organise a defence, players obviously unfit and don’t respect him. Players will at least look up to someone like Zidane. On paper they are top 4, but if they stick with OGS will be lucky to qualify for the Europa. Sad because he seems like a genuinely good guy.18511

      • F

        Reply posted by forestfandownunder, at 20:50 25 Oct

        "A championship standard manager who tactically hasn’t a clue, can’t even organise a defence, players obviously unfit and don’t respect him. Players will at least look up to someone like Zidane. On paper they are top 4, but if they stick with OGS will be lucky to qualify for the Europa. Sad because he seems like a genuinely good guy."forestfandownunder replied: Which club in the Championship would give him a go?1202

      More replies (27)

    • M

      Comment posted by Me, at 20:41 25 Oct

      As a Plymouth Argyle fan, we have seen huge changes at the club, a philosophy change of how football should be played, every team at all levels have to play the same way, a director of football with 20 years of experience including managing England youth teams.

      Man U have no system and no one with experience of coaching leading the team. Oles staff are recent players as well, blame top to bottom1583

      • C

        Reply posted by Celts, at 21:08 25 Oct

        "As a Plymouth Argyle fan, we have seen huge changes at the club, a philosophy change of how football should be played, every team at all levels have to play the same way, a director of football with 20 years of experience including managing England youth teams. Man U have no system and no one with experience of coaching leading the team. Oles staff are recent players as well, blame top to bottom"Celts replied: It doesn’t matter if they get rid of Ole.

        Moyes failed, Van Gaal failed, Mourinho failed, Ole failed. The next guy will fail too!

        Why? Because the club is rotten to it’s core. The fans are toxic, walking out the stadium with 40 minutes still to play. They’re obsessed with Ronaldo, even though he’s hurting Greenwood and Sanchos development.

        Don’t joined United, it’s a poisonous club!28269

      More replies (26)

    • S

      Comment posted by Spellingmistookshappen, at 21:10 25 Oct

      Blimey, I’m a West Ham fan, not bothered either way, but can you the BBC call it a day! We get it, you want to drive Ole out, but the board don’t. Get over it!
      Same with poor Steve Bruce, could have kept him on until Christmas, but no, too much hounding.
      All very poor.
      Let Ole try to get it sorted, if he loses his job, it shouldn’t be influenced by BBC16516

      • C

        Reply posted by CoqOVan, at 21:16 25 Oct

        "Blimey, I’m a West Ham fan, not bothered either way, but can you the BBC call it a day! We get it, you want to drive Ole out, but the board don’t. Get over it!Same with poor Steve Bruce, could have kept him on until Christmas, but no, too much hounding.All very poor.Let Ole try to get it sorted, if he loses his job, it shouldn’t be influenced by BBC"CoqOVan replied: Good point it’s a witch trial.667

      More replies (15)

    • G

      Comment posted by Gerard Ross, at 20:42 25 Oct

      Please give him another 5 or 6 years.16014

      • F

        Reply posted by Fan Of Whoever Plays Man Utd, at 20:56 25 Oct

        "Please give him another 5 or 6 years."Fan Of Whoever Plays Man Utd replied: Please Man Utd, if all Liverpool fans apologise for yesterday’s result can Ole stay for another 5 years at least.1277

      More replies (10)

    • G

      Comment posted by getreal, at 20:33 25 Oct

      As a Liverpool fan, I sincerely hope not,15618

      • G

        Reply posted by Gnugent, at 20:37 25 Oct

        "As a Liverpool fan, I sincerely hope not,"Gnugent replied: As a city fan I agree. Heck we could even make a statue of him If they go down.17418

      More replies (20)

    • G

      Comment posted by geow93, at 20:36 25 Oct

      Remember when they won the league after signing Ronaldo!13812

      • D

        Reply posted by Dallas Cowboys Liverpool FC, at 21:03 25 Oct

        "Remember when they won the league after signing Ronaldo!"Dallas Cowboys Liverpool FC replied: It’s all fun and games, until Ole gets the sack, or something like that, as the saying goes, I believe.185

      More replies (4)

    • A

      Comment posted by Astralcharmer, at 20:46 25 Oct

      To be honest Liverpool weren’t even at their best and took their foot off the peddle when Pogba was sent off. What if they had but 7 or 8 past United yesterday?1233

      • M

        Reply posted by margaret, at 21:27 25 Oct

        "To be honest Liverpool weren’t even at their best and took their foot off the peddle when Pogba was sent off. What if they had but 7 or 8 past United yesterday?"margaret replied: Brendan Rodgers will be the next manager of Manchester United, you can take that to the Bank.2869

      More replies (23)

    • D

      Comment posted by daniel, at 21:07 25 Oct

      Too many egos at Man Utd at the moment. Players who have a very high opinion of themselves, but go missing when things get tough. Humility & hard work goes a long way ask Milner.1201

      • L

        Reply posted by laurie, at 21:27 25 Oct

        "Too many egos at Man Utd at the moment. Players who have a very high opinion of themselves, but go missing when things get tough. Humility & hard work goes a long way ask Milner."laurie replied: ‘Milly’ an excellent professional692

      More replies (2)

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