Manchester United: is Ole Gunnar Solskjaer on the brink of sacking?

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer oversaw a 6-1 loss to Tottenham and now a 5-0 loss to Liverpool since October 2020

Manchester United’s embarrassing 5-0 home loss to Liverpool at Old Trafford was followed by an avalanche of criticism towards manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

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

Former players have said Solskjaer must leave and although Gary Neville has said he will not call for the sacking of his former teammate and friend, the former United skipper has not shied away from condemning a horrific performance.

Here, BBC Sport watches what’s going on at Old Trafford.

Could Solskjaer be sacked?

Until someone from United says otherwise, yes. David Moyes and Jose Mourinho were both sacked after losses on Sunday afternoon. In Moyes’ case, it was a 2-0 loss to Everton, which meant the club couldn’t finish in the top four. For Mourinho, a 3-1 loss to Liverpool proved to be his last game in charge.

In both cases, their dismissal only took place on Tuesday.

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

Considering the way United tend to operate, it seems indicative of Solskjaer’s position that there has been no deviation from that position since the game against Liverpool. It is clear that any decision to remove Solskjaer would only be taken after careful consideration and not as a knee-jerk reaction.

That said, the magnitude of Liverpool’s defeat requires serious questions to be asked of Solskjaer and his staff, and especially because United have now taken a point from their last four games – and have three tough games against Tottenham in the away, Manchester City and Chelsea, plus Watford, to play in their next four.

Solskjaer described the defeat as his darkest day as United manager, but vowed to continue despite the added pressure the result places on him. The club are seventh in the Premier League with 14 points in nine games, already eight points behind leaders Chelsea.

Executive Vice President Ed Woodward speaks to the Glazer family almost every day. General manager Richard Arnold, who is expected to replace Woodward when he leaves at the end of this year, also has regular communication with club owners.

It is inconceivable that the future of the manager was not part of these regular discussions. That doesn’t necessarily mean Sunday’s humiliating result will lead them to sack him.

What do the players think?

BBC Sport understands that a growing number of players are starting to lose faith in Solskjaer. They do not trust his tactics and feel that he is outdated compared to the managers of the biggest clubs, namely Pep Guardiola, Jurgen Klopp and Thomas Tuchel.

It could be seen as players trying to shirk responsibility for a collective mess. However, many former players have also condemned Solskjaer for the way his team played against Liverpool, both for their individual and half-hearted approach to pressuring Klopp’s side and their inability or unwillingness to keep up with the runners.

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

They did it, with exactly the same starting XI, and the result was embarrassing.

Players from a side coached by Guardiola, Klopp or Tuchel wouldn’t get away with the lack of energy or discipline shown by United against Liverpool or Leicester City last week, according to the account.

One visible difference between coaches is their relative presence in the technical field. While the Spaniard and the two Germans are an almost constant presence on the pitch during games – with other coaches rarely offering instructions – United tend to turn their staff around to give advice.

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

What there is no doubt is that whatever tactics and play patterns Solskjaer wants his team to use, his players either were unwilling or unable to implement them – with Liverpool beating down the culmination of a season of modest United performances.

What are the options?

Obviously, the easiest decision would be to leave Solskjaer where he is. Many fans think this is unacceptable, but United got stuck by Moyes, Louis van Gaal and Mourinho long after many thought they should have been cut. Moreover, 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 Liverpool’s defeat has undermined the confidence of even less reactionary fans, who believe the club should act decisively.

This would create another obvious problem to solve, however. When Moyes and Mourinho left mid-season, United turned to a famous old boy to stabilize the ship, first Ryan Giggs – who was already on the coaching staff – then Solskjaer, who has been called from Norway, where he was in charge of Molde.

The idea of ​​replacing Solskjaer with a United legend as an interim – even if someone could be found willing to succeed, potentially, a popular former team-mate – doesn’t seem to fit.

There are two potential high profile candidates without jobs in ex-Chelsea boss Antonio Conte and ex-Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane.

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

Zidane took home all the game’s honors at Real, but there is uncertainty as to the amount of practical coaching he has done and, with people like Klopp and Guardiola praised for improving their players, United may have. the impression of wanting to compete with its rivals. a new appointment.

The Frenchman also has no Premier League experience and does not speak English – although Marcelo Bielsa of Leeds has proven that this is no obstacle to success.

Beyond that, Ajax’s Eric ten Hag refused to leave mid-season when the vacant Bayern Munich post emerged in 2019, when it is unclear how seriously United would consider another manager at Leicester City’s Brendan Rodgers head, given his connection with Liverpool.

It may be that the absence of an attractive available replacement could count for Solskjaer to have time to make up for his “darkest day” against Liverpool.

Manchester United's next matches
Manchester United have a series of tough fixtures ahead

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