In spite of suffering a 5-0 home thrashing against Liverpool last weekend and with the pressure building by the day, coach Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will — by all accounts — still be in charge of Manchester United against Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday, and the fans are not happy about this at all. They want to see a change made immediately and it is easy to understand why following a string of poor performances and results this season.
Manchester United have been beaten in three of their last four English Premier League matches. Aston Villa, Leicester City and most recently Liverpool have all taken maximum points against a woefully out of sorts United side who now find themselves in seventh position in the table and already eight points adrift of leaders Chelsea in the race for the title. This is not good enough for the biggest football club in the world and make no bones about it, time is in short supply for the beleaguered boss at Old Trafford.
The 48-year-old has been taking training at United’s Carrington base as usual but reports are emerging of a fractured dressing room with several star players having fallen out with the Norwegian. Assurances over his long-term future by the club’s hierarchy have not been forthcoming either and it just seems like a matter of time before Solksjaer is given the boot.
Some are predicting the axe will fall next week if results do not improve and it is hard to see a change in fortunes when you take a look at United’s upcoming fixtures. It is a huge week for them as after their English Premier League clash against Tottenham they face a pivotal Champions League tie against Atalanta and then to round it off Solksjaer will need to galvanise his troops when they return to domestic action against none other than Manchester City. It’s a terrible run of fixtures that Solskjaer could have done without as every detail in those games will be scrutinised. And how City would love to be the team that gets him the sack …
When Solskjaer was appointed as coach, those in the know say it was just intended to be as a stopgap. In 2019, he signed a three-year contract to take over as Manchester United manager. Solskjaer had taken over from previous coach Jose Mourinho but it appears the club was vying for Mauricio Pochettino. Solksjaer, the club’s former super-sub, was supposed to come in, steady the ship and appease the fans before Pochettino was brought in however once it became clear the Argentine was joining Paris Saint-German, United were left with no real option but to give Solksjaer the role on a permanent basis. And sadly for the 20-time English champions, it has not worked out at all.
The problem now for United is that with such a big week coming up, parting company with the coach and going into the aforementioned games managerless would appear to be a huge risk and the wrong thing to do, after all, Solskjaer has won several big matches before and although he is struggling right now he has shown in the past that he can get the team playing well. Would it make sense for United to give the coach until at least the forthcoming international break before making a decision? Or would that just be delaying the inevitable?
His highlights reel as coach of United is rather short, there has been little to shout about while he has been at the helm, but seemed to be going pretty well back in 2019 when the team had beaten their city rivals 2-1 away at the Etihad Stadium on a cold winter night. Fast forward to 2021 and Solskjaer’s side look totally bereft of ideas. They lack a clear identity. There appears to be no fight in the players. It is hard to understand why when the board have backed the coach by bringing in several expensive high-profile stars to improve the squad. But, with an improved squad and more time in the hot seat, expectations of the Norwegian have risen too. And as of now, he is struggling to meet them.
With many believing United would adopt an attacking 4-3-3 formation following the arrivals of Jadon Sancho and Cristiano Ronaldo to support Marcus Rashford up front, oddly, the coach has continued with the defensive 4-2-3-1 approach. Solskjaer prefers the safety that the double pivot is intended to provide in midfield but it hasn’t worked because the players he has for those positions are just not good enough. Nemanja Matic, Fred and Scott McTominay are limited and as a result United have struggled to control games especially in the middle of the park.
The coach stuck with Fred and McTominay for the Liverpool match and it backfired completely as they were run ragged. Bruno Fernandes, Rashford, Mason Greenwood and Ronaldo who were all in the advanced roles were anonymous and it wasn’t the first time this season either. United have come under scrutiny — they tend to build up attacks too fast or they are far too pedestrian. There seems to be no distinct pattern of play or any real cohesion which makes playing against them pretty easy as the disappointing results suggest.
Solskjaer has been allowed to assemble an expensive squad that is bursting with talent but ultimately he lacks the tactical acumen of Jurgen Klopp or Guardiola. He has shown no indication that he is the man that can take United forward either. He should step down, take some time out and then and rebuild his reputation at a smaller club with far less attention on it because the longer he stays at United the more damage he is doing not just to the team but to himself too.