By Spy Uganda
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.
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 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.
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.