Could any Manchester United manager, let alone under-fire Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, survive a worst-ever 5-0 home loss to rival Liverpool?
That’s the question Man United supporters and club executives are grappling with in the embarrassing aftermath, according to reports on Monday. The Manchester Evening News is reporting that “the club hierarchy is giving serious consideration to dismissing Solskjaer before United’s next game.”
New detail added to the below story: “The managing director, Richard Arnold, is understood to have cancelled all appointments on Monday to hold talks with [Joel] Glazer”… https://t.co/NZ1oWN47ep
— jamie jackson (@JamieJackson___) October 25, 2021
Man Utd silent amid growing speculation over Solskjaer’s future. Manager spent two-and-a-half hours at Carrington today while owners hold crisis talks with Woodward & Arnold https://t.co/5XlUQJt3aW via @MailSport #mufc
— Chris Wheeler (@ChrisWheelerDM) October 25, 2021
Solskjaer still feels he’s the right man for the job and he’s not about to step aside even though he called it “rock bottom”:
“I have come too far, we have come too far as a group. We are too close to give up now. It is going to be a difficult one,” Solskjaer told media after the Liverpool loss. “The players will be low, but there’s loads of characters there. We know we are rock bottom, we can’t feel any worse than this. Let’s see where we take it.”
The case against Solskjaer
Despite a number of big signings this offseason, including Raphael Varane ($44 million paid to Real Madrid), Jadon Sancho ($93 million paid to Borussia Dortmund) and Cristiano Ronaldo ($16 million to Juventus), Manchester United haven’t played well this season, and even their wins haven’t been convincing.
MORE: How Cristiano Ronaldo escaped a red card vs. Liverpool
United are on a four-game winless streak in league play, which has dropped them to seventh place in the standings, eight points behind leaders Chelsea. The Red Devils have already been eliminated from the Carabao Cup (League Cup) and have needed to come from behind in their last two Champions League matches to win after opening with a shock loss to Swiss side Young Boys. The 5-0 loss to Liverpool was the low point of a challenging few weeks.
Solskjaer’s tactics have also been called into question: the team has shown a lack of organization and coordinated movements without the ball, and there’s no sophistication to the attacking sequences, which have instead relied on moments of individual brilliance. The elite competition of the UEFA Champions League has exposed those failings with his teams losing about half of the matches played in the competition (7 of 13).
All this has led to public comments from his own players about tactics and gameplans, and that has led to reports that Solskjaer has lost “the trust of a number of players”:
▪️ Antonio Conte wants the Man Utd job
▪️ ‘Disbelief’ that Solskjaer picked the same team against Liverpool that had been taken apart defensively by Atalanta
▪️ Solskjaer no longer has the trust of a number of players
— Telegraph Football (@TeleFootball) October 25, 2021
But there are still voices in the press, including some of his former Man United teammates, that make the case that Solskjaer needs more time and support from ownership. One report even blames the club’s American owners for maintaining low standards that have led to this crisis moment for the club.
Carra 🗣 “Manchester United need a better manager.”
— Football Daily (@footballdaily) October 25, 2021
Solskjaer’s Manchester United contract
After finishing in second place in the Premier League last season (12 points behind Manchester City) and leading Manchester United to the Europa League final (lost on penalties to Villarreal), Manchester United gave Solskjaer a new three-year contract in July that runs through 2024. That would make parting ways with the Norwegian especially tough to stomach for management.
Since the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson, it’s Solskjaer who’s enjoyed the longest time at the helm and the most player investment:
|Ole Gunnar Solskjaer||Dec. 19, 2018||N/A||165||6th, 3rd, 2nd, 7th (current)||0|
|Jose Mourinho||May 27, 2016||Dec. 18, 2018||144||6th, 2nd, 6th (Dec. 2018)||3|
|Louis Van Gaal||July 16, 2014||May 23, 2016||103||4th & 5th||1|
|David Moyes||July 1, 2013||April 22, 2014||51||7th (April 2014)||1|
Who would become Man United manager?
There’s one primary candidate in the headlines in Italian Antonio Conte, who is coming off a league title-winning season with Inter Milan in Italy. He left the club in the summer after spending cuts resulted in a number of stars transferred away. He’s awaiting his next gig, though it has already leaked that he’s interested in the Man United job:
Conte has a reputation for getting the most out of his teams, especially in domestic league play, where he’s won five league titles with Juventus, Chelsea and Inter Milan. However, success on the European scene has proven elusive and the closest he came to continental silverware was the 2020 Europa League final lost to Sevilla.
One UK sportsbook has odds on a list of managers and Conte is predictably at the top of the list. In addition to the 52-year-old Italian, ex-Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane’s name is also in the mix, and he once coached Ronaldo at Real Madrid. The other three coaches named are employed by other clubs and have made it clear they’re not considering a move any time soon.
|Antonio Conte||free agent||2.88|
|Zinedine Zidane||free agent||5.5|
|Brendan Rodgers||Leicester City||8.5|
|Erik ten Hag||Ajax||12|
When could Manchester United change managers?
Some clubs wait until the extended breaks offered by FIFA international windows for World Cup qualifiers. While players are away with their national teams, new managers typically have 10-14 days to settle in and map out a gameplan before their first official match in charge.
That might not be an option for Manchester United, which has two big league matches (at Tottenham, vs. Manchester City) and a pivotal Champions League away match against Atalanta before the November international break kicks in.
UPDATED: Updated Premier League schedule
Since a new manager might not be so keen on getting off on the wrong foot against that level of quality opposition, the team can also opt to install a caretaker manager, typically the assistant, to guide the team during that stretch with input from the new boss, while the move to the new city and other logistics are worked out.
The best-case scenario for Solskjaer would be to convince management to give him until the November break to turn it around though after the 5-0 loss to Liverpool that might be asking a lot.