The former Mtd Utd striker came to the Reds’ rescue last season, after Jose Mourinho’s efforts fell short, but results of late have seen the Norwegian come under fire and Utd fans have called for a drastic change. The jury is in and the knives are out, but can Ole Gunnar Solskjaer cling on to his post as manager of the Premier League’s most successful club?
The Case for Solskjaer
The Norwegian, who played his part in United’s greatest vintage season of modern times, undoubtedly inherited a bad hand after the dismissal of Jose Mourinho back in December 2018. Despite that, he suffered just one defeat during his first seventeen games in charge, and even that loss (at home to PSG in the Champions League) was rendered moot by a bigger win in the return leg.
At the time, the calls for Solskjaer were understandable, as not one of Sir Alex Ferguson’s successors had ‘United’ – or the club’s values – stamped into their soul or contained in their very DNA. In particular, Mourinho’s perceived arrogance was seen as a divisive factor in the dressing room, and Solskjaer’s appointment was designed to counteract this.
In essence, his presence has ingrained a greater sense of brotherhood in the dressing room, even if results do not reflect that. In particular, the homegrown likes of Marcus Rashford and Daniel James, who have grown up in a culture where camaraderie is considered a vital addition to innate talent, are showing some pleasing consistency.
James in particular will always have respect for Solskjaer, as the man who gave him his big Premier League break, and there is no guarantee that he would flourish in the same way under a decorated manager from abroad. As a potential game-changer, James must be handled with care throughout any impending managerial transition.
While the club and its fanbase alike rightly expect only the best, the more forgiving fan will assert that persistence is a virtue. That viewpoint is given some weight by the current form of Chelsea, the very team United beat 4-0 on the opening weekend, to immediately deflect the attention of the ‘sack race’ towards Frank Lampard.
Duly, after sticking by their man through a tough opening month, Chelsea enter the second weekend of November providing fuel for some exciting spread betting prices in the race for the top four, and looking like good contenders for a podium finish next spring.
The Case against Solskjaer
However, United are not Chelsea, and find themselves in a much more desperate situation. Unlike Lampard, Solskjaer has been given a genuine opportunity to make this United squad his own.
Instead of that, he is now looking back on a paltry return of 13 points from the first 11 Premier League game weeks, equating to just 45 points if played over a season. That would constitute a definitive ‘season of hell’ for United, unquestionably see the club score a first-ever bottom half finish in the Premier League era – if not an inconceivable finish inside the bottom six.
It goes without saying that Solskjaer would be long-gone before that point, but those numbers only further underline the belief that his time is up.
Since the aforementioned thrashing of Chelsea, United have also only won one further league game without the aid of a penalty. That match was a 3-1 win at Norwich, which marked only the second time this season that United have scored two or more goals in a league outing. That match itself is significant in another poignant way, standing as United’s sole source of away points since the end of August.
Three defeats with a scoring blank make up the remainder of United’s Premier League away results in that time. If this goal-shyness remains an issue, then United’s standing in the Premier League’s ‘away’ table could quickly become an utter embarrassment.
History demands Solskjaer sacking
Unfortunately for Solskjaer, though the reasons to eject him from the hot seat extend beyond the scorelines currently being coughed up. Perhaps the most dramatic of these is the fact that 1986 remains the last time United made such a poor start to a top-flight campaign.
During a gloomy November very much like this one, the United board’s hand was forced, and they took a chance on a man who had guided his team to last place in a World Cup group just five months previously. Indeed, with November traditionally being a month that sees at least one Premier League sacking, the signs look ominous for Solskjaer.
With United loathe to once again rely solely on winning the Europa League to get that vital Champions League berth for 2020/21, the November international break is a prime opportunity to move Solskjaer on.
With United operating on a Champions League wage bill, but doing so without guaranteed representation at Europe’s top table next year, failure to act now could have disastrous consequences.