Ole Gunnar Solskjaer handed last thing he needs as Man United boss fights for future vs Liverpool

Liverpool fans have rather enjoyed Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s reign as Manchester United manager to date, truth be told.

Taking over at Old Trafford, initially as caretaker manager, in December 2018, the Norwegian has become the latest boss to fail to bring the glory days back to Old Trafford following Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement in 2013.

But while predecessors Jose Mourinho, Louis van Gaal and David Moyes were at least able to deliver the Europa League, an FA Cup, the League Cup and two Community Shields between them, Solskjaer has failed to win any trophies in his three years in the job.

Handed the job permanently in March 2019 after defeating Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League round-of-16, prompting Rio Ferdinand to infamously declare, ‘Ole’s at the wheel’ and ‘doing his thing’ when urging his old club to retain his former team-mate’s services, his secured future wasn’t enough to prevent the Red Devils suffering a quarter-final exit to Barcelona or from finishing sixth in the Premier League table, 32 points behind champions Man City.

Since then his side have lost a Europa League final and been beaten semi-finalists in the same competition, the FA Cup and the League Cup twice, as well as finished third and second in the Premier League, 33 points behind champions Liverpool in 2020 and 12 points behind winners Man City last year.

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So that’s progress at least for clutching Manchester United fans who continue to defend his tenure.

Yet an underwhelming start to the current campaign, which has seen the Red Devils left outside the top four after suffering defeats to Aston Villa and Leicester City and drawing with Southampton and Everton, losing to Young Boys in the Champions League and exiting the League Cup at the hands of West Ham United, means Solskjaer is under pressure.

And that’s without considering the £120m spent on Jadon Sancho, Raphael Varane and the re-signing of Cristiano Ronaldo in the summer.

So the last thing he needs is a meeting with unbeaten arch-rivals Liverpool as he looks to wrestle back control of his future.

Of course, it was the Reds who hammered the final nail into Mourinho’s coffin back in December 2018 which resulted in Solskjaer being handed the job in the first place.

Goals from Sadio Mane and a Xherdan Shaqiri brace at Anfield saw Jurgen Klopp’s side run out 3-1 winners to leapfrog Man City at the top of the table.

In contrast, defeat left United down in sixth place, 19 points behind the Reds. Having already lost to Brighton, Tottenham, West Ham and Man City, as well as dropping points to Wolves, Chelsea, Crystal Palace, Southampton and Arsenal, scraped into the Champions League knockout stages and exit the League Cup early on at the hands of Championship side Derby County, Mourinho was sacked less than 48 hours after the final whistle on Merseyside.

Which begs the question, with his side’s fortunes this season already resembling the Portuguese’s during his final campaign, what would it take for United to oust Solskjaer this season?

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Defeat to Leicester on Saturday kick-started an intimidating run of fixtures which started with the Red Devils hosting Atalanta in the Champions League prior to facing Liverpool, before taking on Tottenham Hotspur, the Serie A side again, Man City, Watford, Villarreal, Chelsea and Arsenal in the most challenging of six-week spells.

This could be make-or-break for Solskjaer.

For the record, former United defender Gary Neville doesn’t think his old club would dismiss the Norwegian before the end of the season.

“He should be under massive pressure because he’s been there for two years, 100 per cent,” he said on the latest edition of Monday Night Football. “But the club are not going to change him.

“I have Manchester United fans on my social media saying you won’t call him out because he’s your mate. No I won’t. I won’t call out any manager and ask for them to be sacked. He’s my former team-mate and I actually like him a lot.

“Manchester United have failed with two managers who are perceived as world class. I think you give him until the end of the season… The pressure is building though. What a collection of players. He has to get them to perform.”

Meanwhile, Jamie Carragher highlighted that the Norwegian is not of the same standard of Klopp, Pep Guardiola and Thomas Tuchel when debating Solskjaer’s future.

“Solskjaer has done a good job at United, it could have gone horribly wrong,” the Liverpool legend said. “He came with experience from Scandinavia and Cardiff…

“This will never change though, Solskjaer will not win a Champions League or a league title as Manchester United manager. He’s not at the level of Klopp, Pep or Tuchel.

“Ole has not got that experience. He’s done a good job to get this point. He needs to win a trophy to stay in the job?

“For me, whether he wins a trophy or not at the end of the season, Manchester United need to have a better manager.

“It’s not a criticism of Ole. They need a manager who can compete with the other managers in the league. He knows that himself, every United fan knows that themselves. He is not at the level of the other managers in the league.”

So Neville and Carragher both think Solskjaer’s job is safe for now, but when you look at their start to the season so far up against their upcoming run of fixtures, there is no escaping the fact that pressure on the Norwegian will continue to heat up.

A win over Liverpool on Sunday would help to ease any immediate concerns, no doubt.

But with a Reds victory over United back in 2018 helping hand Solskjaer the United job in the first place, Klopp’s side could now deal a costly blow to the Red Devils boss on Sunday at a time when his credentials and future continue to be the subject of scrutiny.

And while a loss is admittedly unlikely to be the final nail in his coffin, it would certainly push him closer to relinquishing control of the Manchester United ‘wheel’.

About the author: Mark Witcher

Typical thinker. Devoted web specialist. Friendly troublemaker. Zombie maven. Music junkie. Twitter guru.

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