Solskjaer’s legendary status fails to prevent United sacking

Published November 22, 2021
Manchester City’s Raheem Sterling (C) scores during the English Premier League match against Everton at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday.—AP
Manchester City’s Raheem Sterling (C) scores during the English Premier League match against Everton at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday.—AP

LONDON: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s firing by Manchester United on Sunday underscored the oddity of his appointment three years ago and flaws in the club’s determination to persevere so long with a manager whose credentials were constantly doubted as a vast investment in players made little significant impact on the pitch.

Even after chastening losses to fierce rivals Liverpool and Manchester City in the last month, United stuck by Solskjaer.

While Aston Villa and Norwich used the two-week international break to fire and bring in new managers, United’s leadership waited until after Saturday’s 4-1 collapse at Watford a fifth loss in seven Premier League games to finally decide change was required in the dugout.

“Ole will always be a legend at Manchester United and it is with regret that we have reached this difficult decision,” United said in a statement.

It was only Solskjaer’s legendary status that got him the job in the first place as Jose Mourinho’s successor and kept him in post for so long without winning a trophy.

There was only so much that fondness for scoring the dramatic late winner in the 1999 Champions League final could insulate the Norwegian from criticism that saw his future hang in the balance so often. The three-year contract extension awarded to Solskjaer ahead of the season by the club’s owners, the Glazer family, has now been terminated.

“While the past few weeks have been disappointing, they should not obscure all the work he has done over the past three years to rebuild the foundations for long-term success,” United said.

Former player Michael Carrick, a member of Solskjaer’s coaching staff, will take charge of the United team for Tuesday’s Champions League match away to Villarreal with the club saying they will then look to appoint an interim manager to lead the side until the end of the season.

Bookmakers have installed former Real Madrid coach and France midfielder Zinedine Zidane as favourite to be the next permanent manager of the club.

Solskjaer had been able to ride out previous stretches of underperformance, in part because of his popularity with fans as a former striker who took on legendary status because of his ability to come off the bench to score crucial winners.

But even the traveling United fans seemed to turn against him when he came over to applaud them after the Watford game when Donny van de Beek, a player he rarely used to much astonishment, scored the only goal after coming on as a substitute.

And there was a damning final critique from goalkeeper David De Gea whose double penalty save from Watford’s Ismaila Sarr counted for nothing with United dropping to seventh place in the standings, 12 points adrift of leaders Chelsea.

“We don’t know what to do with the ball,” he said. “We don’t’ know how to defend properly. It was embarrassing. It’s not acceptable for this club and the level of players that we have. It’s another nightmare.”

STYLISH CITY CLOSE ON CHELSEA

In Sunday’s action, Manchester City moved back to second, within three points of Chelsea, after a stylish 3-0 win over Everton at the Etihad Stadium.

Raheem Sterling put City ahead, a minute before the break, side-footing home after a magnificent ball, struck with the outside of his foot, by full back Joao Cancelo.

Rodri made it 2-0 with a thundering long-distance strike that whistled past Everton keeper Jordan Pickford in the 55th minute as 11th-placed Everton, without the presence of Dominic Calvert-Lewin up front, rarely threatened.

Bernardo Silva completed a routine victory in the 86th by slotting home from close range after Cole Palme had a shot blocked.

Chelsea lead the table on 29 points, with City three points behind and Liverpool one further back in third after dismantling Arsenal 4-0 at Anfield on Saturday.

A resurgent Arsenal side had the chance to climb above Liverpool in the standings with a win, but Juergen Klopp’s side gave the visitors a reminder that there is still a big gulf in class between the teams.

Sadio Mane scored the opener in the first half and Liverpool then dismantled Mikel Arteta’s side after the break, with Diogo Jota, Mohamed Salah and substitute Takumi Minamino running up the scoreline.

Fourth-placed West Ham United missed the chance to move into second as Raul Jimenez scored the only goal in a 1-0 win for Wolverhampton Wanderers at Molineux. Wolves moved to sixth, one point behind Arsenal.

Elsewhere on Saturday, former Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard started his reign as Aston Villa manager with a 2-0 win over Brighton and Hove Albion, while his predecessor Dean Smith saw his new team Norwich City climb out of last place with a 2-1 home win against Southampton.

Newcastle United hit the bottom as they remained winless after 12 games following a 3-3 home draw with Brentford.

Burnley remain in the bottom three after another six-goal thriller at Turf Moor ended 3-3 with Crystal Palace.

Published in Dawn, November 22nd, 2021

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