Carrick To Take Charge As Man United’s Caretaker Manager

Manchester United’s English first-team coach Michael Carrick arrives for the English Premier League football match between Manchester United and Arsenal at Old Trafford in Manchester, north west England, on November 1, 2020. PHIL NOBLE / POOL / AFP

 

Manchester United ended Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s three-year reign as manager at Old Trafford on Sunday, but plan to wait until the end of the season to name the Norwegian’s permanent successor.

Saturday’s 4-1 embarrassment at the hands of struggling Watford was the final straw for the United board, who had stuck by Solskjaer in recent weeks despite humiliating home defeats to Liverpool and Manchester City.

Former midfielder Michael Carrick, who was part of Solskjaer’s coaching team, will take charge of the forthcoming games while the club look to appoint an interim manager till the end of the season.

“Manchester United announces that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has left his role as Manager,” the club said in a statement.

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

“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.”

Solskjaer leaves with United already realistically out of the Premier League title race, 12 points behind leaders Chelsea down in seventh in the table, and having exited the League Cup.

Carrick’s first game in charge will be a crucial Champions League trip to Villarreal on Tuesday.

Another defeat in Spain would leave the Red Devils needing both results in the final round of matches in Group F to go their way to avoid crashing out at the group stage for a second consecutive season.

“Ole couldn’t get a performance out of them in the end. The players look drained of confidence and I’m not surprised today,” said Gary Neville, former United captain and teammate of Solskjaer.

“They need to get the next appointment right and that’ll probably be at the end of the season.

“They haven’t planned for this, they haven’t prepared for it. It’s deteriorated so badly and so quickly.”

‘Nightmare’

A run of five defeats in Solskjaer’s final seven league games contrasts sharply with the anticipation that surrounded the club in August when Cristiano Ronaldo made a surprise return to Old Trafford in the final days of the transfer window.

United handed Solskjaer a new three-year contract in July and also spent over £100 million ($134 million) on Jadon Sancho and Raphael Varane as they looked to build on finishing second in the league to Manchester City last season.

However, Solskjaer was unable to assemble the pieces of his star-studded squad into a collective unit despite Ronaldo’s return of nine goals in 14 games.

“We don’t know what to do with the ball, we don’t know how to defend properly and we’re conceding a lot of goals,” said United goalkeeper David de Gea, whose double penalty save from Watford’s Ismaila Sarr counted for nothing.

“It’s not acceptable for this club and the level of players that we have. It’s another nightmare.”

Solskjaer had ridden out storms before in a rollercoaster but ultimately trophyless three years.

However, even his credit as a club legend for scoring the winning goal in the 1999 Champions League final to win a historic treble for Alex Ferguson’s side was fading as he was booed by the travelling support at Vicarage Road.

“You signed me for the best club in the world and gave me the biggest honour in football,” tweeted United captain Harry Maguire. “Thank you for everything boss. Legend.”

Zinedine Zidane, who won three Champions League titles with Ronaldo and Varane at Real Madrid, is the bookmakers’ favourite to succeed Solskjaer, with Leicester manager Brendan Rodgers and Ajax boss Erik ten Hag also in contention.

But the decision to wait until the summer to make a permanent appointment could open up a wider pool of potential candidates, including Paris Saint-Germain boss Mauricio Pochettino, who has previously been linked with the job.

What Next For Man Utd After Solskjaer Sacking?

Solskjaer watches from the touchline during the English Premier League football match between Manchester United and Huddersfield Town at Old Trafford in Manchester, north west England.  Oli SCARFF / AFP

 

Manchester United once again have to press the reset button after Ole Gunnar Solskjaer became the fourth manager to be shown the door since Alex Ferguson stepped down in 2013.

United have fallen a long way in those eight years, watching from the sidelines as their fiercest rivals, Manchester City and Liverpool, have become the new dominant forces in the Premier League.

David Moyes, Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho all came and went before beloved former United striker Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was appointed as caretaker boss in December 2018 with a brief to restore the club to former glories by tapping into its DNA.

United rediscovered their spark in a honeymoon period under the Norwegian, summed up in a breathless Champions League comeback against Paris Saint-Germain — a result that helped persuade club bosses to hand him a permanent deal.

Despite persistent concerns over his lack of experience and technical nous, Solskjaer has come agonisingly close to delivering the club’s first silverware since 2017, losing on penalties in last season’s Europa League final and finishing second in the Premier League.

Club bosses were confident enough in the direction of travel to hand him a new three-year contract in July.

Former United goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel said in his recent autobiography that his former team-mate had brought the “heart and soul back” to the club after the divisive Mourinho reign but in the end that did not prove enough.

Solskjaer, 48, said after his side’s chastening 4-1 defeat to lowly Watford on Saturday that he felt for the fans and understood their pain after they vented their fury at Vicarage Road.

“We’ve had a hard time since Sir Alex (Ferguson) left the club and fans who have been with us the last few years since I came in, they’ve been unbelievable, they’ve understood the situation,” he said.

“The signings this summer with Rafa (Raphael Varane), Jadon (Sancho) and Cristiano (Ronaldo) of course raised everyone’s expectations, rightly so, because we brought some top players.”

Zidane link

The question is, who do United turn to now to take the club forward?

A club statement on Sunday stated the intention to hire an interim manager till the end of the season with former midfielder Michael Carrick in the hotseat for the forthcoming games.

By delaying Solskaer’s departure, one prominent candidate is now off the market as Tottenham snatched up a former Premier League winner in Antonio Conte.

United have been consistently linked with Paris Saint-Germain boss Mauricio Pochettino and the Argentine may well be the motivation for waiting till the summer.

Former Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane, Leicester manager Brendan Rodgers and Ajax coach Erik ten Hag have also been linked with the role.

United, for so long a byword for stability under Ferguson, have been reluctant to sack their managers until they feel their hand is forced.

That tipping point has now been reached, with the club seventh in the Premier League, already six points off the top four and out of the title race after just 12 games.

Whoever does take over at Old Trafford will have a richly talented but bloated and unbalanced squad to work with.

United can boast abundant riches in attack, with Ronaldo, Edinson Cavani, Marcus Rashford, Sancho, Marcus Greenwood and Anthony Martial all vying for starting spots.

But Solskjaer’s preferred midfield pairing of Fred and Scott McTominay has often looked lightweight this season and the leaky defence has conceded 21 goals in the league, over five times more than leaders Chelsea.

Any new manager will also have to work under the American owners, the Glazer family, who remain intensely unpopular among a large section of the club’s fanbase.

Protests have recently died down, in part due to the huge funds that they have made available for new players, but the underlying frustrations over the ownership model, which loaded huge amounts of debt onto the club, persist.

One thing is for certain — whoever is next in through the door will face enormous expectations that will not be satisfied until United are top dogs again.

Five Potential Candidates To Replace Solskjaer

File photo of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer/ AFP

 

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s time as Manchester United manager finally ran out on Sunday as the Norwegian was sacked following a humiliating 4-1 defeat at Watford.

Solskjaer failed to win a trophy in nearly three years in charge at Old Trafford and tangible signs of progress after finishing second in the Premier League last season have been blown away amid a run of five defeats in their last seven league games.

United are already 12 points off the pace at the top of the table and the club have announced their intention to appoint an interim manager until the end of the season before making a permanent appointment.

Here, AFP Sport looks at five of the leading candidates to be Solskjaer’s successor:

Zinedine Zidane

Expectations were high for United to challenge for major trophies this season after the signings of serial winners Cristiano Ronaldo and Raphael Varane, along with £73 million ($100 million) winger Jadon Sancho.

Three of Ronaldo and Varane’s Champions League titles came under Zidane at Real Madrid and the Frenchman is also a free agent having ended his second spell with the Spanish giants in May.

Zidane proved himself a master of moulding a star-studded squad into a team at Madrid, where he also won two La Liga titles.

That is exactly what United need and his global profile fits the brand-building exercise the English giants have gone down in recent years, at times to the detriment of a well-functioning team on the field.

According to reports, he is the favoured candidate of the club’s American owners, the Glazer family.

Brendan Rodgers

The outstanding option on the domestic market for United is Leicester boss Brendan Rodgers.

The Northern Irishman’s past as a Liverpool manager may rule him out for many United fans, but he has rebuilt his reputation since a rollercoaster three years at Anfield between 2012 and 2015.

Rodgers proved himself capable of handling the demands of winning every week in three years at Celtic, where he won a clean sweep of seven domestic trophies before returning to the Premier League with Leicester.

The Foxes have narrowly missed out on the Champions League for the past two seasons to Chelsea despite far inferior resources and beat the European champions to win the FA Cup for the first time in the club’s history last season.

However, Leicester have also struggled of late with just two wins in their last nine league games.

Erik ten Hag

The Dutchman is responsible for one of the form teams in Europe right now with Ajax already into the Champions League last 16.

Ten Hag was linked with a number of top jobs after leading the four-time European champions to the semi-finals of the Champions League for the first time since 1997 two years ago.

But unlike many of his players from that run, he is yet to be poached by one of Europe’s top clubs.

The former Bayern Munich youth team coach would fit the attacking style demanded of a United manager.

Luis Enrique

The Spain coach is another with plenty of experience in getting the best out of a collection of talented individuals.

He won the treble in his first season at Barcelona and added another La Liga title with a front three of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar.

Fluent in English, Luis Enrique has never hidden his desire to one day coach in the Premier League.

His success with Spain this year at Euro 2020 and the Nations League finals shows he is also capable of producing an exciting side without the same quality of stars he had on offer at the Camp Nou.

Mauricio Pochettino

The Argentine is the one that got away for many United fans as the Red Devils kept faith with Solskjaer while Pochettino was a free agent for over a year following his sacking by Tottenham in 2019.

Now in charge of Paris Saint-Germain, Pochettino is unlikely to jump ship mid-season with a 12-point lead at the top of Ligue 1 and another chance to win the club’s first ever Champions League.

However, Pochettino’s time in the French capital has not been plain sailing, particularly in his dealings with PSG’s sporting director Leonardo.

By waiting until the end of the season to make a permanent appointment, United are opening the door to another shot at luring Pochettino to Old Trafford.

Solskjaer Pays Price For Failing To Rekindle United’s Golden Years

Solskjaer watches from the touchline during the English Premier League football match between Manchester United and Huddersfield Town at Old Trafford in Manchester, north west England.  Oli SCARFF / AFP

 

As Ole Gunnar Solskjaer trudged forlornly towards Manchester United’s fans at Vicarage Road, the merciless booing that greeted the ashen-faced Norwegian served as a bitter coda to his failed reign.

United had just suffered a 4-1 thrashing against lowly Watford, the latest in a long list of calamitous defeats during Solskjaer’s three years in charge.

The axe was about to fall on the United manager and the club’s supporters had finally turned on a man they regarded as a legend for his heroics during his Old Trafford playing days

Solskjaer was sacked on Sunday with seventh-placed United languishing 12 points behind Premier League leaders Chelsea and six adrift of the top four.

It was a dismissal that felt years in the making after Solskjaer repeatedly dodged the bullet during previous troubled periods.

Coming hot on the heels of a humiliating 5-0 home defeat against arch-rivals Liverpool and a 2-0 loss to Manchester City, United’s fifth defeat in seven league games was the final straw.

There was an alarming lack of cohesion, direction and fight in a star-studded team that flopped despite the close-season signings of Cristiano Ronaldo, Jadon Sancho and Raphael Varane.

Those deals, especially re-signing Ronaldo from Juventus, were expected to prove the catalyst for United to push hard for their first English title since 2013.

Instead, they appeared increasingly rudderless as Solskjaer struggled to gel his new recruits into a team packed with attacking talent but painfully short of midfield steel and prone to embarrassing blunders at the back.

When Liverpool ran riot at Old Trafford on October 24, the malaise at the heart of United’s brittle squad was brutally exposed.

Solskjaer’s decision to opt for a high-pressing game-plan was picked apart by Liverpool, with United’s players reportedly complaining that the manager did not give them enough preparation time.

That hint of dissent came just weeks after Ronaldo stormed off the Old Trafford pitch in disgust after Solskjaer only brought him on in the second half of a draw with Everton.

Even Alex Ferguson, the great United manager who brought Solskjaer to the club in 1996, added to the mounting pressure when he reacted to the Ronaldo incident by saying you should “always start with your best players”.

United in decline

In truth, Solskjaer often looked out of his depth at Old Trafford.

The 48-year-old’s previous experience in management had come with Norway’s Molde — where he was working when United called to hire him in late 2018 — and a brief stint with Cardiff that featured Premier League relegation and concluded with the sack after less than a year.

Even Jose Mourinho and Louis van Gaal, both boasting far more in terms of success and service time than Solskjaer, had been unable to solve the problems that have bedevilled United since Ferguson retired in 2013.

After replacing Mourinho on an interim basis, Solskjaer earned a permanent contract by winning 14 of his first 19 matches.

Supposedly reconnecting United to their soul with his commitment to an attacking style that contrasted with the pragmatic Mourinho, Solskjaer was feted by fans who chanted “Ole’s at the wheel”.

As a player, Solskjaer won six Premier League titles in 11 years with United, shining as a selfless super-sub with an eye for goal.

But the man idolised at Old Trafford for his dramatic Champions League final winner against Bayern Munich in 1999 failed to fulfil hopes of a return to the glory days.

United finished third in the 2019/20 season, losing in the semi-finals of the FA Cup, League Cup and Europa League.

And while they came second last term, they remained underachievers on the big occasion, crashing out of the Champions League group stage and losing to Villarreal on penalties in the Europa League final.

Solskjaer was given a new contract in July, but his failure to get a grip on a squad packed with big personalities proved fatal.

It was must have been galling for Solskjaer that his last moments as United manager featured Bruno Fernandes arguing with the fans who jeered after the final whistle at Watford.

If only Solskjaer’s players had shown such defiance during matches, they might have avoided another depressing chapter in United’s post-Ferguson decline.

Man Utd Sack Solskjaer After Dismal Run

Solskjaer reacts at the end of the English Premier League football match between Leicester City and Manchester United at King Power Stadium in Leicester, central England. Paul ELLIS / AFP

 

Manchester United ended Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s three-year reign as manager at Old Trafford on Sunday, but plan to wait until the end of the season to name the Norwegian’s permanent successor.

Saturday’s 4-1 embarrassment at the hands of struggling Watford was the final straw for the United board, who had stuck by Solskjaer in recent weeks despite humiliating home defeats to Liverpool and Manchester City.

Former midfielder Michael Carrick, who was part of Solskjaer’s coaching team, will take charge of the forthcoming games while the club look to appoint an interim manager till the end of the season.

READ ALSO: Liverpool Thrash Arsenal To End Arteta’s Winning Streak

“Manchester United announces that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has left his role as Manager,” the club said in a statement.

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

Solskjaer leaves with United already realistically out of the Premier League title race, 12 points behind leaders Chelsea down in seventh in the table, and having exited the League Cup.

Carrick’s first game in charge will be a crucial Champions League trip to Villarreal on Tuesday.

Another defeat in Spain would leave the Red Devils needing both results in the final round of matches in Group F to go their way to avoid crashing out at the group stage for a second consecutive season.

 ‘Nightmare’

A run of five defeats in Solskjaer’s final seven league games contrasts sharply with the anticipation that surrounded the club in August when Cristiano Ronaldo made a surprise return to Old Trafford in the final days of the transfer window.

United also spent over £100 million ($134 million) on Jadon Sancho and Raphael Varane as they looked to build on finishing second in the league to Manchester City last season.

However, Solskjaer was unable to assemble the pieces of his star-studded squad into a collective unit despite Ronaldo’s return of nine goals in 14 games.

“We don’t know what to do with the ball, we don’t know how to defend properly and we’re conceding a lot of goals,” said United goalkeeper David de Gea, whose double penalty save from Watford’s Ismaila Sarr counted for nothing.

“It’s not acceptable for this club and the level of players that we have. It’s another nightmare.”

Solskjaer had ridden out storms before in a rollercoaster but ultimately trophyless three years.

However, even his credit as a club legend for scoring the winning goal in the 1999 Champions League final to win a historic treble for Alex Ferguson’s side was fading as he was booed by the travelling support at Vicarage Road.

“Thank you Ole. You did us proud,” said former United captain Gary Neville, who has been criticised for not calling for his former teammate to be sacked in his punditry.

“The last two months were tough but before that you restored some soul into the club.”

Zinedine Zidane, who won three Champions League titles with Ronaldo and Varane at Real Madrid, is the bookmakers’ favourite to succeed Solskjaer, with Leicester manager Brendan Rodgers and Ajax boss Erik ten Hag also in contention.

But the decision to wait until the summer to make a permanent appointment could open up a wider pool of potential candidates, including Paris Saint-Germain boss Mauricio Pochettino, who has previously been linked with the job.

Watford Hammer Man Utd To Leave Solskjaer On The Brink

CLOCKWISE BOTTOM LEFT: A photo combination showing a distraught Cristiano Ronaldo, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, and Watford's Brazilian striker Joao Pedro (C) scoring his team's third goal during the English Premier League football match between Watford and Manchester United at Vicarage Road Stadium in Watford, southeast England, on November 20, 2021. Ian KINGTON / AFP
CLOCKWISE BOTTOM LEFT: A photo combination showing a distraught Cristiano Ronaldo, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, and Watford’s Brazilian striker Joao Pedro (C) scoring his team’s third goal during the English Premier League football match between Watford and Manchester United at Vicarage Road Stadium in Watford, southeast England, on November 20, 2021. Ian KINGTON / AFP

 

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s job was hanging by a thread after 10-man Manchester United slumped to a 4-1 defeat against Watford on Saturday.

United’s fifth defeat in seven Premier League matches ramps up the pressure on the Norwegian manager to extreme levels as club bosses decide whether to pull the plug on his reign.

They were out-fought and out-thought by Claudio Ranieri’s feisty Watford side, who came into the match after losing four out of their past five Premier League matches.

READ ALSO: Chelsea Cruise As Kante Rocket Inspires Leicester Rout

Watford dominated the first half and thoroughly deserved their two-goal lead at half-time, courtesy of goals from Joshua King and Ismaila Sarr.

The visitors pulled a goal back early in the second half through substitute Donny van de Beek but could not find an equaliser and captain Harry Maguire was sent off with just over 20 minutes to go.

Substitute Joao Pedro finished off United’s hopes with a late third and Emmanuel Dennis rubbed salt into Solskjaer’s wounds, making it 4-1.

Vicarage Road was gripped by early drama when referee Jonathan Moss pointed to the penalty spot in the sixth minute after United midfielder Scott McTominay bundled King over in the box.

Sarr’s weak penalty was saved by the Spaniard but Kiko Femenia fired home from the right side of the box only to see his goal ruled out by VAR for encroachment into the box.

Sarr retook the kick but De Gea again saved to keep the score goalless.

Watford looked the more dangerous side as the half wore on, with United struggling to establish any semblance of control despite playing two holding midfielders in McTominay and Nemanja Matic.

King opener

They took the lead they deserved when King side-footed home a cross from the impressive Dennis.

King should have doubled the lead with a free header from the centre of the goal but De Gea made a straightforward save.

Watford got the second goal they so richly deserved just before the half-time break when Sarr made up for his earlier penalty miss to slot past De Gea from the edge of the box.

Solskjaer waked down the tunnel at the break assailed by chants of “You’re getting sacked in the morning” as he desperately plotted a way back into the match.

He threw on Van de Beek and Anthony Martial for Marcus Rashford and McTominay and United suddenly found some rhythm.

They were level in the 50th minute when Van de Beek headed home from close range after a headed pass from Cristiano Ronaldo.

Suddenly United were playing with more freedom and fluency. Bruno Fernandes fired wide before Watford goalkeeper Ben Foster produced a superb save to deny Ronaldo when he was through on goal.

But they could not find another goal and Magiure was sent off in the 69th minute for a challenge on Tom Cleverley.

Pedro scored from a tight angle to beat De Gea to make it 3-1 and Dennis struck home from the right side of the box to send the Watford fans into ecstasy.

The Red Devils are now 12 points behind leaders Chelsea and risk losing touch with the top four.

Solskjaer was without 20-year-old Mason Greenwood, who has tested positive for coronavirus. He will now have to undergo a period of isolation during a crucial period for United.

United face a crunch Champions League trip to Villarreal on Tuesday before travelling to Premier League leaders Chelsea next weekend.

But there are now serious doubts over whether Solskjaer will remain in charge.

 

AFP

Ferdinand Says It Is Time For Solskjaer To Leave Man Utd

File photo: Manchester United’s Norwegian manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer reacts at the final whistle during the English League Cup semi final first leg football match between Manchester United and Manchester City at Ol d Trafford in Manchester, north west England, on January 6, 2021. PETER POWELL / POOL / AFP

 

Rio Ferdinand has called for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to hand over the Manchester United manager’s “baton” after a string of damaging results left the club well off the pace in the Premier League.

The Norwegian boss is under intense pressure after a 5-0 home thumping by Liverpool and a one-sided 2-0 defeat at the hands of Manchester City on Saturday.

Ferdinand has been one of many ex-United players to voice support for his former team-mate, who led the club to a second-place finish in the league last season.

The ex-England defender said fans started the season full of hope after the high-profile signings of Cristiano Ronaldo, Jadon Sancho and Raphael Varane before results nosedived.

READ ALSO: Five Candidates To Replace Solskjaer As Manager Of Man Utd

“I sit here now and I don’t think we can challenge to win this league,” Ferdinand said on his Vibe with Five podcast.

“I look at our team every week and I’m wondering what are we going to do tactically. I don’t see any philosophy or an identity in the Man United way of playing, whatever that should be from the management. I sit here confused, looking at the team.”

Ferdinand said United had made steady progress during Solskjaer’s nearly three years at the helm but now he felt there is a need for a change.

“I was always deep down a bit sceptical,” said the 43-year-old. “Could he take us on to be champions? I wasn’t sure, I wasn’t fully convinced — I hoped he would be able to do that.

“But the showing with the squad that he accumulated, to the beginning of this season –- and what I’ve seen this season — I just feel it might be about the time now for the baton to be handed over to somebody else who can take us on now.

“And I think Ole would leave now with his head held high because from when he came in to where he got us to the beginning of the season I think it’s positive.”

 

AFP

Five Candidates To Replace Solskjaer As Manager Of Man Utd

Manchester United’s Norwegian manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer gestures on the touchline during the English Premier League football match between Manchester United and Liverpool at Old Trafford in Manchester, north west England, on October 24, 2021. (Photo by Oli SCARFF / AFP) /

 

Manchester United’s historic 5-0 thrashing at the hands of fierce rivals Liverpool has left manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer clinging to his job despite signing a new three-year deal just three months ago.

Solskjaer has failed to win a trophy in nearly three years in charge at Old Trafford and tangible signs of progress after finishing second in the Premier League last season have been blown away amid a run of five defeats in their last nine games.

United are already eight points off the pace at the top of the table and there is a growing consensus that they need a coach to match the calibre of Liverpool’s Jurgen Klopp, Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola and Chelsea’s Champions League winner Thomas Tuchel.

Solskjaer has led United to two consecutive top-four finishes for the first time since Alex Ferguson’s retirement as manager in 2013, but his time looks to be running out.

AFP Sport looks at five of the candidates to replace the 48-year-old if and when he is shown the door at Old Trafford.

Antonio Conte

A proven title winner, Conte turned a Chelsea side that had finished 10th the previous season into Premier League winners in his debut campaign in England in 2016/17.

The Italian is without a club having left Inter Milan in May after ending their 11-year wait to win Serie A.

Conte appears a perfect fit to solve United’s defensive woes that have blighted their season. Solskjaer’s men have kept one clean sheet in 21 games and shipped 11 goals in a week against Leicester, Atalanta and Liverpool.

However, Conte’s fiery temperament and tendency to fall out with his superiors could count against him.

“He’s not a fit for United,” said former United captain Gary Neville on Sunday.

Zinedine Zidane

Expectations were high for United to challenge for major trophies this season after the signings of serial winners Cristiano Ronaldo and Raphael Varane, along with £73 million ($100 million) winger Jadon Sancho.

Three of Ronaldo and Varane’s Champions League titles came under Zidane at Real Madrid and the Frenchman is also a free agent having ended his second spell with the Spanish giants in May.

Zidane proved himself a master of moulding a star-studded squad into a team at Madrid, where he also won two La Liga titles.

That is exactly what United need and his global profile fits the brand-building exercise the English giants have gone down in recent years, at times to the detriment of a well-functioning team on the field.

Brendan Rodgers

The outstanding option on the domestic market for United is Leicester boss Brendan Rodgers.

The Northern Irishman’s past as a Liverpool manager may rule him out for many United fans, but he has rebuilt his reputation since a rollercoaster three years at Anfield between 2012 and 2015.

Rodgers proved himself capable of handling the demands of winning every week in three years at Celtic, where he won a clean sweep of seven domestic trophies before returning to the Premier League with Leicester.

The Foxes have narrowly missed out on the Champions League for the past two seasons to Chelsea despite far inferior resources and beat the European champions to win the FA Cup for the first time in the club’s history last season.

Erik Ten Hag

The Dutchman is responsible for arguably the form team in Europe right now with Ajax cruising towards the last 16 of the Champions League and another Eredivisie title after thrashing PSV Eindhoven 5-0 on Sunday.

Ten Haag was linked with a number of top jobs after leading the four-time European champions to the semi-finals of the Champions League for the first time since 1997 two years ago.

But unlike many of his players from that run, he is yet to be poached by one of Europe’s top clubs.

The former Bayern Munich youth team coach would fit the attacking style demanded of a United manager, as exhibited by a 4-0 thrashing of Borussia Dortmund last week.

Luis Enrique

The Spain coach is another with plenty of experience in getting the best out of a collection of talented individuals.

He won the treble in his first season at Barcelona and added another La Liga title with a front three of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar.

Fluent in English, Luis Enrique has never hidden his desire to one day coach in the Premier League

His success with Spain this year at Euro 2020 and the Nations League finals shows he is also capable of producing an exciting side without the same quality of stars he had on offer at the Camp Nou.

Solskjaer Vows To Stay As Man Utd Boss Despite Liverpool Thrashing

Manchester United’s Norwegian manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer looks on from the touchline during the English Premier League football match between Manchester United and Liverpool at Old Trafford in Manchester, northwest England, on October 24, 2021. (Photo by Oli SCARFF / AFP)

 

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer insisted he is the right man to manage Manchester United despite a historic hammering by Liverpool on Sunday as Mohamed Salah scored a hat-trick in a 5-0 rout at Old Trafford.

For the first time in Premier League history, United trailed 4-0 at half-time and lost by five goals without scoring at home for the first time since 1955.

The Red Devils have now taken one point from a possible 12 in the league to fall to seventh, eight points off leaders Chelsea.

“I do believe in myself, that I am getting close to what I want with the club,” said Solskjaer.

“The results lately haven’t been good enough, that brings doubt in anyone’s mind, but I’ve got to keep strong and believe in what we’ve been doing.”

Naby Keita started the rout before Diogo Jota doubled Liverpool’s lead inside 15 minutes.

READ ALSO: Salah Hits Hat-Trick As Liverpool Humiliate Man Utd

Salah then took centre stage to take his tally for the season to 15 goals in 12 appearances and become the top-scoring African player in Premier League history in the process.

To round off a miserable day for United, Paul Pogba lasted less than 15 minutes as a second-half substitute as he was shown a straight red card for a reckless lunge that forced Keita to leave the pitch on a stretcher.

Liverpool’s first victory in front of a crowd at Old Trafford under Jurgen Klopp moves them back above Manchester City into second, just a point behind Chelsea.

“What we did in the last third was insane. Pressing high, winning balls, scored wonderful goals,” said Klopp after Liverpool’s record away win against United.

“The result is insane. I asked if there was one like this in history and if there isn’t then it will take a while (to beat).”

By contrast, United’s hopes of a first league title since 2013 already look over.

That gap is likely to grow in the coming weeks with Tottenham and City to come in the next fortnight before an international break.

Whether Solskjaer will still be in charge come November is now in serious doubt as he has completely failed to form a balanced team from a talented collection of star players.

“In the last few weeks we’ve hit a brick wall,” added Solskjaer. “The performances haven’t come, the results haven’t come. We’ve conceded too many easy goals and that’s a concern.”

Salah teed up Keita to open the floodgates after just five minutes with a composed low finish past David de Gea.

United came from 2-0 down at the break to beat Atalanta 3-2 in the Champions League on Wednesday.

But former midfielder Paul Scholes’ warning after that match that Liverpool would be 4-0 up in 45 minutes if handed the same space to attack into came to fruition.

Jota justified his selection ahead of Sadio Mane as he stretched to turn in Trent Alexander-Arnold’s cross to double Liverpool’s advantage.

Salah has now scored in 10 consecutive games and overtook Didier Drogba with his 105th Premier League goal when the Egyptian turned home Keita’s cut-back with the United defence all at sea.

Liverpool inflicted further punishment before the break when Salah smashed home at De Gea’s near post.

Salah then completed his hat-trick with another cool finish five minutes into the second-half after Jordan Henderson’s pass dissected the United defence once more.

Cristiano Ronaldo thought he had pulled a goal back only for a VAR review to catch him in an offside position.

Another VAR check saw the end of Pogba’s brief cameo for a horrendous studs-up challenge on Keita that forced the Guinean off.

Solskjaer sacrificed Bruno Fernandes and Marcus Rashford to try and stop the bleeding as Old Trafford emptied during the final half-hour.

De Gea ensured Liverpool failed to match their record margin of victory against United with an incredible save from Alexander-Arnold’s drive.

However, that did not subdue the mood among the travelling fans as they mockingly chanted for Solskjaer to remain in his job.

Solskjaer Confident He Can Ride Out Man Utd Storm

Manchester United's Norwegian manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer gestures on the touchline during the English FA Cup quarter-final football match between Leicester City and Manchester United at King Power Stadium in Leicester, central England on March 21, 2021. Leicester won the game 3-1. Oli SCARFF / POOL / AFP
FILE: Manchester United’s Norwegian manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer gestures on the touchline during the English FA Cup quarter-final football match between Leicester City and Manchester United at King Power Stadium in Leicester, central England on March 21, 2021. Oli SCARFF / POOL / AFP

 

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is confident he can turn Manchester United’s fortunes around as pressure increases on the Norwegian ahead of Wednesday’s Champions League clash with Atalanta at Old Trafford.

United are five points behind Premier League leaders Chelsea after a 4-2 defeat at Leicester on Saturday

They are not certain of progressing to the last 16 of the Champions League after losing their opening group game to Swiss side Young Boys, though they beat Villarreal in their second fixture.

READ ALSO: Man Utd Must Fix ‘Mentality And Tactics’, Says Pogba

Much more was expected of Solskjaer’s team after the arrivals of Cristiano Ronaldo, Jadon Sancho and Raphael Varane during the transfer window.

United face a daunting fixture list over the coming weeks including Premier League clashes with Liverpool, Tottenham and Manchester City and two matches against Italian side Atalanta.

But Solskjaer’s nearly three-year spell in charge of the club has been a rollercoaster ride and he believes United can emerge from their troubles stronger.

“Yes, we’ve signed some players that have raised expectations,” he said at his pre-match press conference on Tuesday.

“Other teams have signed players and improved as well so we’re in the same boat as all the top teams. There’s pressure all the time.

“There’s pressure on me, of course, but we’ve been through this before and we’ve come through it stronger as individuals and as a team.

“I’m just looking forward to the response now and I’m in dialogue with the club all the time, so that’s an open, honest discussion all the time.”

Solskjaer clarified comments he made last week urging forward Marcus Rashford to “concentrate on his football”.

The England forward has earned widespread praise for his off-the-field work, which includes campaigning to tackle child food poverty.

Solskjaer said he was referring to Rashford now being able to play free from pain after having surgery on a long-running shoulder problem.

Rashford, who scored on his return from injury at Leicester, said the players also had to bear some responsibility for a poor run of results and performances, rather than Solskjaer becoming the fall guy.

“I think at a club like Manchester United as soon as you lose a game this is what happens,” said Rashford.

“I think for us as players we have to go back to basics, look at ourselves and see what we can do better.

“We’ve had the conversation as a team as we would do whether we win a game or lose a game. We know the next game is another opportunity to improve and that’s always the aim.”

 

AFP

Leicester Pile Pressure On Solskjaer As Man Utd Collapse

Manchester United's Norwegian manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer reacts at the end of the English Premier League football match between Leicester City and Manchester United at King Power Stadium in Leicester, central England on October 16, 2021. Paul ELLIS / AFP
Manchester United’s Norwegian manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer reacts at the end of the English Premier League football match between Leicester City and Manchester United at King Power Stadium in Leicester, central England on October 16, 2021. Paul ELLIS / AFP

 

Leicester piled pressure on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer with a late goal spree in their thrilling 4-2 victory against troubled Manchester United on Saturday.

Solskjaer will face renewed scrutiny after United’s collapse at the King Power Stadium left them without a win in their last three Premier League games.

The United manager saw Mason Greenwood open the scoring early on, only for Leicester’s Youri Tielemans to equalise before half-time.

Caglar Soyuncu put Leicester in front in the closing stages before Marcus Rashford marked his first appearance this season after shoulder surgery with United’s leveller.

READ ALSO: It Is Time For Rashford To Focus On Football, Says Solskjaer

In a dramatic denouement, Leicester ended United’s English league record 29-game unbeaten run away from home with goals from Jamie Vardy and Patson Daka in the last seven minutes.

It was a bitter blow for Solskjaer, who had already endured criticism after United were beaten by Aston Villa and held by Everton in their final games before the recent international break.

While Solskjaer may not be in immediate danger of the sack, the Norwegian must emerge with some notable victories from a testing period featuring matches against Liverpool, Tottenham, Manchester City and Atalanta twice in the Champions League.

Cristiano Ronaldo started after Solskjaer controversially left him on the bench for the first 57 minutes against Everton, but the Portugal star was held in check.

Spluttering United have won only one of their last five games in all competitions.

Adding to United’s woes, the club were forced to defend their decision to fly the 100-mile journey to Leicester.

Claiming their travel plans changed due to “circumstances” amid reports of motorway traffic congestion, United were accused of disregarding climate change issues.

United played as though they were hampered by the jet-lag associated with much longer flights throughout a wretched display.

Ashen-faced Solskjaer

Greenwood put United ahead in the 19th minute when he cut in from the right and played a one-two with a Bruno Fernandes before smashing an unstoppable 20-yard strike into the top corner.

It was the 20-year-old’s first goal since August and his fourth of the season.

Ronaldo’s strike was fisted away by Kasper Schmeichel, but Leicester were level in the 31st minute as Tielemans matched Greenwood’s moment of magic.

Harry Maguire, rusty on his return from a two-match calf injury lay-off, sloppily surrendered possession to Kelechi Iheanacho as he tried to play out from the back.

Iheanacho found Tielemans and the Belgium midfielder clipped a sublime lofted finish over David De Gea for his second goal this season.

Leicester had the upper hand and Iheanacho shot wide late in the first half before testing De Gea soon after the interval.

United were struggling to find their rhythm and although Nemanja Matic lashed narrowly wide with a long-range blast, it wasn’t long before Solskjaer took off the anonymous Jadon Sancho.

There was little improvement in United’s performance and De Gea had to make a good save to turn Tielemans’ shot onto the woodwork.

De Gea plunged to his left to deny Daka, but Leicester’s pressure paid off in the 78th minute.

Daka’s shot was saved by De Gea and when the ball deflected off Ayoze Perez, Soyuncu was on hand to fire home from close-range.

Solskjaer must have felt a wave of relief when Rashford ran onto Victor Lindelof’s ball over the top and smashed past Schmeichel in the 82nd minute.

But, less than 60 seconds later, Solskjaer’s face was ashen again as Perez’s pass found Vardy and the striker slotted into the corner with the outside of his boot.

Zambian striker Daka added to Solskjaer’s misery in stoppage-time when he tapped in Tielemans’ free-kick for his first Leicester goal.

AFP

It Is Time For Rashford To Focus On Football, Says Solskjaer

In this file photo taken on December 01, 2019 Manchester United's English striker Marcus Rashford applauds supporters on the pitch after the English Premier League football match between Manchester United and Aston Villa at Old Trafford in Manchester, north west England, on December 1, 2019. Oli SCARFF / AFP
A file photo of Manchester United’s English striker Marcus Rashford. Oli SCARFF / AFP

 

Manchester United coach Ole Gunnar Solskjaer believes it is time for Marcus Rashford to focus on football after winning widespread plaudits for his anti-poverty campaigning.

The 24-year-old forward hasn’t played since suffering a shoulder injury following England’s Euro 2020 final loss to Italy in July.

However, he could make his first appearance of the season in Saturday’s game at Leicester and Solskjaer wants to see his striker recover his peak form.

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“Marcus has done remarkable things at a young age and he’s now coming into his best age for a footballer,” said the United boss.

“He’s learning. He’s getting more and more experience. He’s had time to reflect on what he’s done off the pitch as well, because he’s done some fantastic things, and now maybe prioritise his football and focus on football.”

Rashford has inspired a free school meals campaign and was honoured by Queen Elizabeth for his charitable efforts.

He was also presented with an honorary doctorate from the University of Manchester.

AFP