From a fan’s perspective, United have been in freefall for the last few weeks. The club is languishing near the bottom of the table while Manchester City are storming to glory at their expense. This malaise will continue until Solskjaer leaves his position and better times return.
MANCHESTER, United Kingdom — At Old Trafford, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has become used to being humiliated on the touchline. Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho was once again ridiculed by Manchester City fans as his club slumped to a crushing 2-0 loss against their local rivals on Saturday, two weeks after being taunted by Liverpool fans during a 5-0 home defeat against Liverpool.
It’s become terrible to see Solskjaer face the ignominy of opposing fans insulting him with shouts like “Five more years” and “Ole, give us a wave!” But unless the Glazer family, United’s owners, and executive vice chairman Ed Woodward are ruthless enough to end Solskjaer’s 35-month reign as manager during the upcoming international break, the 48-year-old will limp on and have more days like this, when his players fail to deliver against top-class opponents and his tactical flaws are exposed by elite coaches like Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp.
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On Saturday, United and Solskjaer were completely overpowered by City and Guardiola. The final score was 2-0, but it might have been 5-0 if it hadn’t been for goalie David de Gea’s heroics. “I used to feel ill with anxiety coming here,” a senior City official told ESPN before the game. “But that only occurs at Anfield anymore.” They didn’t have to be concerned this time either.
United have won against Tottenham, drew away to Atalanta in the Champions League (thanks to a last-minute Cristiano Ronaldo equalizer), and been sent back to school in loss to City since losing to Liverpool. If defeating Spurs but losing to Liverpool and City is good enough for the Glazers and Woodward, you can guess where the bar at Old Trafford is currently placed. However, the fact is that the previous two years have been no different, and the club’s decision to extend Solskjaer’s contract by three years in July was based on the club’s declining standards.
On the day Solskjaer signed his new contract, Woodward remarked, “We are more certain than ever that, under Ole’s guidance, we are headed in the right path.”
When Solskjaer signed his contract, he had yet to win a trophy for United or come close to contending for the Premier League crown, but that was enough for Woodward and the owners. But how far has Solskjaer come, and are they any closer to fighting for the title? This season’s results imply otherwise, but it’s a well-established trend.
United has lost 10 Premier League games at Old Trafford since January 1, 2020, while accumulating 56 points at home throughout that time. It has the poorest home record among the so-called Big Six teams by a long shot. City had 76 points at home over that span before Saturday’s games, while Liverpool and Chelsea both had 67 points at home. Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal, on the other hand, have both gained 61 points in front of their home crowds.
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Surprisingly, Solskjaer has been in charge of 21% of United’s home losses in the Premier League era. They’ve also gone 14 games without a clean sheet at home in all competitions, which is the second-worst home run in club history. Those figures cast doubt on Solskjaer’s qualifications, but United officials maintain that he is the right man for the position.
It’s difficult to see how the Glazers can explain their tolerance with the manager with no trophies, poor home record, and their championship ambitions dashed for another season. Following the Liverpool setback, ESPN claimed that certain members of Solskjaer’s team were skeptical of the Norwegian’s tactical skills, and outcomes since then have done nothing to reassure the doubters.
Silva scored Man City’s second and clinching goal, despite it was one of Pep Guardiola’s side’s easier victories this season. Getty Images/Martin Rickett/PA Images
United’s performance versus City was so lackluster that it was as if they knew they didn’t have a chance. And it was clear United wouldn’t win after they fell down in the seventh minute, when Eric Bailly fumbled Joao Cancelo’s cross into his own goal. Bernardo Silva’s goal on the stroke of half-time clinched City’s triumph, as Luke Shaw and Harry Maguire allowed a long cross to reach the Portugal international for a simple tap-in at the far post.
Over the course of 90 minutes, Guardiola’s squad held 68 percent possession. United only had one attempt on target, but they did put de Gea to the test more than Ederson, with Victor Lindelof nearly joining Bailly in the own goals with a miskick that de Gea saved.
It was a shambles, which only worsened when Solskjaer sent on replacement Jadon Sancho at halftime and put the right-winger on the left, but that’s United under Solskjaer. When it comes up against a top squad and top coach, it has no obvious strategy, no sense of direction, and it all falls apart.
The owners and Woodward may already be aware of this, but no action has yet been taken. The slide will continue until the top four fades from view, but by then it will be too late, and another season will pass with United treading water.