Manchester United fires Solskjaer after too big a loss

Manchester United had not done so after a humiliation by Liverpool. And club officials had managed to tolerate the sight of Manchester ...


Manchester United had not done so after a humiliation by Liverpool. And club officials had managed to tolerate the sight of Manchester City’s victory at Old Trafford while barely sweating. After each loss, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, the manager who oversaw the two calamities, sort of stayed in his post.

He couldn’t survive a third, however. Solskjaer had promised, two weeks after the loss to Manchester City, that his side would react, that they would use embarrassment as fuel for the remainder of the season. Instead, his side, one of the costliest in football’s long and lavish history, traveled to Watford – struggling at the foot of the Premier League, the kind of team United were used to seeing. ‘dismissed without thinking – and managed to lose on Saturday, 4-1.

It was the end. A meeting of the board of directors has been called. A decision has been made. Solskjaer, a favorite son finally run out of rope, was out.

“Ole will always be a legend at Manchester United and it is with regret that we have made this difficult decision,” the club said on Sunday in a statement which seemed to be careful to avoid saying that Solskjaer had been sacked. “While the past few weeks have been disappointing, they shouldn’t mask all the work he has done over the past three years to rebuild the foundations for long-term success.”

The decision to remove him, however, did little to resolve the uncertainty surrounding United’s future. United have said Michael Carrick, Solskjaer’s assistant and another former United player, will take over on an interim basis “as the club seek to appoint an interim manager until the end of the season”. The move – appointing a placeholder for an interim manager to be announced – raised new questions about the management of the club, the most decorated team in English football but which has not won the league since 2013.

Saturday’s loss seemed to trigger a sudden change in the attitude of the players. The United squad had, for the most part, remained firmly behind Solskjaer: he is, and has been, appreciated by his bosses. After the loss at Watford, however, longtime United goalkeeper David De Gea admitted that it seemed his side “didn’t know how to defend themselves”. He lamented the tendency of his colleagues to give up a host of “easy chances, easy goals”.

For the first time, this view also seemed to be shared by United’s hierarchy. Solskjaer’s leaders called a meeting on Saturday evening to discuss the best course of action. The very existence of the conclave was a sufficient message: from that point on, Solskjaer’s departure was a matter of when, rather than if.

He couldn’t be surprised. Solskjaer returned to Old Trafford almost exactly three years ago, responding to his former team’s distress signal after the dismissal of José Mourinho. His reign was variable in the extreme: mercurial, in a soft light, and violently erratic, in a harsher one.

He boosted the morale of a heavily exposed team at Mourinho’s final stadium. He has organized several races full of emotion and good form, and he has achieved a record streak on the road. He sent a team that knocked Paris St.-Germain out of the Champions League. He reached a Europa League final. He finished (from a distance) second behind Manchester City in the Premier League.

But he also failed to tap all of the richly talented players at his disposal into something approaching a cohesive unit. He lost home games against the Premier League’s lesser lights in an alarming clip. He lost this Europa League final. He did not win a trophy. After the 5-0 loss to Liverpool last month, he was subjected not only to anger and pity, but also to ridicule. He has become, for the rivals of his team, a laughing stock.

Particularly early in his tenure, Solskjaer got into the habit of talking about Manchester United’s glorious past, the story he had played in such a moving role. He joked about the club’s tendency to score late goals or mount comebacks or make things dramatic. The leitmotif might have grown irritated after a while, but Solskjaer was nothing if not sincere.

He cherished United’s history. He felt deeply that it was his job to make sure this iteration of the team lived up to the standards set by his predecessors. He can therefore complain little that his tenure has ended after a month in which it has become abundantly, painfully clear, just how far he has fallen from that level.

In a way, his departure confirms his belief in the importance of United’s history. To tolerate three humiliations, Liverpool, Manchester City and Watford, would have been to betray Manchester United’s vision; how Solskjaer sees it. To be true to what the club is, United had no choice but to part ways with the man who considered his job to be to maintain that level.



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Newsrust - US Top News: Manchester United fires Solskjaer after too big a loss
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