Manchester United’s plans to keep Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in charge until the end of the season have been in disarray due to disastrous performances against Manchester City and Liverpool.
United had been hoping to make a decision on Solskjaer’s future in the summer when any change of manager could be planned. However, back-to-back defeats at home added to the pressure on the Norwegian with the lameness surrendering on Saturday in the Manchester derby after a 5-0 embarrassment against Liverpool.
Solskjaer’s position is under intense scrutiny once again after a harrowing streak of six defeats in the last 12 games, culminating in a 2-0 loss to City at Old Trafford.
Man United had been planning to keep Ole Gunnar Solskjaer until the end of the season, but heavy defeats against Liverpool and Man City caused a potential rethink.
The optimism that pervaded the club in the summer that he could lead United to a title challenge this season has given way to a sense of shock and uncertainty.
Sportsmail can also detect:
- Bruno Fernandes is among the top players who feel they are not receiving enough guidance from Solskjaer and his coaching staff.
- Cristiano Ronaldo has been concerned about low standards at United since leaving the club 12 years ago.
- Players sympathize with Donny van de Beek for the way Solskjaer was treated after fans also offered their support for the rotten Dutchman when he entered against City.
- Marcus Rashford played nearly half an hour in the derby despite missing two days of pre-match training with the flu.
United were booed at halftime and full time against City after a defeat that was as humiliating as the five-goal defeat by Liverpool two weeks ago.
The horrific nature of United’s defeat has made Solskjaer fight back to keep his job after the club spent £135.6m on Ronaldo, Jadon Sancho and Raphael Varane in the summer to give him a squad as good as any in the Premier League.
So far, there has been no desire among the United hierarchy to sack Solskjaer after he joined the Old Trafford legend and his mission of restoring the club’s true values after the succession of Jose Mourinho and Louis van Gaal.
Co-chairs Joel and Avram Glazer and Executive Vice President Ed Woodward would have preferred to wait until the summer to assess the situation when the Norwegian would have been in office for three and a half years. Any change thereafter will be considered with more time to install a suitable replacement.
They resisted calls to quit Solskjaer and appoint Antonio Conte two weeks ago before the Italian joined Tottenham because he was seen as a too short-term and shocking option.
However, action may be imposed on Solskjaer’s bosses if they decide the former Cardiff manager can no longer stop the slide.
Against City in the derby, Pep Guardiola beat Solskjaer comprehensively
The United manager has a star-studded squad but fails to get results from his players
On Sunday night, United and sources close to Brendan Rodgers played down speculation that the Leicester City boss had already been called to replace Solskjaer.
After the international break, United face Watford, Chelsea, Arsenal and Crystal Palace in the Premier League after falling nine points behind leaders Chelsea after just 11 games.
They also face Villarreal and Young Boys in the Champions League with a relatively easy Group F qualification far from guaranteed.
Doubts are growing within a squad of players who looked so cohesive at a pre-season training camp in Scotland last summer, encouraging United’s seniors to take on a strong title challenge.
It is understood that Fernandes is among the players who feel as though Solskjaer and his huge squad in the background haven’t got a clear plan, while others have expressed concern that too many young coaches are learning on the job.
Bruno Fernandez is tired of the situation and doesn’t feel like he’s not being given enough guidance
After failing miserably to carry out a pressing match against Liverpool, United switched to a more defensive 3-4-1-2 style that did not match the ambitions of the club or the offensive team that formed it.
However, Solskjaer’s tactics were easily dismantled by Pep Guardiola who used his players extensively, Phil Foden and Gabriel Jesus, to determine the full-back position at United. Solskjaer changed to a defensive quadruple in the first half but the match was lost by then.
Ronaldo was well aware when he returned to United that times had changed in his 12 years away, but the Portugal star was said to have been shocked by how low standards had become.
His frustration compounded again when he was booked for a late sarcastic challenge on Kevin De Bruyne, having escaped a red card against Liverpool when Curtis Jones broke through.
There is also a feeling in the dressing room that Solskjaer shows favoritism to some players and is very weak in the squad.
Questions have been raised about whether United’s work rate would be too poor if Guardiola or Jurgen Klopp were in charge.
The selection of Harry Maguire continues despite the disastrous loss in the form that sources believe began after playing for England at the Euros. Luke Shaw, too, hasn’t been the same player since the tournament.
However, Van de Beek is still largely left out by Solskjaer who also ignores Jesse Lingard. There are fears Sancho’s career could stagnate a little more than three months after his £73m arrival from Dortmund.
United players sympathize with Donny van de Beek and feel he should get more games
Van de Beek and Sancho came in as substitutes against City, and the warm welcome given by United fans to the Dutchman was akin to turning on Solskjaer.
Van de Beek’s teammates don’t understand why he hasn’t been given a bigger chance since his £40m move from Ajax.
Another alternative to Manchester United on Saturday was Rashford, but the England striker is understood to have returned from the Champions League draw against Atalanta in Italy with flu symptoms and was brought home from training on Wednesday.
Rashford didn’t train on Thursday or Friday – and stayed away from the team’s hotel ahead of the derby – but was considered a better option than either Lingard or Anthony Martial when he was served up in the 67th minute.
The decision baffled his teammates and lower-level Rashford struggled to deliver as United slumped to another defeat.