Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has survived to face Tottenham on Saturday despite continued speculation over his future at Manchester United after a 5-0 thrashing of Liverpool.
But far from the issue of the manager’s job, pride is at stake for United’s expensive collection of world-class talent, who have been under pressure to respond to harsh criticism in recent weeks.
A club-record win for Liverpool at Old Trafford was a new low during Solskjaer’s nearly three years in charge, but a worrying trend continued for the Red Devils.
United have taken only one point from their last 12 matches in the Premier League and are eight points short of Chelsea after just nine games.
The expected challenge for the first league title since 2013 is already over, with Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City in dangerous form.
United’s first priority is to ensure that they do not detract from the fight for a top four spot.
Failure to qualify for the Champions League has been the death knell for previous United managers in recent years, as David Moyes and Louis van Gaal know their cost.
United thought those days were behind them when they spent more than £130 million ($180 million) on Cristiano Ronaldo, Jadon Sancho and Rafael Varane to strengthen a team that finished second in the Premier League last season. was for
Despite scoring six goals in nine games, Ronaldo’s presence has undoubtedly had a destabilizing effect, with Edinson Cavani’s lack of industry noticeable in a formidable defensive record.
After 11 games without a goal or an assist, Sancho also failed to get off the bench against Liverpool, while Varane has missed a groin after suffering a groin injury.
– balancing act –
Even some of Solskjaer’s most trusted lieutenants have failed him in recent weeks.
Captains Harry Maguire and Luke Shaw have publicly apologized for their dramatic losses since starring in England’s race to the Euro 2020 final.
“I think it’s ourselves that we need to, first and foremost, look in the mirror,” Shaw said. “Are we doing everything right and preparing ourselves right for the Games?
“Of course we have the strategy and how the manager wants us to play, but I think it’s too easy to play against us at times.”
Solskjaer has struggled to strike the right balance throughout the season, even as his attacking arsenal cracked the opening weeks of the campaign.
Leaving Paul Pogba to join Fred and Scott McTominay in central midfield has failed to stem the flow of goals, with United keeping just a clean sheet in 21 games.
Pogba has been suspended for a trip to Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, which lasted just 15 minutes as a second-half substitute against Liverpool before being sent off for a wild lunge on Nabi Keita.
According to reports, there is unrest in the dressing room despite Solskjaer’s relentless ignoring of players like Jesse Lingard and Donny van de Beek.
Varane’s return to training this week may have thrown the French straight back, but that strategy backfired at Leicester a fortnight ago when a rusty Maguire was taken back from injury and looked well on pace.
The biggest call for Solskjaer is in front. Ronaldo’s ouster would be a risky business as former boss Alex Ferguson criticized his decision to rest the five-time Ballon d’Or winner against Everton last month.
However, as time is fast running out for things to turn around, Solskjaer needs to trust his beliefs about what it takes to get results, even if it means hurting some egos.