What next for Ole and Manchester United

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer under serious pressure since the international break

Manchester United looked on the brink of dismissing another manager after the thoroughly embarassing loss to Liverpool. A 5-0 loss at home sending Manchester United eight points behind top spot and into seventh place. The fans all took to social media and wanted the manager out. Despite the many, MANY reports claiming Ole would be gone after the loss, Ole has managed the last three games before the international break. But looks on the brink once again.

Many reports suggest that the board have given Ole Gunnar Solskjaer another chance to prove his worth. They also indicate that Sir Alex had a pivotal role in this decision. Ole managed the Spurs game to perfectiopn with his tactics working a treat and winning United the game 0-3. Unfortunately the results slipped off as United had to rely on Ronaldo’s wonder goal to seal a crucial draw in Bergamo before a toothless and pitiful defeat at home to City.

The City result puts United nine points behind Chelsea who drew at home to Burnley on Saturday. After only 11 games, this is certainly salvageable. However the team is playing awfully and the tactics employed by the manager and the coaching staff are not working and are making United both vulnerable in defence and inconsistent in attack.

Why give Ole a second chance?

It’s quite clear that this was a surprising decision by the board to keep Ole. I was certainly expecting the board to sack him as they did to Jose, Van Gaal and Moyes before him. But the board have decided to remain with Ole for now. Sir Alex had a pivotal role it seems and there is history behind the possible reason why.

Sir Alex was in the same position as Ole all those years ago. He had just led United to a second place finish in his first full season in charge but slumped to back-to-back midtable finishes in the 88/89 and 89/90 campaigns. During the latter season, the fans were calling for Sir Alex to be dismissed. The board held their nerve and the rest was history.

Sir Alex remebered this point in his career and clearly believes Ole can turn around his United tenure. That season, Sir Alex won the FA Cup with United and that was a crucial turning point for him and United.

I think Ole is at the brink as United boss. It seems clear that things are currently not working as they should and it’s cost United big points already. Many think sacking the manager could be the right choice after demonstrating that this current side is nowhere near the likes of Chelsea, Manchester City and Liverpool at the moment. Of course, it could all turn around and it looks like we could have another topsy-turvy Premier League season. But does that look likely in the current crisis? Unfortunately not in my opinion.

Who would be the right person to appoint as Ole’s replacement?

If Ole is to go then it does have to be the right appointment. I never thought Conte would be the right manager for United. Not for a second. He is a brilliant, passionate and clever manager but he is nomadic and could cause problems as Jose did in his final 12 months in charge. Ten-Haag would be the ideal signing for me, should Ole leave. He would have the same attacking and possession-based philosophy that United should want and have. He uses the academy and brings through the youth at Ajax who are probably the most in-form team in Europe. Ten-Haag doesn’t sign big-money players and get’s the best out of the players he has and makes clever signings that fit his system.

Previously linked managers return to the frame for United

Other options would include Zinedine Zidane who, while a serial winner and both plays attacking football and has managed star-players excellently, has only experienced a fully world-class team in that Madrid side from 2015-2018. It could be a good challenge for him but reportedly is one he doesn’t want.

Another choice could be Mauricio Pochettino. He was linked originally with the United job when Jose was sacked but remained at Spurs until his dismissal the year after. I don’t know whether he would be successful at United. Although he is capable of dealing with next-to-no budget as he suffered (in silence) under Daniel Levy and plays wonderful attacking football, he seems to struggle with the stars.

Someone closer to home?

Brendan Rodgers is another name being heavily linked as it has been reported that Rodgers has verbally agreed to become the United boss at the end of the season at the latest. I for one would not be happy if United appoitn Rodgers. While he does have a certain attacking philosophy and gets good players from nowhere for nothing, he has his faults. The first and biggest one is that he is a former-Liverpool manager. The second is that he is infamously the man who couldn’t take either Liverpool or Leicester to the next level. He couldn’t win Liverpool the league and he couldn’t secure Champions League football for two seasons in a row despite being part of the top four for more time than any other team in the last two seasons. It doesn’t seem like a step forward for me.

If there isn’t an outstanding candidate, United shouldn’t appoint long-term. They need someone to bring back stability and form for the rest of the season. If that’s Ole then that’s wonderful, if not then they need the right kind of temporary manager. I don’t know who can do that job just for the end of the season but United will have to act fast if that is there decision.

A Pivotal International Break

The powers that be at United know this international break is the perfect time to get a new manager in. They will have 10 days to work their system and get used to the players and staff. Especially with so many of United’s players not going on the international break (Henderson, Telles, maybe Shaw, Wan-Bissaka, Matic, van de Beek, Sancho, Greenwood and Martial). Teams normally bounce back and play well under a new manager and with pivotal games against Watford, Villarreal, Chelsea and Arsenal coming up, it could be the right time to appoint a new manager and implant their philosphies before the gap at the top and even to the top four extends even more.

At the same time it is a chance for Ole to get his team sorted and back to the United that has got us dreaming of big trophies again. It’s a tricky decision either way, do you give up on the project that Ole has started? He has successfully rebuilt the squad into one that should be competing for big trophies and has got the academy brimming with young, promising talents like Elanga, Mejbri, Shoretire, Hugill, McNeil and Mengi and those from abroad like Amad and Pellistri. Ole has done so much good for United. Arguably he has done the difficult part but cannot do the easy bit and win with a super team that he himself has built.

Will Ole be sacked this international break?

It would be a difficult decision to sack him but I wouldn’t be surprised if the Glazers did. It would be a damn shame if Ole’s tenure ends like this, it’s certainly not a reflection of his time at United. If he stays, I’ll back him to the end and hope and believe he can turn this tricky situation around. If not, then I’ll be sad and disappointed the Ole era didn’t work out to be the turning point for United and hope they pick the right manager who will fit the United philosophy and get this team ticking and winning again.

Whether it’s Ole or someone new, there are many things that have to change at United to get them to that point. Here’s my take on what needs sorting:

Midfield Mess

Manchester United need to sort out their midfield issues. It’s getting ridiculous. It seems the reliable option of McFred is no longer the buffer it once was. United cannot use 4-2-4 anymore and especially against the big teams as it was horribly exposed against Liverpool and either unable to hold the ball up or horribly disjointed against Manchester City.

There have been many different opinions on how to improve the midfield. United have tried both a midfield pivot and a three but neither have worked for various reasons. Matic is still United’s best defensive midfielder and one of the best passers in midfield. But his legs have gone and he needs runners around him to work for him. I think United should try a diamond to add true balance to the midfield. I would say Matic as the anchor, two box-to-box players in a combination of Fred or McTominay and Pogba or van de Beek with Fernandes at the top. Right now a three isn’t working and neither is a two, especially with Pogba in it. It’s not a guarantee but it could help United’s gaping holes in midfield until January and they can get the targets they need.

Inefficient Pressing

United have been awful pressers this season and the match against Liverpool highlighted it. United tried to press from the front and it left too many spaces in behind for Liverpool to run through. I think this was a tactical mistake that has to be sorted. United should only press from the front against teams that will sit back. Against teams such as Liverpool and Manchester City, United have to be the sitters and only press inside their half.

If United are to press in some games, the personnel has to be right. Unfortunatley Ronaldo joining meant our best presser, Daniel James left for Leeds. This left a big gap as his role in our team was pivotal in big games. Jesse Lingard and Jadon Sancho are our best pressing wingers and Cavani is one of the best pressing strikers in the world. At least two of these players have to start if United are to play high pressing football and as do both McTominay and Fred at the moment.

So if United are to play using a high press, the personnel has to be correct. It means if you play Ronaldo, you have to play more pressing forwards to accommodate that. If you play Pogba, you have to play more pressing midfielders to do the work for him. It also means if United play a high press, they usually play a high line. That means David de Gea can no longer start as he is too static off his line and it has already cost United goals this season. This gets on to the next point:

Ole or the next manager has to be ruthless

The manager whoever they are needs to make some difficult decisions. Luke Shaw and Harry Maguire were pivotal for club and country last season but have been nowhere near good enough in the opening weeks of this campaign. They have the quality, confidence and ability but aren’t showing any of it consistently this season. Shaw’s injury may mean Telles gets a chance and gives Shaw a chance to sort his head. Harry Maguire is the captain of the club and in a recent interview has said his own performances need desperate improvement. Maguire was reportedly rushed back 7-10 days earlier than he should have been following his injury against Villa. This may be the problem but then, why was he called up for England? The pair needs sorting out because they cannot continue like this. Whether it’s a mental issue, an injury or something, it’s not about ability.

The same has to be said for midfield. For one, I think McTominay’s form has dropped since the West Ham win and needs taking out of the team or a wake up call. Pogba’s red card has helped in Ole not needing to fit him into the team somehow but a Donny-sized shadow still lingers on the Old Trafford bench and he needs some reassurances of his role or he is certainly out of the door. He has to be at least considered in this crisis. If not it shows what little trust Ole has in him. He has played well when coming on and I think will be featuring more reguarly under a new manager or the current one.

Goalkeeping Conundrum

In goal there is another issue. David de Gea has saved United so many times this season and even more so in his United career but there’s a big problem. He won’t come for crosses regularly, his distribution is erratic and he is no longer a sweeper keeper as he is too static off his line. He saves goals but he costs United goals too. Henderson may need to start playing when United are expected to have a high line and be a possession team. Because when he’s not there, United don’t have that last safety net that Henderson can provide. It’s a difficult decision after what he has done for this club and the goals he has saved already this season but realistically, the right one moving forward.

Staff Switches?

I think there needs to be a change in the current backroom staff. Something isn’t working and although the tweaks made in-game tend to churn out better performances and goals, it isn’t enough. United are being coached with inexperience at the top level. McKenna is a former-U23’s boss and this is Carrick’s first and only coaching since his retirement in 2018. United need more experience in the coaching side of their staff both Mick Phelan and Ole are reportedly more on the managment side of things. I won’t pretend to know who would be best to bring into the coaching staff but I would say that someone needs to come in and fast.

A new manager will almost certainly bring in a new backroom staff or at least merge with the current one. However, if Ole is staying, he needs more advice in the coaching department. What he has now has, is a young and promising staff but needs some guidance and experience at this point in the team’s development.


Of course, the way you are judged in football is through the results. United are in the third worst form in the Premier League behind Newcastle and Villa (who have both just dismissed their managers). United have to win and win well against Watford. They need to beat Villarreal if they are to finish top of the group and get an unequivocally better RO16 draw than if they settle for second. They have to then beat Chelsea and Arsenal to close the gap to the top four and top spot because the league is not over by any means yet.

United have to start winning again and regularly. The Tottenham win was a good one but ultimately just demonstrated that Spurs were awful. Consistently winning and especially at home has to be the priority. With difficult games on the horizon it will be a tricky ask. United can win every game in that tricky run but it has to be with the right tactics and personnel. Ole (should he stay) has time to find this out because he knows every loss, draw, goal conceded, chance missed or mistimed challenge will be pressure added to his job.


I don’t hope or wish for Ole to be sacked. I haven’t for any United manager ever. But the question remains whether United would be a better outfit under a new manager and whether they would be able to do what Ole currently cannot and get this team winning games, titles and trophies. The answer seems, at this point, more likely yes than no but I don’t feel happy thinking this. If Ole does leave, I’ll thank him for all the good he has done and all the toxicity that has left when Jose was in charge. I’ll back whoever the next manager is but I hope the negligent owners and Woodward elect the right person for the job.

Author: Arjun Handa