From Ferguson’s heir to the stigma of being a physical trainer. Why Solskjaer’s resignation from Manchester United is inevitable

Soon­er or lat­er, the Nor­we­gian will join Mour­in­ho, Van Gaal and Moyes.

The first three months of Man­ches­ter Unit­ed’s life this sea­son seem like an inevitable death sen­tence for the team’s head coach, Ole Gun­nar Sol­sk­jaer. The flash­es of bril­liance of Bruno Fer­nan­des and Cris­tiano Ronal­do increas­ing­ly dimin­ish the coach’s con­tri­bu­tion to the club’s results. And although the Nor­we­gian has not yet been fired, his depar­ture seems to be a mat­ter of time.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Pep Guardiola. Sol­sk­jaer out? Man­ches­ter Unit­ed lost to City with a poor per­for­mance

Beginning of the season — disappointments and unconvincing rehabilitation

On Octo­ber 24, Unit­ed suf­fered one of the biggest and most painful defeats in the his­to­ry of the Pre­mier League — a defeat by Liv­er­pool (0:5) at Old Traf­ford. Even then, many peo­ple dis­missed Sol­sk­jaer, but after the match he only smiled. True, such behav­ior did not inspire con­fi­dence, but rather act­ed as a mask for the inter­nal state. It turned out uncon­vinc­ing.

Just as the three sub­se­quent match­es turned out uncon­vinc­ing, which, accord­ing to infor­ma­tion The Tele­graph, were giv­en to the Nor­we­gian to cor­rect the sit­u­a­tion. The vic­to­ry over Tot­ten­ham (3:0) should not make you feel euphor­ic. “Spurs” under Nuno were a pie with noth­ing in a wrap­per with the inscrip­tion “top club”. A team with an under­dog attack­ing record: Tot­ten­ham ranks 17th in the league in terms of goals and expect­ed goals (xG), and even low­er in terms of shots.

The match with Ata­lan­ta (2:2) became more reveal­ing. Cris­tiano Ronal­do’s goals in the added min­utes of the first and sec­ond halves epit­o­mize how thin and unreg­u­lat­ed the line between suc­cess and fail­ure of a team is. Chant “Ole is dri­ving!” becomes com­i­cal when super­man Cris­tiano repeat­ed­ly saves the Man­ches­ter “…” — insert the name of the vehi­cle your­self — from falling off a cliff. And now we are talk­ing about a draw with Ata­lan­ta, a club whose ros­ter cost is half that of Man­ches­ter Unit­ed…

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Post­ed by Man­ches­ter Unit­ed (@manchesterunited)

Final­ly, in the third match, Sol­sk­jaer faced a der­by with City. The con­fronta­tion did not work out — Pep Guardi­o­la’s team beat Unit­ed (2:0) in a dom­i­nant style and left Man­ches­ter Unit­ed nine points behind the lead­ing Chelsea. Here’s how Sky Sports expert and ex-Red Dev­ils defend­er Gary Neville spoke about the der­by:

“It was 12 rounds of real pain. It’s as if Tyson Fury said he want­ed the oth­er box­er to feel pain for 12 three-minute rounds. But he won’t knock him out, he will play with him. That’s how it was. City are a great team. Anoth­er sober­ing day for Unit­ed.

With almost a third of the sea­son behind them, Unit­ed have one win in their last six match­es in all com­pe­ti­tions and one point from four straight home games. This looks more like the sta­tis­tics of a club in the rel­e­ga­tion zone, rather than a team that was con­sid­ered one of the con­tenders for the title in the sum­mer.

But for now, Sol­sk­jaer is stay­ing. The Ath­let­ic report­ed that the deci­sion to fire the coach depends on the club’s co-own­er Joel Glaz­er and at the moment the Nor­we­gian’s res­ig­na­tion is not being dis­cussed with­in the man­age­ment. This is also like­ly due to the lack of qual­i­ty replace­ment can­di­dates avail­able — Tot­ten­ham land­ed Anto­nio Con­te and Mauri­cio Pochet­ti­no is firm­ly estab­lished in Paris.

But Sol­sk­jaer’s prob­lems don’t end on the pitch.

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Pub­li­ca­tion from Sport Express (@sport_express)

October 30th.  London.  “Tottenham Hotspur” —  “Manchester United” —  0:3.  Cristiano Ronaldo. Man­ches­ter Unit­ed sud­den­ly res­ur­rect­ed. Ronal­do scored, Sol­sk­jaer’s dis­missal post­poned for now

Ronaldo and Fernandes are unhappy with what is happening

Accord­ing to the Dai­ly Mail, Bruno Fer­nan­des and Cris­tiano are rebelling in the dress­ing room, not hid­ing their dis­sat­is­fac­tion with the actions (and inac­tion in oth­er mat­ters) of Sol­sk­jaer. Of course, such leaks should be treat­ed crit­i­cal­ly and not tak­en as absolute truth. But if they are true, the play­ers can be under­stood.

At the start of the sea­son, Sol­sk­jaer had huge expec­ta­tions on his shoul­ders — the club spent more than £100 mil­lion on the trans­fer cam­paign in the sum­mer, final­ly com­plet­ing the trans­fer of Jadon San­cho and sign­ing Raphael Varane as a long-term part­ner for Har­ry Maguire. The unex­pect­ed arrival of Ronal­do only added to this bur­den. Espe­cial­ly in terms of tac­tics.

The 36-year-old for­ward has nev­er been known for his abil­i­ty to active­ly press or defend deeply and dis­ci­plined­ly. Occa­sion­al­ly — maybe. But not all the time. This is not his ele­ment. Con­se­quent­ly, Sol­sk­jaer need­ed to adapt his style to Cris­tiano’s strengths. But in addi­tion to Ronal­do, Man­ches­ter Unit­ed also has a scat­ter­ing of attack­ing stars, all of whom want to play in the start­ing line­up. The defen­sive approach in top match­es, when the Nor­we­gian adjust­ed to the oppo­nent and achieved results against City, Liv­er­pool or Chelsea, no longer works. The coach needs to take a new step for­ward in the club’s tac­ti­cal evo­lu­tion.

Sol­sk­jaer tried to bal­ance the team and used a new 5–3‑2 for­ma­tion, in which Fer­nan­des is in the mid­field three, and either Edin­son Cavani or Mar­cus Rash­ford joins Ronal­do in the for­ward pair­ing. After get­ting the desired but decep­tive result against Tot­ten­ham, the Nor­we­gian used sim­i­lar tac­tics against both Ata­lan­ta and City. Did not work. And at the same time, the winger posi­tions dis­ap­peared from the scheme — con­ve­nient for San­cho, Mason Green­wood, Antho­ny Mar­tial and Rash­ford.

Sol­sk­jaer’s task is to get results. But while he is mired in com­pro­mis­es, the pres­sure is only grow­ing. After the inter­na­tion­al break, Unit­ed faces a very dif­fi­cult peri­od. After Wat­ford, the team will go to vis­it Vil­lar­real (in the first match, Ronal­do brought vic­to­ry in the 90+4th minute, which would not have hap­pened with­out a whole scat­ter­ing of saves by David De Gea), and then to Chelsea. After this, Man­ches­ter Unit­ed will face Arse­nal.

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Pub­li­ca­tion from Sport Express (@sport_express)

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Cristiano Ronaldo. Man Unit­ed — Man City: Ronal­do will save Sol­sk­jaer from res­ig­na­tion

Coach without a single title

The issue of pos­si­ble res­ig­na­tion is com­pli­cat­ed by the finan­cial side of the issue. In the sum­mer, they re-signed a con­tract with Sol­sk­jaer until 2024. Along with the lack of qual­i­ty can­di­dates for replace­ment, sol­id mon­e­tary com­pen­sa­tion will at least pre­vent the club’s man­age­ment from cut­ting cor­ners. How­ev­er, it is worth under­stand­ing that mon­ey does not act as an eter­nal pro­tec­tion for Sol­sk­jaer — it only gives him a ghost­ly chance to stay at the top.

After all, it is obvi­ous that after his dis­missal, not a sin­gle top club will invite him. Even the mid­dle peas­ants are unlike­ly to start pick­ing up the phone num­bers of the Norwegian’s agents: Sol­sk­jaer has too lit­tle expe­ri­ence in build­ing his own suc­cess­ful projects at a high lev­el. To be more pre­cise, he has no such expe­ri­ence.

Unit­ed, after Sir Alex Fer­gu­son, went through many can­di­dates for the post of heir to the great Scot. Most of them did­n’t last very long. But they all brought cups to the club muse­um: David Moyes won the Super Cup, Louis van Gaal won the FA Cup, Jose Mour­in­ho won the League Cup and Europa League. Sol­sk­jaer has been at the helm of Man­ches­ter Unit­ed for two and a half years, reach­ing sec­ond place last sea­son, but he has no tro­phies. No one. And now the posi­tion of the club leg­end looks as vul­ner­a­ble as pos­si­ble. Anoth­er bad run and the Nor­we­gian will hear peo­ple wish­ing him good luck in his future endeav­ors, adding a por­trait to Fergie’s gallery of inglo­ri­ous heirs.