Ole Gunnar Solskjaer survived to face Tottenham on Saturday despite relentless speculation about his future at Manchester United following their 5-0 humiliation against Liverpool.
But far from the question of managerial work, pride is at stake for United’s expensive collection of world-class talent, who are under pressure to respond to the scathing criticism of recent weeks, AFP said.
A club-record win for Liverpool at Old Trafford was a new low during Solskjaer’s nearly three-year tenure, but continued a worrying trend for the Red Devils.
United have taken just one point out of the last 12 offered in the Premier League to drop eight points to leaders Chelsea after just nine games.
The expected challenge for a first league title since 2013 is already over, with Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City in menacing form.
United’s top priority is to make sure they don’t pull away from the battle for a top-four spot.
The failure to qualify for the Champions League has sounded the death knell for former United managers in recent years, as David Moyes and Louis van Gaal know the hard way.
United believed those days were behind them when they spent over £ 130million ($ 180million) on Cristiano Ronaldo, Jadon Sancho and Raphael Varane to bolster a side that finished second in the Premier League last season .
Despite having scored six goals in nine games, Ronaldo’s presence undoubtedly had a destabilizing impact, with Edinson Cavani’s lack of industry being noticeable in a horrendous defensive record.
After 11 games without a goal or an assist, Sancho failed to even get off the bench against Liverpool, while Varane has missed a lot since suffering a groin injury.
– Balancing act number –
Even some of Solskjaer’s most trusted lieutenants have failed him in recent weeks.
Captain Harry Maguire and Luke Shaw have publicly apologized for their dramatic loss of form since playing in England’s race to the Euro 2020 final.
“I think the first thing we need to look at ourselves in the mirror is ourselves,” said Shaw. “Are we doing everything right and preparing well for the games in ourselves?”
“Of course we have the tactics and the way the manager wants us to play, but I think sometimes we’re way too easy to face.”
Solskjaer has struggled to strike the right balance all season, even as his attacking arsenal covered the cracks in the opening weeks of the campaign.
Paul Pogba’s abandonment to welcome Fred and Scott McTominay to central midfielder failed to stem the tide of conceded goals, with United having kept only one clean sheet in 21 games.
Pogba is suspended for the trip to Tottenham Hotspur Stadium after only lasting 15 minutes against Liverpool as a second-half substitute before being sent off for a wild lunge on Naby Keita.
According to reports, there is unrest in the dressing room due to Solskjaer’s constant monitoring of players such as Jesse Lingard and Donny van de Beek despite the below average performance.
Varane’s return to training this week could see the Frenchman come back straight, but that tactic backfired against Leicester a fortnight ago when a rusty Maguire was fired from an injury and looked well out of rhythm .
Solskjaer’s biggest call is up front. Dropping Ronaldo would be a risky business as ex-boss Alex Ferguson’s criticism of his decision to put the five-time Ballon d’Or winner last month to rest against Everton has shown.
However, with the time quickly running out to turn the tide, Solskjaer must trust his convictions on what it will take to get results, even if it means hurting a few egos.