Clinical Liverpool showed up Manchester United in embarrassing manner – surely this is it for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer?


At Old Trafford on Sunday, as Manchester United were losing 5-0 to Liverpool, fans began chanting for embattled manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. “Ole give us a wave, Ole is on the wheel, Ole must stay,” came the joyous cry.

However, the chants came from a distant part of the field. Liverpool fans, up to this point, were well and truly laughing.

And why shouldn’t they be enjoying themselves? They were beating their arch-rivals by five goals. United were down to 10 men thanks to Paul Pogba’s reckless challenge on Naby Keita.

What’s more, there was no prospect of a fight. Liverpool’s ruthlessness and Manchester United’s inefficiency saw it through.

It is worth remembering that Sir Alex Ferguson, who presided over United’s dominance in the 90s and 2000s when Liverpool fell further down the table, took great pride in beating Liverpool.

“My biggest challenge was to get Liverpool off their f***ing perch. And you can print it,” he once famously told The Guardian.

But here and now the opposite was and is happening. United are sliding further down the relegation table, with their last piece of silverware coming in 2017.

Since then, Liverpool have re-established themselves as a force to be reckoned with in English football. They have won a Champions League and scratched their 30-year domestic title itch.

True, United finished second last season – ahead of Liverpool and Chelsea. Yet Liverpool’s injury issues and Chelsea’s decline at the end of Frank Lampard’s managerial reign make the league’s position almost seem misplaced.

Liverpool, with their best players fit and new players stepping up, are looking rejuvenated. Chelsea, while not yet at their best, have developed a habit of grinding out results while leading the league table.

United, currently, appear to be in battle for a top 4 spot.

Where did it all go wrong for United?

United have a lot of issues to deal with, not news at this point. However, it is worth noting that, despite all his flaws, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer actually has a decent record against the big sides.

This is mainly because, against sides that prefer to dominate possession, he prefers to sit back and launch counter-attacks. Given that United have the ability to advance very quickly, this is a good strategy to fall back on.

This makes it all the more shocking that he chose the opposite path.

From the off, it was clear that United were keen to dominate the ball. However, while they have silky attackers, one aspect they don’t seem to be paying attention to is pressure.

Nevertheless, in this match, United attempted to push Liverpool higher up the field. The problem lay in the fact that his pressing was so bad, it didn’t serve its purpose in offense or defense.

In offense, a high press helps create turnovers when the opposition is weak. Defensively, this can negate a possession-based gameplan by cutting off passing lanes and making it difficult to play through the lines.

However, they were exposed due to the fact that United did not press with enough intensity or consistency. There was no pressure on Liverpool’s defense and midfield when United attempted to press late on.

Worse, United’s lack of size and cohesion meant that, when they did press, they were actually easier to play against. Due to the unbalanced formation, there was no real line of play for Liverpool’s players.

The defense fell apart, offering little protection from midfield. And Liverpool’s front line – led by the autocratic Mohamed Salah – needed no further invitation to take their chance.

In short, the blame is entirely on the manager’s head.

Is there a way out for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer?

Which brings us back to Solskjaer – and the uncomfortable questions about his lack of suitability for the job are creeping in again.

To be honest, this is not a new thing. Many felt that last year’s 6-1 defeat to Tottenham Hotspur might have signaled the end of the Norwegian’s reign. but it misses Different,

This 6–1 defeat was largely due to the fact that United were reduced to 10 men in the first half itself. In contrast, this loss saw them concede 5 goals before being sent off for Pogba.

In fact, after the brandishing of the red card, Liverpool took their foot off the pedal. Perhaps mindful that a frustrated United side were throwing themselves into challenges, they edged the game out with some standard passing between defense and midfield.

Solskjaer described the defeat as his ‘darkest day’ but now many are wondering if it will be his last in the job. It is worth noting that Solskjaer’s predecessor, Jose Mourinho, also lost his job after losing to Liverpool.

Will it be the same thing again for another United manager? So far, there is no sign of that happening. But it is Manchester United after all.

Players such as David Moyes, Louis van Gaal and even Mourinho were sacked when it became clear that the team was going downhill. And it seems this time around is no different.

Perhaps worst of all for Solskjaer, there is likely to be no respite. They will next face Tottenham Hotspur before traveling to Bergamo to face Atalanta in the Champions League. After that? They host Manchester City, noisy neighbors and defending champions.

In short, Solskjaer’s experiment at United is far from over. But the clock on his reign is ticking.

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