Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has been sacked as Manchester United manager after an “embarrassing” 4-1 defeat at Watford, with Paris Saint-Germain boss Mauricio Pochettino the club’s top target to take over next summer.
United have confirmed Solskjaer’s assistant Michael Carrick will be placed in temporary charge, with the club also revealing their intention to appoint an interim manager until the end of the season.
Pochettino is the club’s first choice as Solskjaer’s permanent replacement, with the former Tottenham manager potentially becoming more attainable by the summer than he is currently. Ajax head coach Erik ten Hag is understood to be United’s second choice.
Solskjaer signed a new three-year deal in July but leaves after overseeing five defeats in their last seven Premier League matches – a run which sees them 12 points behind leaders Chelsea.
The Old Trafford hierarchy had ignored increasingly vociferous calls to relieve Solskjaer of his duties in the wake of a humiliating 5-0 loss to rivals Liverpool and a 2-0 derby defeat to Manchester City in early November But his position was discussed by United officials on Saturday evening following the crushing defeat at Vicarage Road, before the announcement of his dismissal followed on Sunday morning.
A club statement said: “Manchester United announces that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has left his role as manager.”Ole will always be a legend at Manchester United and it is with regret that we have reached this difficult decision. While the past few weeks have been disappointing, they should not obscure all the work he has done over the past three years to rebuild the foundations for long-term success.”
Pochettino was heavily linked with United following his sacking by Spurs in November 2019, but eventually joined PSG in January 2021. His side are currently 12 points clear at the top of Ligue 1 and on course to qualify for the knockout stages of the Champions League.Ajax head coach Erik ten Hag is understood to be interested in taking over at Old Trafford next summerIt is understood that Ajax would not entertain the idea of allowing Ten Hag – who is contracted until 2023 – to leave them mid-season, but Sky Sports News has been told the Dutchman would “100 per cent be interested in the job” come the summer.
The United hierarchy believed Solskjaer had earned the chance to turn around his side’s slump, but the chastening nature of Saturday’s defeat made it clear to them change was needed.Following a second-placed finish in the Premier League last season and the summer signings of Cristiano Ronaldo, Raphael Varane and Jadon Sancho, United chiefs expected to see further progress this campaign.
The club are satisfied Solskjaer has left them in a far stronger position than when he took over in December 2018, with their recent appointments of Darren Fletcher as technical director and John Murtough as football director considered to be crucial in minimising the disruption of a mid-season managerial change.
United added: “Ole leaves with our sincerest thanks for his tireless efforts as manager and our very best wishes for the future. His place in the club’s history will always be secure, not just for his story as a player, but as a great man and a manager who gave us many great moments. He will forever be welcome back at Old Trafford as part of the Manchester United family.”
Solskjaer was booed by a number of the United fans in the away end at full time at Watford, although midfielder Bruno Fernandes appeared to try to redirect their frustration towards the players.
Goalkeeper David de Gea labelled the defeat “embarrassing” and “unacceptable”.After the game, Sky Sports pundit Jamie Carragher described Solskjaer’s position as “untenable” but described the performance of the club’s players as “scandalous”.
Solskjaer revealed he was ‘very low’ after the defeat to WatfordUnited forward Ronaldo is understood to be keen for Spain head coach Luis Enrique to take over at Old Trafford.Enrique, who won the treble with Barcelona in 2015, is expected to be one of several candidates placed under consideration to replace Solskajer.
Spain head coach Luis Enrique is expected to be considered as a replacement for SolskjaerIt is thought Enrique would be interested in talking to officials about the vacancy, and he is understood to have the backing of Ronaldo, who thinks he is the right calibre of coach to enable United to compete with Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea.
With United looking to appoint an interim boss until the end of the season before finding a permanent manager in the summer, the club’s and Enrique’s timeframes would need to align.
Spain last week secured qualification for next year’s World Cup, and it remains to be seen whether Enrique would leave the role just months before the tournament, which begins in November 2022.Ole’s journey ‘at the wheel’ ends without a trophy.
Former United striker Solskjaer returned to the club initially as caretaker manager after the dismissal of Jose Mourinho in December 2018 and immediately produced an upturn in United’s form – including the 3-1 win at Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League.’Ole’s at the wheel’ became a trending topic as Solskjaer was appointed on a permanent basis in March 2019.He was unable to lead United into the top four of the Premier League that season but did achieve third and second-place finishes in his two full seasons in charge.
However, Solskjaer failed to deliver silverware during his tenure, with the defeat on penalties to Villarreal in last season’s Europa League final being their best effort.
He has always had that result in the past that has pulled him out of the mire when you thought it might get a little bit too tricky for him. But this time the results have just got worse and worse. The worst thing has been the performances.
Yesterday, some of the defending is absolutely woeful, the goalkeeper, the defenders. It is a back four or back five that have played together a number of times and Watford are not the best team in the league by a long stretch. They mauled Manchester United. Ole could not get a performance out of them in the end. The players looked drained of confidence.
*Credit: SKY News