Manchester United endured one of their worst days in the Premier League era as they were embarrassed 5-0 by Liverpool at Old Trafford on Sunday.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer described the loss as his darkest day as Manchester United manager, but vowed to carry on despite the pressure such a result will put on him.
Former Chelsea and Norwich striker Chris Sutton said on BBC Radio 5 live Solskjaer has to go, while ex-Manchester United captain and Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville believes there will be “untold pressure” on the Norwegian if he does stay.
So can, or even should, Solskjaer survive Sunday’s capitulation?
Given the tools not delivering?
Solskjaer has been in charge of Manchester United since 2018 but is yet to win a trophy since becoming manager at Old Trafford.
His reign has seen them enjoy some notable highs – such as their record-breaking 27 game unbeaten run away from – but also some significant lows.
Sunday’s heavy defeat came just over a year since they were beaten 6-1 by Tottenham, but this defeat against one of their fiercest rivals will likely hurt United fans more.
Solskjaer was well backed in the summer, bringing in players like France defender Raphael Varane and Portugal forward Cristiano Ronaldo – and Sutton feels he should be doing much better.
“It isn’t like Ole Gunnar Solskjaer hasn’t been given all the weapons this season,” he said on BBC Radio 5 live.
“We’ve stuck up for Solskjaer, but he’s been there for almost three years now and with the signings at the start of the season you were thinking they have to challenge for the title, but I really don’t see any other way.
“He has to go, surely?”
Neville, meanwhile, said this is rock bottom for Manchester United with the manner of the defeat particularly concerning.
“This is bad as it gets,” he said. “We have all lost matches in a bad way, Sir Alex Ferguson lost 6-1 against Manchester City, I lost 5-0 at Newcastle, it happens, but it is the nature of the performance. They have capitulated.
“The pressure after this game is going to be intolerable. The board have made everyone aware they are steadfast in their support and they stood behind him through any bad times. Results like this undermine that, this is sobering. It has been a terrible nine games, forget this one, the other eight have been poor.
“That lot (Manchester United) will be absolutely demoralised and the next 24 hours will be as hot as it will ever be for them. They will have to stand together because it’s going to be painful.”
Former Manchester United striker Dion Dublin says the club’s hierarchy will have some difficult decisions to make.
He added on BBC Radio 5 live: “Do they continue with Ole? Let’s put the cards on the table. Do they keep Ole or do they not? It’s really difficult for them with him being a United legend – but it’s not about that. At the moment it’s not right on the pitch at Manchester United.
“It is going to be hard for him. It is the result – five goals at home against your biggest rival is totally embarrassing. I don’t know what he’s going to say, what the hierarchy are going to say. I know what the fans will say though.”
BBC Radio 5 live commentator John Murray believes the club’s board will have their resolve tested.
“Results change everything,” he said. “This, very possibly, is a direction-changing result. This is a real test of the Manchester United hierarchy’s resolve that, what they’re doing here is the right thing.
“This result will simply have to provoke a conversation at the top of this club about whether Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is the right man for what they want to do.”
What went wrong?
Manchester United looked out of sorts from the outset, with their defending particularly poor as they left players unmarked and spaces at the back that Liverpool exploited in devastating fashion.
“We have seen a team versus individuals and that is the huge difference,” former Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher said on Sky Sports.
“What is happening on the training pitch? The organisation is just not there.”
Manchester United have made the fewest tackles in the Premier League this season (104) and Neville said he did not see a team that shows the same level of commitment and desire during a game as their opponent.
He added: “They get outrun, they are one of the lowest running teams in the league and easy to play against, that’s a poor reflection on manager, staff and players.
“They have got no structure to press from, they don’t run as hard as other teams and they are easy to play against. Liverpool dismantled them.”
Worst home loss to Liverpool – United’s unwanted landmarks
- Manchester United have lost by a margin of five or more goals at Old Trafford without scoring themselves for the first time since a 5-0 defeat at home to Manchester City in February 1955 under Matt Busby.
- Manchester United have only lost by a larger margin in this fixture in October 1895 when Liverpool beat them 7-1 at Anfield. They were thumped 5-0 at Anfield in 1925 too.
- It’s Manchester United largest margin of defeat in this fixture when playing at home.
- Manchester United trailed 4-0 at half-time – the first time they’ve ever trailed by four goals after the first half of a Premier League match.
‘United about to be hit by a tsunami of negative publicity’
BBC Sport’s Simon Stone:
The word out of Old Trafford, throughout the period Ole Gunnar Solskjaer described as Manchester United ‘hitting a brick wall’, has been consistent.
The club’s hierarchy believe the direction he is taking the club in is the right one. That they won’t be swayed by outside noise, they will stick to the process and eventually they will come through the turmoil.
This is all very well, but United are about to be hit by a tsunami of negative publicity.
Solskjaer is going to be questioned like never before. His coaching staff – some of whom are close to agreeing new contracts – will be ridiculed and his players will be criticised.
It happened with David Moyes, Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho at least once before their tenures were eventually brought to an earlier-than-hoped-for conclusion.
The problem for everyone connected with United is there can be no certainty over when this storm will pass, not with Manchester City to face in a fortnight and Chelsea on 28 November.