Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is on the brink of the sack after yet another dismal Premier League defeat, this time at the hands of Watford at Vicarage Road
In the build-up to this game, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer would have been forgiven for picturing a scenario in which he’d leave Sir Elton John’s favourite stadium humming ‘I’m Still Standing’ on the back of a critic-quietening victory.
The cold reality of the situation could hardly have been more different, though, and as he trudged out of Vicarage Road last night, the Manchester United manager will have known this defeat could well have been the one that spelled the end for him.
United were utterly dismal, especially in the first half.
And although there was the slightest improvement after the break, it really wasn’t much better.
Certainly not after Harry Maguire was sent off on 69 minutes for a second bookable offence just six minutes after his first one.
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And definitely not when United fully capitulated in stoppage-time as Joao Pedro and Emmanuel Dennis added to the first-half goals from Joshua King and Ismaila Sarr.
“Nightmare after nightmare after nightmare,” said keeper David De Gea. “It was embarrassing to see Man United play like we did.”
Nobody who witnessed it will have disagreed.
Watford and Claudio Ranieri deserve massive credit, of course, because the Hornets were as exceptional as United were appalling.
But however well the Hornets played, the performance United turned in was unacceptable for a club of their stature.
There has been a hope amongst the United hierarchy that they might be able to wait until the summer to make any change.
But pulling the trigger on Solskjaer now looks unavoidable and completely inevitable.
Certainly, there were groups of United fans here who made when Solskjaer went to avoid the travelling supporters at the end that they want him gone.
They hurled abuse his way and motioned for him to get out of the club.
And when Bruno Fernandes, as guilty as anyone in a United shirt of turning in a turgid display, gestured back at them in defence of his boss, he understandably copped an earful as well.
It had been a merciless afternoon for the Norwegian and United’s miserable fans, with ‘Ole’s at the wheel, at the wheel…’ sung gleefully by home fans in both halves.
They suggested he’d be ‘sacked in the morning’ for good measure as well.
Solskjaer is a likeable man and it was hard not to feel some sympathy for him as he cut a lonely figure in the dugout.
But he is man enough to know the way of the football world and will have recognised himself a team that hardly looked like it is playing for its manager.
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In fact, scratch that, this was a group of individuals no longer playing for their manager and as a result they had rings run round them.
United’s fans called for Donny van de Beek after 30 minutes and Solskjaer obliged them at the break, sending him on for Scott McTominay and hooking Marcus Rashford for Anthony Martial.
It did improve slightly after half-time with Van De Beek halving the deficit but United, even with their star-studded squad, didn’t have enough in the locker to haul them back in.
On Tuesday, they face Villarreal in the Champions League. And the big question now is whether Solskjaer will still be with them.