Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is no longer at the wheel of Manchester United, following a dismal run of results and poor form. The club had handed the Norwegian coach and former player a new three-year contract extension in July 2021, after he guided the team to second position in the 2020-21 Premier League season.
The Red Devils added important signings to the squad this summer, including Jadon Sancho and Raphael Varane, before being handed an unmissable opportunity to bring Cristiano Ronaldo back to the club. Nevertheless, despite these additions and what seemed to be a positive start to the 2021-22 campaign, results began turning against Solskjaer and his team, starting with a first loss of the season against Young Boys in the UEFA Champions League.
That European result sparked a swift decline in form, amidst a run which Manchester United won just 4 of 13 games, eliminated from the EFL Cup and slumping to 8th position in the Premier League. After they were humiliated 0-5 at home against arch-rivals Liverpool in October, tensions were growing, and reports emerged suggesting there was discontent in the squad. Nevertheless, the club appeared to stand by their manager.
However, when United were comfortably beaten 0-2 at home in the derby against Manchester City, then suffered yet another humiliating loss with the 4-1 defeat away at Watford, the club hierarchy decided enough was enough. Less than 24 hours after the loss at Watford, an official announcement was published by Manchester United confirming that Solskjaer has left his role as manager, albeit thankful for his work over the last three years.
Manchester United is one of the most followed and supported football clubs in the world, including millions throughout the Indian sub-continent. They would have been hopeful heading into the 2021-22 campaign, especially after the steady growth and improvements under Solskjaer, plus the key signings made during the summer. Nevertheless, football is sport and business based upon results, which is ultimately what led to the manager being fired.
Early in the season, Manchester United were amongst the front-runners to challenge for the Premier League. Now, the majority of leading bookmakers believe any title bid has become a lost cause, offering odds ranging from 101.00 to 151.00 following the departure of Solskjaer. Still, many fans believe that with a new manager at the helm, there is plenty of time to turn things around.
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Moving ahead, while Manchester United has been linked with numerous high-profile candidates, their top targets don’t appear to be interested in taking the job, which is obviously a concern for fans and players alike. In the meantime, the club is promoting from within, handing former player Michael Carrick temporary control of the first team squad. This could be followed by an interim appointment until the end of the season.
Insofar as the long-term strategy is concerned, reports quickly emerged that Manchester United were in contact with former Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane, who led the Spanish giants to three consecutive triumphs in the Champions League. The Frenchman is said to have refused the chance, amidst claims that not only is he uncomfortable coaching in English, but is also being targeted by Paris Saint-Germain. Zidane is also rumoured to covet the French national team job, which might be available after the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
Interestingly, the failed approach for Zidane could open the door for another candidate, who has long been admired by the board of directors at Old Trafford. Given that his own future is being questioned at PSG, it seems unlikely that Mauricio Pochettino will stay at the French club next season, making him a strong long-term prospect for the United job. Pochettino also leads the betting odds, as favourite to become the next permanent Manchester United manager.