Manchester United would still seem determined to keep manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer despite the team’s dreadful start to the season, according to The Athletic.
In an article discussing the possible alternatives to the beleaguered Solskjaer, reporter Daniel Taylor admits that the discussion is hypothetical since ‘there is no indication they are leaning that way’.
‘United are hoping this crisis blows over and there is no sign that [executive vice chairman] Ed Woodward — now understood to be in his final weeks as chief executive — wants to remove Solskjaer as his final act before cutting his own ties,’ Taylor writes.
‘Solskjaer, in other words, appears to be staying where he is. What would be unacceptable at just about every other elite club is, it seems, acceptable for the current United regime.’
The fact that United made no attempt to approach a top quality manager such as Antonio Conte would appear to indicate that Taylor could be correct. As he himself points out, ‘If there was genuine interest, Conte and his advisers would have known about it.’
Conte is now at Tottenham Hotspur, a club he had previously refused, so that ship has now well and truly sailed.
Taylor also pours cold water over the idea that former Real Madrid head coach Zinedine Zidane could be in line for the post, saying that ‘there is no indication that is positioning himself for the job or has any real desire to manage in the Premier League.’
Mauricio Pochettino is seen as implausible as well.
The reporter believes that Ajax’s Erik ten Hag is probably the favourite to succeed Solskjaer, although whether he would leave Amsterdam before the end of the season remains doubtful.
There are many reports and pundits asking this question of ‘who is available?’ as if it would be foolhardy to sack Solskjaer unless one of a very elite group of coaches were out of work. Who is it exactly that we are waiting for? Pochettino? Julian Nagelsmann? Diego Simeone? Jurgen Klopp? Pep Guardiola?
The fact is that there are probably thousands of managers with more experience and more tactical acumen than Solskjaer who, frankly, could not do any worse right now.
In other words, the more worrying aspect of this report is not the lack of suitable candidates but the fact that the club is still not acting to relieve the club legend of his duties.
That the outgoing Ed Woodward does not want to do something unpopular as his last act at the club is a joke. First, to coin Jamie Redknapp’s phrase, it has gone beyond ‘shooting Bambi’. The fans will always remain loyal to Solskjaer the man, but surely the vast majority now know that he has to go. It would not be unpopular.
Second, right until the end, for Woodward to worry about being unpopular is ridiculous. He has to be the most reviled figure, along with his employers, the Glazers, in the history of the club.
Third, it is plainly wrong that a basic and obvious football decision has to be delayed for one man’s ego.
If anything, in sacking Solskjaer, Woodward perhaps has one last chance to do the right thing at United and make the right decision for once in his football-ignorant life. And it would seem that, to the end, he will stubbornly and arrogantly fail to do so.