Our Man United writer, Michael Plant, thinks Sunday’s result could be the beginning of the end for Solskjaer.
Sunday’s 5-0 loss wasn’t technically Manchester United’s biggest Premier League defeat, but it will be remembered as their most crushing 90-minute game.
Those 6-1 defeats to Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur in 2011 and 2020 respectively were humiliating, but even they felt like something out of the blue as United were hit by quick goals and hit by layoffs – by the time Paul Pogba was sent off on Sunday it was already 5-0.
The big difference is that this wasn’t an outrageous feat, in fact, it felt so predictable that United would easily be sent to Old Trafford, although few could have realistically imagined it would be so emphatic.
If anything indicates how embarrassing it was for the Red Devils, led the chants of ‘Ole’s at the wheel’, ‘Ole, give us a wave’ and ‘Can we play you every week?’ see from the far end how far the gap remains between these great clubs.
Obviously, four goals in the first half are humiliating for any side, let alone Manchester United, but the ease with which Liverpool ripped through them was truly remarkable, especially as the visitors weren’t quite at their best in the opening stages.
Then there was the defense…an amalgamation of individual mistakes, disorganization, and sheer fear made the defense look amateurish, and all four of Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Victor Lindelof, Harry Maguire, and Luke Shaw seemed determined to take on Liverpool’s ruthless attackers. provide as many shooting opportunities as possible.
As for Scott McTominay and Fred’s shield, in a few months, they’ve gone from a vital but unloved part of a good side to a completely irrelevant part of a haphazard team.
Then there’s Cristiano Ronaldo, who will either come up with an injury-time winner or simply hinder a team that desperately needs everyone singing from the same hymn sheet. He is currently whistling along to his own tune.
Put it all together and you get a disjointed side, with no structure or any chance of dominating games or keeping clean sheets. Yes, there will be wins against poorer opponents, maybe even a single win over a stronger outfit, but it’s impossible to hold onto that effectively over a season. Serious changes need to be made if they have any hope of competing with the top.
If the first 45 minutes were the stuff of nightmares, the second was like sleep paralysis, watching and wondering if this is all real and how long it will last.
Mohamed Salah scored his third and Liverpool’s fifth, with 40 minutes to go, before Paul Pogba showed the kind of ill-discipline he has become all too synonymous with. From there, United’s 10 men sat behind the ball, struggling to get a touch, as Liverpool casually knocked it over, a touch from the hosts drawing ironic cheers from the visiting crowd.
Sometimes it was like watching the Year 9 side play on Year 7 – does anyone really benefit from this? In reality, it was the difference between a well-coached team and a team that clearly needed clear instructions.
While Solskjaer will dominate Monday’s headlines, serious questions need to be asked of the players, who lacked spirit, courage, or ingenuity.
During the week they played like a team that still believes in their manager – Solskjaer was even annoyed at the suggestion that his players would give just under 100% – but Sunday was a display where every player couldn’t keep up with the pace and looked overwhelmed.
When United fell to 10 men, the manager opted for a 5-3-1 form, similar to the Young Boys debacle, keeping the immobile Ronaldo upfront while Edinson Cavani sank to the center of midfield. Solskjaer just repeated the same mistakes he made in Bern and it was only Liverpool’s embarrassment in front of the goal that prevented the score from increasing.
This just goes against what happens for the Norwegian in these periods, when he urgently needs a result. Normally he puts down a run that takes away the criticism for a while, but since the international break, there have been three mediocre performances that have resulted in two defeats and an
But this feels so different from previous times. The summer signings have distorted perceptions and expectations around Old Trafford and in reality, Solskjaer has no more excuses.
This is worse than the period when Jose Mourinho lost his job in December 2018, but it is not immediately clear that Solskjaer has used up eight of his nine lives. Then it’s Mourinho’s old side, Tottenham, where a defeat in the capital would raise more unwelcome questions for Solskjaer and the United hierarchy.
While that might be the final nail in the coffin, Sunday felt very much like the beginning of the end, the opening pages of the concluding chapter. The manager began to lose support from regular match-goers before Sunday and a defeat of this magnitude will only heighten the feeling for many that he is not in his element in Old Trafford’s hot seat.
This may not be the result of Solskjaer leaving United, but it could be one that ultimately seals his fate.