The Manchester Evening News called it a “party trick”, but, in truth, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Manchester United thoroughly deserved a 3-1 win at Everton in the Premier League at the weekend. The Norwegian has been in charge at Old Trafford for almost two years now, but the pressure has been building of late, with many believing that defeat at Everton would signal an end to his tenure. However, Solskjaer seems to have earned a reprieve for the moment.
The “party trick” that the MEN refers to is Solskjaer’s seeming ability to follow a poor result with an excellent one. This season, United have won at the home of the Champions League finalists, Paris Saint Germain, thumped the semi-finalists, RB Leipzig, 5-0, and pulled out big wins at Newcastle and now Everton. At Old Trafford, however, a ground once considered a fortress, they have lost to Crystal Palace, Arsenal and Champions League newcomers Istanbul Basaksehir. In a sense, United are cruising through the tough games and finding it difficult to put up a fight in the easier ones.
United’s performance at Everton was all the more impressive given that the team had been playing in Istanbul just three nights beforehand. Solskjaer was quick to denounce the fixture schedule after three players – Marcus Rashford, Victor Lindelof and Luke Shaw – were injured during the Everton game, but the upcoming international break might help United’s cause.
Solskjaer’s future still remains unclear
Where does this leave Solskjaer who has been leading the odds for the next manager to be sacked? We simply do not whether he will be spending the next few months with his feet up watching Netflix or taking advantage of Wish Upon a Leprechaun games, or whether the Everton result will the Old Trafford hierarchy is set to stick with him in the future. The problem for Solskjaer is that the fans and the media seem to have already anointed a successor – Mauricio Pochettino.
The former Spurs manager has been linked with jobs at Barcelona, P.S.G. and Real Madrid, all of whom are experiencing their own problems this year. But it is Manchester United that seems the perfect fit for the Argentine. You should always take these things with a pinch of salt, but bookmakers have installed him as the odds-on favourite to be the next manager. It seems inevitable to some, but it’s hard to say when the United hierarchy will make the change.
That “when” is important. One of the reasons that the Everton game was pinpointed as a possible date for Solskjaer’s firing was due to the fact it came right before the international break, i.e., when club players head off for international duty. United, who had been playing games every three or four days of late, have a two-week break from the Everton games (7th November) to the next fixture against West Brom (21st November); it’s the perfect time to sack a manager and install a new one.
Big clubs have managerial problems
But if Pochettino really is the man considered by the United board as the next manager, they better be quick and decisive. Few managers would turn down a gig at Real Madrid or Barcelona, with Zinedine Zidane and Ronald Koeman both under pressure. And, a job with an unlimited budget at Paris Saint Germain, where Pochettino played as a centre back in the early 2000s, would also be desirable. PSG boss Tomas Tuchel has also been feeling the heat after poor results in the Champions League this season, including the defeat at the hands of Solskjaer and United.
These things can move quickly, so there is a fair chance that Pochettino is already United boss by the time you read this. Then again, Solskjaer has that knack, or “party trick”, of pulling it out of the bag when all seems lost. Solskjaer has a nice run of fixtures after the international break, coming against teams United should be beating. But that’s a double-edged sword because losing them might pile on even more pressure. Keeping hold of his job might be his greatest feat yet.