Manchester United fans are suddenly in a catch-22 situation when it comes to manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s future.
Opinions have long been divided about the Norwegian, but Sunday’s humiliating 5-0 defeat against Liverpool’s hands saw that the tide turned against him, certainly irrevocably.
There would be few who now claim that Solskjaer is still the right man for the club, the one who can take the squad to the next level, complete the reconstruction and deliver trophies that have been waiting for a long time. That said, distinguishing between support for the man himself and criticism of his ability as a coach is still possible.
The collapse against Liverpool was a continuation of what happened against Atalanta and Leicester in previous matches, which was exacerbated by facing the best team United have faced this season by a bit. The team is right because the 48-year-old does not seem to have created anyone at Old Trafford, with the lack of tactical cohesion on the pitch increasingly obvious.
Solskjaer has survived the firing for now and is expected to get the next three matches – against Tottenham, Atalanta and Manchester City – to prove that the rot has not set in and that the latest results and achievements, not only against Liverpool, are just a temporary blip.
The club, which previously fired David Moyes, Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho earlier than their respective contracts promised, have been reluctant to pull the trigger for the fourth time in just over eight years since Sir Alex Ferguson retired in 2013.
But for many fans, Solskjaer’s goose is cooked, so to speak. There is no turning back from this and even if he somehow gathers and monitors positive results against Spurs, Atalanta and City – which is not out of the question given that he has done it before, albeit not with the press as it is now – it achieves nothing but kicking the can just a little further down the road.
If the club wants to give him the chance to prove himself one last time, win – or at least not lose – it is very unlikely that those matches will give fans who shout after his head what they want.
But the next step from that is the fans who actively want United losses to drive home the points to the decision makers. It feels like a very insecure territory to start entering and risks the integrity that drives to become a football supporter in the first place.
The perception has already caused furious conflicts among fans on social media, between those who are so desperate for action and change that the sacrifice is worth it, and others who could never do anything but get behind the team no matter the circumstances.
The idea that the answer is to make things better before they get worse is worrying at best. But what is clear now, when the situation is ahead of the weekend, is that there is no easy solution.
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