IAN LADYMAN: Manchester United must stick with Solskjaer… for now. He may not be able to deliver a Premier League title but there are no better candidates available to build on the stability he has brought to Old Trafford

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  • Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is under pressure at the club
  • Poor results, including a draw against Everton, have seen them come under fire
  • But the form is not bad enough to warrant dismissal without replacement in line
  • Can’t risk the work United have done in stabilizing the club in recent years

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In the seemingly endless debate over Manchester United’s sacking of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, there always seems to be something missing. Who takes his place?

Throw in the local buzz’s beer circle and see how quickly the faces at the bar go blank.


This is the important bit as well. Really important bit. It is not difficult to sack a manager. Finding upgrades is often very difficult, and this is especially so at United’s level of play.

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There is no need to immediately sack Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as Manchester United manager

I don’t think United will win the Premier League with Solskjaer in charge. I’ve said this before and, for all the incremental improvements his team has made, I still believe it. I think he’s a fair manager but at least a grade below where he needs to be.

But that doesn’t mean United should sack him. Not now. Not now.

At Old Trafford, the needs are multi-layered. They have also felt the impact of the pandemic. Sure enough, they need a league title after eight years and counting.

But after the collapse of the European Super League, they also need a top four football, sporting and commercial relevance, smooth water. After years of the tidal wave of David Moyes, Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho, Solskjaer gave him that.

It’s not sexy. It’s not a narrative that would have built up much in Roy of the Rovers. But it is important. United can’t afford to go backwards through the pack again.

Solskjaer has brought stability at United since taking over as manager in December 2018

Solskjaer has brought stability at United since taking over as manager in December 2018

But some recent poor results, including a 1-1 draw against Everton, have put them under pressure.

But some recent poor results, including a 1-1 draw against Everton, have put them under pressure.

Is it possible to imagine that a coach like Pep Guardiola or Jurgen Klopp could improve their team in terms of performance, results and direction? Yes, absolutely it is. This must be extremely disappointing for the fans of the club.

But instead of serving as evidence that Solskjaer should go, it tells us that as long as there’s a candidate who has the potential to reach that lofty level of work, it doesn’t make sense to replace him.

When Moyes was sacked in April 2014, United were in seventh place. In the summer of 2016, he was fifth when Van Gaal went. Mourinho placed him in sixth place, 19 points off the top. So the scope for improvement was clear.

Solskjaer had to go now, the task would be to move United up from second, third or fourth – to overhaul teams like Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester City. The margin for improvement is so small.

So a stellar candidate is needed and if, for the sake of argument, the job was open today, who would be available to take it? Mauricio Pochettino, formerly unattached and now working in Paris Saint-Germain? Brendan Rodgers, once set to Liverpool’s and City job?

There are others around Europe, but none that are associated without the risk of failure. And risk is something that modern United can’t really afford to get into.

David Moyes fails to last full season at United

Louis van Gaal could only enter the FA Cup before departing

Jose Mourinho wins Europa League but Premier League form soon ends

Predecessors David Moyes (left), Louis van Gaal (centre), and Jose Mourinho (right) have also failed to bring Old Trafford back the Premier League title in a turbulent reign at the club.

Solskjaer is and always has been United’s safe choice, ever since he replaced Mourinho after that embarrassing no-show at Anfield in the winter of 2018.

United must stand for something other than top four safety. There should be a little more glory about the whole thing and Solskjaer’s departure continues to feel a little inevitable in the medium term.

But the truth is that United are better than them under Solskjaer. The Norwegians have advanced their team and they are fourth in the league.

And who knows the real reasons for United’s enduring faith in his man anyway? Maybe they believe he can get them the title one day. If so, it probably has another column in it.

Or maybe – as I suspect – they are happy to allow him to slowly lead his team until someone of the required standard finally comes along.

If so, would it be a bit brutal on a true club legend? Perhaps. Would this also represent reasonable business sense? Yes, that too.

There is currently no convenient replacement to justify Solskjaer's removal as manager

There is currently no convenient replacement to justify Solskjaer’s removal as manager

Robbins proud of Jimmy with Coventry

There were nearly 20,000 at the Ricoh Arena as Coventry beat Fulham on Saturday which was fitting in more ways than one.

With gate receipts being donated to the Jimmy Hill Legacy Fund, it seemed fitting that championship attendance was the highest on the day.

Equally, the work of Mark Robbins in Coventry is turning out to be a surprise.

Coventry has been elevated from the depths of League Two by Robbins in his second stint as manager, which is all the more notable for the financial uncertainty that has existed at the club for so long.

Coventry only returned to their stadium this season after sharing the ground with Birmingham for two years. Last year’s 16th-place championship finish was the club’s highest-place finish for 15 years.

Coventry are third on the points table after a 4-1 win on Saturday. The late Jimmy – who did a lot for Coventry and Fulham in his days – always loved a good news story and it’s a cracker.

Coventry City fly up the championship table after 4-1 win over Fulham

Coventry City fly up the championship table after 4-1 win over Fulham

When Refusalics Are Ungrateful in the Extreme

Covid was finally calling this week and with it came some unpleasant but thankfully tolerable symptoms and plenty of time to think.

Time to think about the COVID vaccine and the smart people who made it and the way it has saved so much for many of us.

And it’s time to think about those who refuse to take it and how stupid and selfish they really would be.

Spurs Fan’s Costly Error?

During Tottenham’s search for a new manager over the summer, a season ticket holder told me he would not like to spend his annual £1,000 watching a team coached by a man named Graham Potter. I wonder if he still thinks so.


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