Back him or sack him: Former Man Utd players on whether Ole Gunnar Solskjaer should continue as manager

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Ole Gunnar Solskjaer the head coach / manager of Manchester United and Gary Neville - Getty Images
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer the head coach / manager of Manchester United and Gary Neville - Getty Images

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s position has come under intense scrutiny following his Manchester United side’s humiliating 5-0 defeat at the hands of Liverpool at Old Trafford on Sunday.

The loss marked a low point in the club’s recent history prompting growing calls for the manager to go. Solskjaer is adamant he won’t walk away from the job and a number of the Norwegian’s former United team-mates have had their say on whether the manager should be given the chance to turn things around.

Gary Neville

Neville’s role as Sky Sports pundit meant he was put on the spot during and in the immediate aftermath of Sunday’s embarrassing defeat but while he acknowledged Solskjaer’s role in United recent decline, he refused to call for a change in the dug-out.

"This is a monstrous day for Man Utd,” said Neville. “That’s going to put an enormous amount of pressure on the board. The fans haven't turned on the manager in the ground - they never will. But they know that's not acceptable. Something has to change in that dressing room and with this coach and it's got to change very quick.

"I think the club will hold their nerve, I don't think they’ve planned for another manager and they'll sit with Ole until the end of the season. I’d like to hear from the board, to communicate with the fans, to say if they are going to back the manager over the next six months.The media have asked questions and the feeling is they believe in the project. Ole believes he’s close, I remain to be convinced. Man Utd aren’t good.”

He added: "I never asked for Ron Atkinson to be sacked, I didn't want [David] Moyes to be sacked... They will stick with Ole and he has to win something this season. Jose was the best manager in the world and couldn’t do it. I wouldn’t bring [Antonio] Conte in to United. He’s not a fit for United. I might be wrong but I don't think that he is.

"I’ve been a manager, I know it’s difficult. I’ll never say a manager should go but he needs help. If the club will stick with Ole and that’s the plan the manager needs help because that’s as plain as a nose in your face.

Phil Neville

Neville has watched from afar as manager of Inter Miami in MLS and backed Solskjaer and his players to bounce back..

"These things happen in football. I think the sensationalism of everything now is just out of control," said the former United defender.

"Yes, it was probably a real sickening blow for everybody that's ever played, supported, or been involved with Manchester United. But it's not as if United have never lost 5-0 ever in history. This has happened and United bounced back and won things.

"I lost at St. James Park 5-0. Philippe Albert chipped Peter Schmeichel and it felt no different. The only difference was there was not a billion people on Twitter thinking they knew best about this, that and the other.”

Paul Scholes

Scholes singled out Mason Greenwood for particular criticism in the wake of Sunday’s defeat and insisted Solskjaer has the character to find lead the club out of the current crisis.

“You’d certainly hope so”, Said Scholes when asked whether his former team-mate can turn things around on the. “It was a humiliating day for everyone involved with the club: the fans especially, the players worse I suppose and the manager worst of all.

He will feel responsible for that.” Scholes told the Webby & O’Neill YouTube channel. “To be fair, I think when you’re playing against a team like Liverpool, the way the team was set up wasn’t quite right.

“Can he turn it around? I hope so. We played with Ole for years and he’s a resolute character. He came out fighting and at the end of the day it’s only three points. You don’t get anything more, you don’t get anything less.”

Speaking on The Overlap podcast, Scholes said: "I think Ole deserves a chance, you think of the last three to four years where United have been, it was shocking before he came.

"It’s taken two to three years to build a squad where we think the pieces are there to the puzzle, it’s just getting them into the right organisation now.

"But I think he should be given at least a season to show he can win trophies.

"You go back to the Europa League final against Villarreal he couldn’t make a sub, his bench was just not good enough. Now I think he could make five or six subs in a game."

Rio Ferdinand

Ferdinand questioned the way the team has been set up and insists it is down to Solskjaer to get more from his players.

"It don't look good for us at the moment," Ferdinand said on his YouTube channel. "Things have got to change but I'd love to be a fly on the wall on that training ground now because there must be arguments.

"Training will be feisty and if it ain't, there's something wrong with the club because you ain't got the right people in. I'm not saying go around and beat each other but there's a snarl that goes around that pitch when you're out there and I'd want to see that response if I was the manager now. It's difficult to watch, difficult to be a part of.”

He added: "People are calling for Ole to be sacked etcetera, that's for the club to decide. I'm not into saying managers need to be sacked etcetera but what I do know is that Ole has come in and improved stuff from where it was.

"He's now amassed a fantastic group of players, but the only problem is that they're not playing as a team. That's the job of a manager and he needs to find a way of doing that. Players do take responsibility as well but you've got to be set up to be able to perform at your best.”

Rio Ferdinand reporting for BT Sport ahead of the Premier League match between Manchester City and Leeds United - Getty Images
Rio Ferdinand reporting for BT Sport ahead of the Premier League match between Manchester City and Leeds United - Getty Images

Mark Bosnich

The former United keeper believes the clock is ticking for Solskjaer and the manager has three games to save his job

“It was a disaster. There is no other word for it,” Bosnich told Sky Sports News. “It was devastating. There was a time during the first half that it was ugly but I thought it was going to get to six, seven or eight.

“If this continues there is no other choice for the board – we don’t know whether Manchester United have already approached people about the possibility of taking over. There are three tough games coming up – Tottenham away, Atalanta and then Manchester City before the international break.

“If they lose those three games, which right now is a massive possibility, I don’t really see there being any other choice.”

“The bottom line is, you can talk about tactics and identity, but if the players aren’t executing it, not doing the basic things and look as though they didn’t want to play for the manager, all of the other things you can rule out. The question has to be asked: ‘what is going on?’

“There seems to be deeper problems than having an identity and a way of playing, it seems at the moment the players are looking for a way out.”

Dimitar Berbatov

Judging on the Liverpool match, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer isn't the right man to take Manchester United forward. For some fans that's the most important game of the season and we want to beat Liverpool maybe more than we want to beat Manchester City.

We have to look at the bigger picture and there are a lot more games to come, but if they don't win the next couple of matches then Ole is going to be in major trouble. If he loses them he is going to have a difficult time justifying his position.
The Liverpool game was painful to watch - I didn't expect it. The performance was poor from every United player, no exceptions. Nothing was working, the positioning, the communication, there was no will to get to the first or second ball.
Liverpool reacted so quickly to everything. All these small details in a game can make a massive difference, and they did. It was a big, big disappointment.

I remember when we lost 6-1 to City, Sir Alex was in charge and that was a disappointment and a s--- game for everybody. So, it's happened before and and maybe it will happen again but it's about how you react. What I didn't like was how nobody was arguing.

There are a lot of big players in the dressing room at United. Big egos, big mentalities and winning personalities. When you watch the game back you can see the frustration from Cristiano Ronaldo - he was angry, desperate and disappointed with everything that was going on. He didn't expect a thrashing. I bet he had a lot to say at half-time and after the game.
When you have players of Ronaldo's stature in the team, they can have an honest conversation, and I hope they did, and strong words if they had to.

Sometimes the manager will step back, and leave the players to talk it out, say what they want to each other so they can be free, and sometimes the manager may also get involved. In this case, I hope that Ole has shown them his disappointment and anger because at the end of the day he's the boss and he is taking the blame at the end of the day. He needs to be really strong with them.

Dimitar Berbatov is a Betfair ambassador

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