Defiant and upbeat Ole Gunnar Solskjaer vows not to ‘fall like a house of cards’

By Simon Peach, PA Chief Football Writer
·4-min read

Under-fire Ole Gunnar Solskjaer vowed not to “fall like a house of cards” amid criticism and scrutiny that does not have the Manchester United manager fearing for his future.

Having reacted impressively to a chastening 6-1 home defeat to predecessor Jose Mourinho’s Tottenham at the start of October, things have again gone awry in the first week of November.

United fell to an embarrassing 2-1 loss to Champions League new boys Istanbul Basaksehir on Wednesday, just days after putting in a flat performance in a 1-0 defeat at home to Arsenal.

Man Utd’s Premier League points total at the seven-game mark
Man Utd’s Premier League points total at the seven-game mark (PA Graphics)

Scrutiny has ratcheted up on Solskjaer ahead of Saturday’s crunch trip to Everton, where they will leave with their lowest points tally after seven matches since 1989-90 should they fail to win.

Asked if he is as certain of being successful at United as he was when permanently appointed manager, Solskjaer said: “Yeah, why wouldn’t I be?

“If I don’t trust my beliefs and values and my staff’s quality and the players’ quality, who else should?

“I don’t look at one or two results and fall like a house of cards. But, yeah, setback definitely.

“I think there’s been too much made of, say, not scoring against Arsenal and Chelsea because there’s been more-or-less nothing in those two games.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer saw Manchester United fall to a narrow 1-0 home loss to Arsenal last weekend
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer saw Manchester United fall to a narrow 1-0 home loss to Arsenal last weekend (Paul Ellis/PA)

“It’s not too long ago we were the best thing since sliced bread when you beat Leipzig and PSG, so there’s ups and downs in football and that’s just the way it has to be.

“You’ve got to have that belief in yourself, belief in the players.

“The club has been very positive. They’ve shown me their character and the strong leadership, so I’m looking to the Saturday lunchtime kick-off, which is another matter.”

Solskjaer was surprisingly upbeat in the pre-match press conference given the incessant scrutiny of his role.

The 1999 treble hero understands better than most about the pressures and expectations that come with being at the “best and the biggest club in the world”, where he remains calm amid a growing storm.

“Of course you can enjoy it,” he said of the job. “I am not happy being under pressure, as you say.

“The pressure of leading, of managing Man United is a pressure that you have got to have strong shoulders and a strong head to carry, but it’s also the same way the other way.

“I’ve never really (been) in too dark a place. When I’m not playing well or when the team is not doing well, I don’t get too carried away.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer succeeded Jose Mourinho in the Old Trafford hotseat in December 2018
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer succeeded Jose Mourinho in the Old Trafford hotseat in December 2018 (Alex Livesey/PA)

“You have got to have a consistency in the way we communicate with the players, work with the players because it’ll be too much reacting.

“We still have a plan in place and you’re proactive and you continue that plan.

“Of course some results and performances need a different reaction to what maybe you’ve planned.”

United have tended to react well to setbacks under Solskjaer and that will be important if they are to quieten talk over a potential move for former Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino.

Executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward will have a decision to make if results do not improve
Executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward will have a decision to make if results do not improve (Richard Heathcote/PA)

Yet the Norwegian appears unruffled by growing speculation ahead of the match at Everton and remains confident that he has the backing of executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward and the club hierarchy.

“I am going to say that all my conversations with the club have been planning long term,” said Solskjaer, who believes “the culture and the mentality in the group has improved immensely” during his time in charge.

“Of course we want results short-term but I’ve had positive, good dialogue, open dialogue with the plans that we’ve put in place.

“We’ve planted a seed, the tree is growing.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer oversaw a superb 5-0 win against RB Leipzig just nine days ago
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer oversaw a superb 5-0 win against RB Leipzig just nine days ago (Nick Potts/PA)

“Some clubs just rip up that tree and see if it’s still growing and see if it’s still getting water underneath.

“For me, I’ve had a backing all the way since I’ve come in on a bigger picture – and the club needs to look at the bigger picture.

“We can’t go thinking or react to one or two results. You’ve got to look maybe further back and what’s the direction we go in.”