Under-fire Ole Gunnar Solskjaer vows not to ‘fall like a house of cards’

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

Under-fire Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer understands mounting criticism and pressure but vowed not to “fall like a house of cards” after their back-to-back defeats.

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.

But the level-headed United boss knows it is all part and parcel of being at a club that will remain in the eye of a storm should they lose at Goodison Park ahead of the international break.

“You have to be mentally strong,” said the Norwegian, who spoke about the need to look after his players’ physical and mental wellbeing during this challenging time on and off the pitch.

“Of course there’s demands on a Man United player and a coach and a manager.

“There’s also an expectation because we are at the best and the biggest club in the world.

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 don’t expect to have anything but criticism then, it’s just how you deal with that, how you deal with that setback.

“From what I’ve seen from the boys, they’ve been very focused since we’ve come back, ready to give a response.”

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

Yet the 1999 treble hero appears unruffled by growing speculation and remains confident that he has the backing of executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward and the club hierarchy.

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)

“I’ve always had a very good, open, honest and a positive dialogue with the club,” Solskjaer said.

“As I’ve said, they’ve shown strong leadership. I’ve had good dialogue continually since I’ve come in.

“And with me, today it’s sunny in Manchester. I don’t expect the wind to turn. Of course there’s always pressure and expectations on us.

“But I’ve grown up here, or I became a man at Manchester United, and I’ve learnt how to deal with good and bad times.

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)

“There’s always… you’re a top coach or a manager when you win, and you’re bad when you lose because that’s the last game you played.

“You’re not really better than your last game but every game of football becomes history quickly and we need to go into Goodison Park in a positive frame of mind.”

Solskjaer has no fresh concerns heading to Merseyside, with Alex Telles back in training after being ruled out recently following a positive Covid-19 test.

“We’ve not lost any (players) from the Istanbul trip,” he said. “Same group, same squad.

“Alex has started training with us, which is good. Victor (Lindelof) has still got the issue that he’s been struggling with. He’ll have to be checked tonight in the hotel.

“It’s the same squad as before Istanbul, really.”