Football: Is time running out for Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solksjaer?

Manchester United midfielders Juan Mata (left) and Nemanja Matic are part of an underwhelming Red Devils squad experiencing their worst top-flight season in 30 years. PHOTO: EPA-EFE
Manchester United midfielders Juan Mata (left) and Nemanja Matic are part of an underwhelming Red Devils squad experiencing their worst top-flight season in 30 years. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

Fans round on United players & board over another upset, but boss seeks patience

LONDON • Ole Gunnar Solskjaer described himself as "disillusioned" following Manchester United's insipid 2-0 Premier League defeat by Burnley on Wednesday and said he could understand the disgruntlement shown by supporters.

It was Burnley's first win at Old Trafford for 58 years and home fans chanted against the club's owners, the Glazers, and the executive vice-chairman, Ed Woodward.

It was also United's eighth league defeat of the season and Solskjaer was asked at his post-match conference how fans could be convinced by their displays this campaign.

"At the end, you do feel disillusioned because maybe they do," the United manager said.

"But we've got to stick to our values and beliefs. It's no use feeling sorry for yourself. Go out there and have the same commitment and get ready for Sunday (in the FA Cup)."

The Red Devils were rocked by Chris Wood's first-half opener before Jay Rodriguez scored with a superb strike after the break.

It was a woeful display and despite his disappointment, Solskjaer also pleaded for time to get United back on track after he and his under-performing stars were booed off at full-time and criticised by Rio Ferdinand.

"Fans are walking out after 84 minutes, it's an embarrassment. People at the top need to see this and make changes," the former United defender told BT Sport.

"The downward spiral in this space of time, it's only seven years (since former manager Alex Ferguson retired), has been remarkable.

"Nothing there suggests this is laying the foundation of future. I don't see a pathway. Money has been spent, what's to show?"

Solskjaer had no complaints about a result that laid bare everything wrong with a team lacking steel in defence, creativity in midfield and a cutting edge up front.

"We have got to hold our hands up and say it wasn't good enough. In the first half, we created some half openings, but we were not sharp enough," the Norwegian said.

"But the boys have given everything they have got. Sometimes, you go through periods like that and it is a test I am sure they are going to come through.

FORTUNES LOOK BLEAK

Nothing there suggests this is laying the foundation of future. I don't see a pathway. Money has been spent, what's to show?

RIO FERDINAND , former Manchester United defender, questioning the club's management about the team's direction and ethos after the departure of legendary manager Alex Ferguson.

"The expectations at this club are high, some of them have played (only) 10, 12, 15 games and it's not easy for them, so of course, I'm going to back them.

"I'm going to be here to help them get through this because when you're at Man United, there's always going to be criticism."

United's tally of 34 points is their lowest after 24 matches of a top-flight season since 1989-90 and the majority at Old Trafford were on their feet when chants of "stand up if you hate Glazers" echoed around the ground.

Solskjaer's men must now regroup to avoid more misery in their FA Cup fourth-round tie against Watford or Tranmere on Sunday before they head to Manchester City looking to overturn a 3-1 first-leg deficit in the League Cup semi-finals next Wednesday.

The United boss also made his strongest appeal yet for new signings, with the move for midfielder Bruno Fernandes from Portuguese side Sporting Lisbon at an impasse.

Scott McTominay, Paul Pogba and Marcus Rashford are out injured and while Rashford has tweeted he will return before the end of the term, Solskjaer admitted his squad are feeling the pace.

"Some have played more than they should have and more mentally than physically, they need a break," he said.

"We are working to get players in, and hopefully, we can get something over the line. I understand you were talking about that (transfers)... We are working on things."

THE GUARDIAN, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 24, 2020, with the headline 'Is Solskjaer's time running out?'. Print Edition | Subscribe