MANCHESTER, England (AP) — Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s time as Manchester United manager appeared to be coming to an end Sunday after a fifth loss in seven Premier League games.
There were denials from United officials that Solskjaer was set to leave his job in the wake of a 4-1 loss to Watford on Saturday.
United players were filmed heading to the training ground amid reports former players Michael Carrick and Darren Fletcher, who are already on the staff, could be handed elevated roles.
United has a trip to Spain on Monday for the following night’s Champions League match at Villarreal in the group stage.
Solskjaer’s future has hung in the balance before but now appears to be at breaking point after three years in charge at a club where he was adored as a player, notably for scoring the dramatic late winner in the 1999 Champions League final. He couldn’t replicate that success as a manager, failing to win a single trophy.
Coming after chastening losses to fierce rivals Liverpool (5-0) and Manchester City (2-0) in the last month, Solskjaer said he was “embarrassed” after United’s lackluster performance at Watford but insisted after the game he still could turn things around at the club.
Recent results suggested otherwise. The team is seventh in the Premier League, already 12 points behind leader Chelsea after 12 games.
That’s far from good enough for a team that finished second last season and was supposed to challenge for the title after adding superstar Cristiano Ronaldo in the offseason along with the $100-million signing of England international Jadon Sancho.
Solskjaer, who played for United from 1996-2007 under Alex Ferguson, was hired as caretaker manager to replace Jose Mourinho in December 2018 and was handed the job permanently after a promising start at Old Trafford, having rediscovered some of the team’s attacking verve and bringing calmness after a toxic ending to Mourinho’s tenure.
United finished third and second in the last two seasons in the Premier League, suggesting the team was heading in the right direction under Solskjaer. However, the regression has been stark this season and he would leave as a nostalgia appointment gone wrong, his tactical limitations clearly apparent and the team’s inconsistent performances leading to ever-present doubts among some fans and critics about his pedigree as a manager.
Those doubts only grew louder in recent weeks — especially after the collapse at Watford.
The Norwegian had been able to ride out previous stretches of underperformance, in part because of his popularity with fans as a former striker who took on legendary status because of his ability to come off the bench to score crucial winners.
But even the traveling United fans seemed to turn against him when he came over to applaud them after the Watford game.
More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.