MANCHESTER — Certain wins and defeats are career defining and the embarrassing loss to bitter rivals Liverpool felt like this for Manchester United and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
Not in a good way.
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As a cacophony of boos rang out at half time and full time from the home fans at Old Trafford, this total capitulation seems like the end for Solskjaer.
Ole has now taken both hands off the wheel and United have careered into the canyon of doom. Sure, you can lose games, but this was a humiliation on another level. It is the kind of result, and display, which costs jobs.
After suffering their biggest-ever loss to Liverpool at home, Manchester United is in chaos. Solskjaer’s future is uncertain. The entire direction of the club will, once again, be questioned.
The scene in Manchester was grim.
One fan was sat on the floor outside Old Trafford, sobbing uncontrollably as he wore his Manchester United shirt. His red scarf hanging off his shoulder, he looked as disheveled as Solskjaer as he had his hands on his head in disbelief.
That image is my lasting one from this mauling.
Another fan screamed in the queue for a tram near Old Trafford: ‘Liverpool aren’t even the best team in the league! Chelsea are miles better than them. That shows you how bad we are!’
Fans were at bars saying ‘he has to go now’ while others were like stunned zombies as there was a general feeling of shock, despair and a little bit of panic all mixed in together.
It appears even the great Cristiano Ronaldo can’t save Manchester United from the almighty mess they’re currently in as Sir Alex Ferguson’s shocked expression in the stands summed up how every single United fan across the world was feeling during and after the
United have been hit with the crushing realization that they are nowhere near as close to Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester City as they thought they were.
What went wrong?
Everything. Every single thing that most predicted could go wrong, went wrong. That is the most damning part about this. Everybody knew what could happen and it played out.
Everybody but Solskjaer seemed to know how this was going to go.
Solskjaer played two static holding midfielders. United had a front four which wasn’t willing to track back and help defend. United’s defenders made big individual errors. There was no clear plan. No philosophy. No identity. Should I go on?
All of this played out while fans of their bitter rivals jeered and mocked them from one corner of Old Trafford. Jurgen Klopp’s side had a plan, an identity and they showcased their incredible strength as a team unit. Liverpool’s unity showed up Manchester United’s lack of organization ruthlessly.
Manchester United are just a bunch of individual superstars going out for a stroll and seeing what happens.
Three years on from Solskjaer getting the job there is no identity, at all, to this team. They are just doing whatever they want out there on the pitch. How is that possible?
Liverpool fans being at Old Trafford to witness this historic win made this humiliation 1000 times worse for Manchester United and Solskjaer. They chanted his name sarcastically, asked him to wave to them, jeered Ronaldo’s frustrated kick out at Curtis Jones.
Every step of the way Liverpool’s fans reminded Manchester United just how far they have to go to reach their levels. Imagine having your worst-ever day in the Premier League against your biggest rival?
The scenes of thousands of United fans streaming out of Old Trafford half an hour before full time — it was surprising that that many stayed that long — will be the most damning for Solskjaer and his players. The owners now have a big call to make.
They’ve stuck with Solskjaer so far but a result like this, on top of all of the other bad results recently, magnifies the issues piling up.
What next for Manchester United?
When you’ve hit rock bottom, like Solskjaer said United have, the only way is up. But is it?
This ruthless hammering exposed all of United’s weaknesses in one fell swoop, but the heavy blow it delivered is something which could be damaging and lasting. Not just for the players, but Solskjaer too.
Are United’s owners, the Glazer family, ready to go down the short-term route once again and bring in someone like Antonio Conte to win trophies? The problem is, how many options are available to replace Solskjaer right now?
Individually this squad of players is as good as Chelsea’s, if not better, and seeing what Thomas Tuchel has done after taking over from Frank Lampard (like Solskjaer a club legend, but only on the pitch) will get the Glazer’s thinking.
Solskjaer has done a good job over the last few years to stabilize United, get them back in the UEFA Champions League and genuinely restored confidence in a team demoralized by Jose Mourinho.
He can be applauded for that and there is no joy in suggesting he should be replaced as United boss. But he can also be asked to leave if he isn’t up to the task of building a new identity and taking United to the next level of challenging for the title and big trophies.
This loss, and this start to the season, proves he isn’t the right man moving forward. If United want to become anything more than top four contenders the easiest thing to change is the management team and a defeat like this is the last straw.
The most concerning thing for Manchester United is that this shellacking at the hands of Liverpool may not be rock bottom. They play Tottenham, Atalanta and Manchester City next.
United may end up keeping Solskjaer in his job for a while longer, but the cold, harsh reality of where they are at was hammered home by their fiercest rivals. Who hammered them.