Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s tenure is starting to feel like the opposite of what we’ve said whenever Jose Mourinho’s been fired somewhere for not cultivating better relationships with people inside his club and outside in the media.
The longtime Manchester United hero clearly is running out of answers for his team, which had neither Raphael Varane nor Paul Pogba for the 2-0 loss to Man City that joined a 5-0 loss to Liverpool in an infamous run of rivalry losses at Old Trafford.
The loss means seven-straight home matches without a win over a traditional “Big Six” rival in Premier League play.
And if he wasn’t seemingly a very good man who won’t throw anyone under the bus, would he still be in the job? Because the Red Devils look nothing like a team picked to battle for a title.
Solskjaer, who said before the season, was asked whether his team was far off Chelsea and Man City, and couldn’t help but admit the affirmative.
“At the moment, yeah we are,” he said. “We’ve gotta get back to what we started to look like, toward the end of last season start of this season. … When we come back the players will be fresh in their minds. The demands on me and the players are going to be high. We have to get back to what we started to look like, and we will.”
But that’s troubling in itself. When Solskjaer discusses United’s good run to finish last season in the top four or decent start to this season, he neglects to mention that even in those stretches the Red Devils were mostly cooked by their traditional “Big Six rivals.”
[ MORE: Manchester derby player ratings ]
United lost just twice to Premier League opposition from Nov. 7 to the end of last season, and started this season unbeaten in five.
But take a look at their record against the big boys during that run, keeping in mind that — of course — a team is going to get more points from the big boys than the perceived lesser ones.
Manchester United vs “Big Six” rivals under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Nov. 7, 2020 to present (opposing manager)
Dec. 12, 2020 – D 0-0 vs Man City (Guardiola)
Jan. 17, 2021 – D 0-0 at Liverpool (Klopp)
Jan. 30, 2021 – D 0-0 at Arsenal (Arteta)
Feb. 28, 2021 – D 0-0 at Chelsea (Tuchel)
March 7, 2021 – W 2-0 at Man City (Guardiola)
April 11, 2021 – W 3-1 at Tottenham (Mourinho)
May 13, 2021 – L 2-4 vs Liverpool (Klopp)
Oct. 16, 2021 – L 0-5 vs Liverpool (Klopp)
Oct. 30, 2021 – W 3-0 at Tottenham (Espirito Santo)
Nov. 6, 2021 – L 0-2 vs Man City (Guardiola)
Overall record: 24W-11D-8L
Record vs “Big Six”: 3W-4D-3L — 1.3 points per game
Record vs everyone else: 21W-7D-5L — 2.12 points per game
Keeping in mind that only four of those matches were at home… none of the wins were as United has posted a 0W-1D-3L mark at Old Trafford. And it’s now been seven home matches against Big Six rivals without a win.
And as United has persisted with Solskjaer as experienced managers like Antonio Conte, Max Allegri, Mauricio Pochettino, and Thomas Tuchel have been hired by his Champions League rivals, Solksjaer still does not have a clear system in place and has shown an unwillingness or inability to develop big-name young buys like Donny van de Beek and Jadon Sancho.
There is some contrast to how he made his name at United as interim and then full-time boss, albeit not a stark one.
Solskjaer’s men won three of four Manchester derbies between the 2019-20 and 2020-21 seasons, and Solskjaer has not lost to Chelsea while in charge of the Red Devils.
And as those big-game accolades dry up while the table position drops well below second, the rest of Solskjaer’s record starts to look worse: The semifinal losses, the defensive regression, the stalling of United’s young talent.
After 11 weeks last season, no one had seized the title race. Spurs and Liverpool led with 24 points, Chelsea had 22, Leicester 21, Sains 20, United 19, and City 18 (the Manchester derby rivals had a match-in-hand on the field).
United’s 17 points through 11 this season would’ve had them seven off first, five off second, and four off third last season. This season it’s not going to be as kind by the end of the weekend.
It’s not fun to say it when you consider Solskjaer seems a decent guy, but United seems destined to throw away a legit chance at a title fight by standing by their man.
Manchester United vs “Big Six” rivals under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
Jan 13, 2019 – W 1-0 at Tottenham
Feb 24, 2019 – D 0-0 vs Liverpool
March 10, 2019 – L 0-2 at Arsenal
April 24, 2019 – L 0-2 vs Man City
April 28, 2019 – D 1-1 vs Chelsea
Aug. 11, 2019 – W 4-0 vs Chelsea
Sept. 30, 2019 – D 1-1 vs Arsenal
Oct. 20, 2019 – D 1-1 vs Liverpool
Dec. 4, 2019 – W 2-1 vs Tottenham
Dec. 7, 2019 – W 2-1 at Man City
Jan. 1, 2020 – L 0-2 at Arsenal
Jan. 19, 2020 – L 0-2 at Liverpool
Feb. 17, 2020 – W 2-0 at Chelsea
March 8, 2020 – W 2-0 vs Man City
June 19, 2020 – D 1-1 at Tottenham
Oct. 4, 2020 – L 1-6 at Tottenham
Oct. 24, 2020 – D 0-0 vs Chelsea
Nov. 1, 2020 – L 0-1 vs Arsenal
Dec. 12, 2020 – D 0-0 vs Man City
Jan. 17, 2021 – D 0-0 at Liverpool
Jan. 30, 2021 – D 0-0 at Arsenal
Feb. 28, 2021 – D 0-0 at Chelsea
March 7, 2021 – W 2-0 at Man City
April 11, 2021 – W 3-1 at Tottenham
May 13, 2021 – L 2-4 vs Liverpool
Oct. 16, 2021 – L 0-5 vs Liverpool
Oct. 30, 2021 – W 3-0 at Tottenham
Nov. 6, 2021 – L 0-2 vs Man City