Manchester United have to have a proper plan and strategy in place if they decide to part company with manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, which now looks increasingly possible.
External pressure on Solskjaer has never been greater at any point during his almost three years in charge as it is now following a humiliating 5-0 home defeat by Liverpool on Sunday.
The embarrassment was compounded by individual errors, but the most glaring problem in that game appeared to be a disjointed approach and tactics that highlighted weaknesses rather than strengths. It was a similar story against Leicester a week earlier and there were no noticeable tweaks, resulting in United getting torn apart by a far better Liverpool team.
The reality is that Solskjaer has had an overall positive impact at Old Trafford. His December 2018 arrival, initially as an interim replacement for Jose Mourinho, coincided with a concerted effort within Old Trafford to focus a strategy in keeping with the ‘United way’.
The club’s identity had been lost during five years of a loose cannon scatter graph approach under successive managers with differing ideas and philosophies. There has been a much-needed reset since Solskjaer took charge, affecting all parts of the footballing operation.
Now, with a proper football structure in place higher up the chain of command, replacing the manager should not affect the long-term strategy. Everything should be a continuation.
If Solskjaer is dismissed, his successor has to complement what has already been built, otherwise the best part of three years’ worth of ongoing work will have been wasted.
In choosing a new manager, United cannot afford to go for a kneejerk option or a high-profile name for the sake of it. Former Chelsea and Inter boss Antonio Conte is an obvious example for the need for greater care and due diligence to ensure this is a smooth and positive transition.
On the face of it, there are plenty of reasons to choose Conte. He is currently unattached, meaning he could start work immediately without expensive compensation fees, he is a serial winner with five league titles in the last 10 years and is already proven in the Premier League.
However, he doesn’t fit with the direction United have been going in because the current squad doesn’t have the right players to work in a Conte system.
Hiring the Italian would have to mean a tactical and squad overhaul to allow him to be successful – just shy of £120m was spent on four players ahead of his debut season at Chelsea, while Inter had to spend more than €250m in the space of 15 months to build him a squad to win Serie A.
The short-termism of the pragmatic instant success-driven approach is also not ideal if it means having to start over yet again at more vast expense within just a couple of years.
It isn’t really feasible and both he and United appear to understand that. 90min has already reported that while Conte is open to the being contacted, there would be reservations from both sides. Fitting the club’s philosophy is a significant sticking point in that respect.
Brendan Rodgers, Mauricio Pochettino or even rising star Thomas Frank might be better suited, but it is a decision process littered with potential missteps and the club must tread carefully.