Where can Ole Gunnar Solskjaer possibly go from here?
Already under enormous public pressure, he’s just witnessed his Manchester United team, one that has been almost fully built on his watch, put in quite possibly the worst performance in the club’s entire 143-year history.
It is not an exaggeration. Every United fan wishes it was. That is the very real gravity of the situation.
Losing to fierce rivals Liverpool is never acceptable. Losing at home to Liverpool, even less so. But being utterly humiliated and embarrassed from start to finish is unforgivable.
The club is desperate to support Solskjaer, but how on earth does he come back from this?
His team, his tactics. He said all the right things in the days leading up to the game about the importance of the rivalry, the history of it, how it was crucial that United couldn’t give Liverpool an inch, and how individual responsibility would be key to keeping a very good opponent at bay.
Within a few minutes of the game kicking off, that had completely gone out of the window. United have defended poorly for much of the season, but they got nowhere close to Liverpool as Naby Keita scored an easy opener, with huge gaps in every single direction.
It got worse and worse from that moment on. Liverpool didn’t even need to work particularly hard.
United have won big games under Solskjaer before, very famously so. But increasingly that magic touch appears to have long since worn off. Tactically, Sunday afternoon was woeful.
The same problems that existed against Leicester a week earlier were there again, while it was the exact same starting XI that was 2-0 down to Atalanta in midweek. United played to Liverpool’s strengths and to their own weaknesses. That has to come down to Solskjaer’s decisions and his coaching staff, asking players to do jobs they aren’t capable of.
This United squad isn’t the finished product but it is closer than at any point in the last eight years. This was supposed to be the season when it started to come together in terms of genuinely challenging in the Premier League and going further in the Champions League. So far, it feels like a significant step backwards, with United already sketchy to say the least before facing Liverpool.
Liverpool was the first proper test of the season and it was beyond a failure.
There can be no doubting the innate quality that exists at United in this moment in time. With a different approach, there is no reason to believe they can’t achieve things.
Solskjaer had the chance to do something different this week after losing to Leicester and threatening to against Atalanta…and it only got worse. There is a squad with depth, use it. Man management appears non-existent with Jadon Sancho, Donny van de Beek and Jesse Lingard in particular, all proven players and left out in the cold continually.
If Solskjaer won’t or can’t do it another way, time has to be up. That Liverpool game has now completely cost him any lingering benefit of the doubt. But whether the club is prepared to take that step after projecting such strong faith so far still remains a huge doubt in itself.