Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is fighting to save his job as Manchester United manager as speculation mounts over his future at Old Trafford.
It’s understood that Solskjaer fears his time in charge may be coming to an end after nearly three years with former Chelsea coach Antonio Conte considered the leading candidate to replace him.
Following a day of deafening silence at United, sources last night emerged to offer Solskjaer lukewarm support more than 24 hours after the humiliating 5-0 defeat to Liverpool.
Chairmen Joel and Avram Glazer held crisis talks with the club’s executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward and managing director Richard Arnold on Monday as the shock of losing so pathetically to their bitter rivals continued to reverberate around the club.
Meanwhile, Solskjaer spent two-and-a-half hours at the training ground around lunchtime after giving his squad and coaching staff the day off.
Senior players are now questioning Solskjaer’s tactics and leadership over concerns that he lacks the experience to get himself out of trouble and is too soft on them.
It is not the first time the 48-year-old has faced an uncertain future since he returned to the club in December 2018. Whereas United have previously offered Solskjaer unequivocal backing, however, the message last night was less emphatic.
Sources stressed the need to pull together and move on from Sunday’s embarrassment, adding that there is nothing to say Solskjaer won’t still be in charge when United visit Tottenham on Saturday.
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Conte has expressed an interest in the job having been out of work since leaving Inter Milan in May, although his camp maintain that they will not open talks with United until Solskjaer’s situation has been resolved.
Appointing the 52-year-old Italian would represent a major U-turn for United after bringing Solskjaer back to Old Trafford to replace Jose Mourinho and oversee a cultural shift in keeping with the club’s traditions.
Like Mourinho, the abrasive Conte tends to work in short cycles and would most likely want to bring in his own staff.
If Solskjaer does survive this crisis, he knows that change will have to be swift and effective after a run of five defeats in nine games. Bold decisions will need to be made about big players and United may have to resort to being a more compact, counter-attacking team.
In the aftermath of the Liverpool humiliation, sources claim that he was just as stunned as anyone in the confines of the team’s Old Trafford dressing-room after the full-time whistle.
As exclusively revealed by Sportsmail, Solskjaer is understood to have called on his players to fight their way back from one of the darkest days the club has suffered in recent memory.
He warned them to prepare for days of major criticism following the capitulation, but said the only way they would come through is by sticking together and responding.
‘It was made clear to the players that they all, including the manager, would get battered this week,’ said the source. ‘But the message was that the team either fights each other or fight back together.’
However, having asked his players to implement a pressing style against Jurgen Klopp’s side, a number of players believed the team were not prepared to play in that way because they had not particularly focussed on the tactic in training in the days leading up to the game.
Meanwhile, David De Gea gave a brutal assessment of United’s form as he joined some of his teammates by apologising to supporters.
‘It is difficult to describe what I feel now,’ said De Gea. ‘It hurts. It is not good enough. We keep on conceding s**t goals like we have been doing all season. We play like kids and I have to apologise to the fans.’