After a 4-1 defeat at Watford this past weekend, the Manchester United board held an emergency meeting via conference call to discuss the future of manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, with the net result that the Norwegian was fired from his post on Sunday morning.

The Watford defeat, and performance, came as the nadir of a very poor run of form for United since September that has seen them lose to Young Boys, West Ham, Aston Villa, Leicester, Liverpool, Manchester City as well as the Hornets.

Worryingly, United have conceded 21 goals this season, only Norwich City and Newcastle have conceded more. In contrast, Chelsea have conceded four, Manchester City six and Liverpool 11.

With five losses in the last seven Premier League games, United have now dropped to 8th in the table. They are out of the Football League Cup and face a crucial Champions League game this week against Villarreal, which if they were to lose, could put them in serious danger of elimination from the tournament.

So what have been the issues behind United’s failings of late? Is it all the fault of the manager? And who is likely to come in to take over from Solskjaer on a permanent basis?

With bookmakers like bet365 Sport and BetRivers Sportsbook offering lengthening odds on United winning anything this season, whoever the new manager is faces a tough task to put them back on track to success.

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Why Have United Failed Under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer?

It’s easy to forget that last season, Manchester United finished second in the table to Manchester City and had set a new record for being undefeated away from home. They had beaten the likes of Paris St Germain, Manchester City and Chelsea and everything looked poised for Solskjaer to take the club on.

Indeed, he was granted a new contract last summer. So what has happened since?

  • Poor Transfer Market Choices & Change of Tactics

One of the key problems for United has been some poor choices in the transfer market, spending big money on players who are either now out injured (Varane), out of form (Maguire, Shaw, Fernandes, Wan Bissaka, Pogba) or can’t even get a place in the United team (Van de Beek, Sancho, Cavani, Tellez, Martial).

However, the strangest decision is perhaps the re-signing of Cristiano Ronaldo.

In many ways, snapping up their former star, seemingly under the noses of Manchester City, looked great PR and there is no doubt it helped the club sell a lot of merchandise.

Yet the move came just after Solskjaer had persuaded Edinson Cavani to stay on at the club, promising him more game time, after the Uruguayan did very well in his first season with United.

Suddenly, Ronaldo’s arrival pushed Cavani out of the picture and not only that, facilitated a major change in how United were to play. Solskjaer wanted to adopt a more possession oriented game, like his main rivals in the Premier League, when their main strengths were generally playing on the counter.

The net result has been a mishmash of styles that hasn’t suited the players they have signed, and which has seen a number of teams expose the weaknesses of the system with the players United are playing in it.

It seems in trying to accommodate Ronaldo into their new team, the strengths that United could play to, have been taken away. And in its place is a team struggling to find a way to play and a number of teams have taken full advantage of that.

The question to be asked though, is whether that is Solskjaer’s decision to bring in Ronaldo, or whether it was a decision made above him that he was then required to accommodate. Given how things worked out, my money is on it being the latter, rather than the former and if that was the case, then Solskjaer is less to blame than the current United board.

Who Are The Names In The Frame To Replace Solskjaer?

Manchester United have announced that Michael Carrick will replace Solskjaer as the interim manager for the midweek game at Villarreal, with United hoping to have either a permanent manager, or an interim boss in place for the game with Chelsea next weekend.

There are a number of names that have been mentioned as potential successors to Solskjaer over the last few weeks and some of the more popular ones mentioned in the press include.

Zinedine Zidane

The former Real Madrid boss has been touted in the press and is believed to have been recommended by Cristiano Ronaldo as a successor to Solskjaer. The Frenchman has enjoyed great success at Real Madrid, particularly in his first stint as boss and particularly in the Champions League. However, he has never played nor managed in the Premier League and is not fluent in English.

Brendan Rodgers

The Leicester City manager is believed to have a clause in his contract allowing him to leave the club if a big European team come knocking and United certainly fit the bill. Rodgers has brought success to Celtic and Leicester in the last decade or so, but he is a former manager of Liverpool and there are many United fans who feel that this is incompatible with him being United boss. There is also the need for compensation for Leicester, which could prove problematic.

Mauricio Pochettino

Over the last 24-hours, the Paris St Germain manager has been widely touted in the press as being the United board’s preferred option for the permanent role. However, he is employed at PSG at the moment, although with his family settled in England, it is believed he would be interested in the role at the end of the season. With his time at PSG not going as smoothly as many hoped, this may be an option for United then, if they can land an interim manager until the end of the season. However, PSG would want hefty compensation for their manager.

Other names in the frame reportedly include Eric Ten Hag of Ajax, Laurent Blanc, Diego Simeone and even England manager Gareth Southgate, although the latter two are longer odds choices with bookmakers accepting bets on the next manager.

Whoever gets the job will inherit a very big and expensive squad, packed with talent, but also with egos and with a team needing a clear identity and plan to move forward.

And it is not going to be an easy task, whoever gets the job.