Ole Gunnar Solskjaer remains defiant despite intense scrutiny over Manchester United future

Though he only trained between the ages of eight and 10, Solskjaer will need to apply everything he learned in those formative years as he attempts to wrestle back control of a Manchester United team that has woefully underperformed in recent matches.

The beleaguered coach is under pressure following successive defeats to Arsenal and Istanbul Basaksehir, with a crucial Premier League clash against Everton coming up on Saturday.

At Friday afternoon’s virtual press conference, Solskjaer was asked whether he still remained confident of being able to deliver success to Manchester United.

“Yeah, why shouldn’t I be?” he responded. “If I don’t trust my belief and values and [my] staff’s quality and players’ quality, who else should?”

Perhaps therein lies the problem. While Solskjaer might still believe in his abilities to take Manchester United back to the top, the list of other people who do appears to be getting shorter with each passing game.

Vast sums of money spent badly by chief executive Ed Woodward means United’s squad remains light years behind its top English and European rivals, but it’s impossible to argue that Solskjaer shouldn’t be getting more out of the players at his disposal.

This, after all, is a side that last season reached the FA Cup and Europa League semifinals and finished third in the Premier League ahead of Chelsea and Leicester.

While this season’s results are no doubt concerning and have left United a lowly 15th in the Premier League, the actual performances on the pitch are arguably an even greater cause for concern.

The defending for Istanbul Basaksehir’s first goal in the midweek Champions League defeat was nothing short of comical — and the second wasn’t much better.

“You wouldn’t see this on Hackney Marshes!” former United defender Rio Ferdinand lamented after the game. Such was United’s ineptitude, that is surely an insult to the hundreds of talented amateur players who compete on the famous East London pitches every weekend.

Hot and cold

“I don’t look at one or two results and fall like a house of cards,” Solskjaer added. “It’s a setback, definitely.

“There’s been too much made of not scoring against Arsenal and Chelsea, there has been nothing in those games and it’s not long ago we were the best thing since sliced bread against Leipzig and PSG.”

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Solskjaer has a point. The Norwegian’s time in charge has certainly been unusual, with his players turning in the kind of impressive performances they did against Paris Saint-Germain and RB Leipzig in the Champions League just when it looks as though his job is on the line.

However, that inconsistency — which is perhaps the most baffling element of Solskjaer’s reign — will certainly do nothing to appease a group of fans that have suffered through mediocrity ever since Alex Ferguson retired as manager in 2013.

After reports emerged earlier this week that Solskjaer would be sacked if United fail to beat Everton on Saturday, the club has since insisted that this weekend’s result will have no bearing on its coach’s future.

Those British media reports indicated that the club is already eying up either former Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino or Leipzig coach Julian Nagelsmann as potential replacements should Solskjaer be unable to turn things around.

Despite the fevered speculation, the 47-year-old Solskjaer remains defiant that he retains the club’s support.

“You have to have that belief,” he said. [The] club have been very positive and shown me their character and strong leadership. I’m looking to Saturday morning, that’s another matter we can talk about.”

In English football, that is known as the ‘dreaded vote of confidence,’ a phrase derived from the practice of clubs publicly supporting their beleaguered managers only to sack them soon afterward.

While the Everton match may not be quite make or break, unless United’s performance improves drastically it’s hard to envisage Solskjaer will be in the job much longer.