Sun | Nov 28, 2021

United routed by Liverpool

Solskjær role as manager now firmly under scrutiny after 5-0 loss to arch-rivals at Old Trafford

Published:Monday | October 25, 2021 | 12:07 AM
Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjær (right) looks towards Cristiano Ronaldo as he stands on the touchline during their English Premier League match against Liverpool at Old Trafford in Manchester, England, yesterday.
Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjær (right) looks towards Cristiano Ronaldo as he stands on the touchline during their English Premier League match against Liverpool at Old Trafford in Manchester, England, yesterday.

MANCHESTER, England (AP):

There was a pick of moments that confirmed Manchester United’s humiliation against Liverpool yesterday.

Maybe it came with Mohamed Salah completing his-hat trick by the 50th minute. Or in the celebrations as Liverpool defender Andy Robertson was heard repeatedly shouting “Keep going” at his teammates when they were already 5-0 up, showing no mercy.

Or there was the sight of Alex Ferguson shaking his head, sighing in the Old Trafford directors’ box at seeing the shambles unfolding in the team he once led to so much glory. Close by was his one-time Liverpool managerial adversary, Kenny Dalglish, beaming in delight.

Fewer United fans were there to witness the final embers of the embarrassment unfolding, having already booed the players off at half-time.

Once Paul Pogba — United’s only change when trailing 4-0 at half-time for the first time in an English Premier League (EPL) match — was sent off for a lunging tackle with 30 minutes remaining, the home fans started streaming away. Hundreds could be seen already outside of the stadium, heading home to leave the scene of an epic humbling.

Inside, all the singing was coming from the visiting Liverpool section, mostly to taunt Ole Gunnar Solskjær.

“Ole’s at the wheel,” they sang, mockingly adopting the lauding of the manager adopted by United after being used by former player Rio Ferdinand.

“Ole, give us a wave,” they urged.

How much longer after this 5-0 rout until United waves goodbye to a manager who has benefited from more than US$500 million in player spending in three years but looks far from delivering a first EPL trophy since the retirement of Ferguson in 2013 after collecting his 13th? Even Liverpool have won the title more recently, in 2020, to end a 30-year drought.

Solskjær was the biggest gamble by the owning Glazer family of the post-Ferguson appointments — David Moyes, Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho — given his lack of experience coaching an elite club, gaining this job based on his status as a title-winning player under the Scot.

There’s only so much that nostalgia can shield you from the brutal assessments at a club without a trophy since Mourinho won the Europa League in 2017.

“We know we are rock bottom,” Solskjær said. “It can’t feel any worse than this.”

Not even the return of Cristiano Ronaldo from the Ferguson glory years has engineered a resurgence. Late comebacks have masked the cracks, like Ronaldo grabbing a late winner against Atalanta in the UEFA Champions League on Wednesday.

Ronaldo did put the ball in the net against Liverpool, only for VAR to scrub it out for offside. The 36-year-old returning hero was also fortunate not to be dismissed for petulance, twice kicking the ball into the midriff of Curtis Jones when the whistle had blown and the Liverpool midfielder was on the turf.

“The whole performance was not good enough,” Solskjær said. “I have come too far, we have come too far as a group. We are too close to give up now.”

Given the further investment in the squad over the last year, this rout feels even more crushing for Solskjær than the 6-1 implosion against Tottenham here last October.

Yesterday’s EPL results:

Brentford 1-2 Leicester

West Ham 1-0 Tottenham

Man United 0-5 Liverpool