Manchester United may be running out of time to stop themselves spiralling into mediocrity under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
Perhaps more than any recent result of performance, the sign that Solskjaer is simply not ‘the one’ for United came in his bizarre comments after losing 3-1 at home to Manchester City in the Carabao Cup semi-final first leg.
The Norwegian tactician came out with a Moyes-esque claim that City fielding their strongest team against the Red Devils shows how much they ‘respect’ them and that he sees it as a sign that his team are going places.
This has unsurprisingly seen him mocked relentlessly by many fans on Twitter, and, after over a year in charge of Man Utd, it’s getting harder and harder to believe this project is going anywhere.
On the face of it, some might argue things aren’t *that* bad – United are, after all, within touching distance of the top four, sitting just five points behind Chelsea, while a place in the Carabao Cup final is at least in theory still possible, meaning Solskjaer could get his hands on some silverware in just over a month’s time.
That’s a very optimistic view, however, and far more likely is that this MUFC side will continue to serve up some pretty dire football, end the season out of the Champions League for a second year in a row, and without a trophy for a third. Quite likely even more money will be spent on talented players who proceed to go downhill, while flops will be sold and rapidly improve at their new clubs like Romelu Lukaku has at Inter Milan this season.
All this while one of the very finest managers in the world is sitting at home waiting for the phone to ring.
Barcelona are now being linked with former Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino, according to RAC1, via AS, and this is a team currently sitting joint top of their domestic league and preparing to take on Napoli in the last 16 of the Champions League.
If Barca see it fit to change their manager and take advantage of Pochettino’s availability, how on earth are United still sitting on their hands?
It was never going to be easy for the club to cope with the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson, and yet every single one of their four managerial appointments since then has proven disastrous, with big names like Pep Guardiola, Jurgen Klopp and Antonio Conte all missed out on.
There’s still time to ensure Pochettino doesn’t join that list, but if the Argentine does end up at the Nou Camp, United could once again find themselves without too many other promising options. This either means sticking with the hapless Solskjaer for even longer, or making another rash panic-hire that derails whatever semblance of a project is emerging now.
Big clubs are not immortal – it’s taken Liverpool thirty years to get back to where they are now, with plenty of mediocrity involved in the journey – so United must act fast to avoid a similar fate. Pochettino ticks all the boxes, but it’s clear he’s going to be a man in-demand.
If Barcelona’s growing interest doesn’t spark United into life, then what will?