Gary Neville: "Ole could not get a performance out of them in the end"; Solskjaer sacked after 4-1 Watford defeat; Man Utd 12 points off pace in Premier League; Norwegian led United to third and second-place finishes in league during his two full seasons in charge but failed to win trophy
Sunday 21 November 2021 21:11, UK
Gary Neville has admitted Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's sacking had become an inevitability after Manchester United's collapse in form reached a new low in their 4-1 defeat at Watford.
Neville has refused to call for Solskjaer's dismissal despite a series of devastating results for United, but has acknowledged that the club ultimately had no choice but to act.
"I always say that managers deserve two or three years in the job," Neville told Sky Sports. "Ole cannot complain. He has been given three years. He has been backed in the transfer market. David Moyes was given eight months and kicked out. I don't think Ole can complain about the time that he has been given and the money that he has been afforded. I don't think he can complain about the players delivered to him.
"I do think he will be massively disappointed about the fact that he has not been able to deliver performances this season. He expected more. We all expected more. Only he and the players can understand what has gone wrong in these last few months - and we might never get to the bottom of it."
Solskjaer was sacked on Sunday morning - hours after a humiliating 4-1 defeat to Watford at Vicarage Road.
"Watford mauled Manchester United," said Neville. "Ole could not get a performance out of them in the end. The players looked drained of confidence. I am not surprised today that it has ended.
"He has always had that result in the past that has pulled him out of the mire when you thought it might get a little bit too tricky for him. But this time the results have just got worse and worse. The worst thing has been the performances."
Club chiefs stood firm through increasingly vociferous calls to relieve Solskjaer of his duties in the wake of a humiliating 5-0 loss to rivals Liverpool and a 2-0 derby defeat to Manchester City in early November.
But though the Norwegian signed a new three-year deal in July, the club called time after a defeat that was their fifth in seven in the Premier League and one that leaves them 12 points behind leaders Chelsea.
"When a manager cannot get a performance out of his players and the results are getting as bad as they are, in this game, you are going to lose your job," acknowledged Neville.
"Nobody thought this was going to happen when Cristiano Ronaldo signed. Even before yesterday's game I thought that getting to the end of the season was the right thing to do if they could. They obviously have not been able to do that.
"Why has it gone from a club that was progressing last season and the season before, third to second, and all of a sudden it has fallen apart? They look like they have never seen each other.
"They look like they do not know how to pass the ball to each other, they look like they don't know what shape they are playing, changing shape continuously.
"That is a back five and a midfield two yesterday that have played together a lot so you are not talking about integrating lots of new players but their confidence is shot and they are all over the place.
"That was a wimpish performance at Watford."
Referring to the manner of the defeat at Watford, Neville told the Gary Neville Podcast the next few months would reveal whether his old side's standards of defending, which have seen them keep only two clean sheets in their last 25 games, was down to Solskjaer, the players at his disposal - or disquiet in the Old Trafford dressing room.
He said: "You're thinking to yourself, how the hell have they defended like that? De Gea's thrown a couple in, the back four on the first goal, have gone so deep - and I was accusing them of that two years ago.
"There'll be those who will say it's coaching. And we'll see in the next few months, the next 12 months whether the players have lost confidence in the manager, whether the ideas have run out, whether something's happened.
"I've got a feeling something's happened in the last couple of months in that dressing room, it doesn't look right to me. But we'll see in the next few weeks."
United have confirmed Solskjaer's assistant Michael Carrick will be placed in temporary charge, with the club also revealing their intention to appoint an interim manager until the end of the season.
It means United are likely to have two different temporary bosses over the next six months and as many as four different managers over a 12-month period.
"They have not planned for this," said Neville. "They have not prepared for it. I don't think anybody would have done. It has deteriorated so badly and so quickly.
"Michael Carrick takes over now. I suspect the only option is to put someone in until the end of the season. That has been obvious for the last few weeks. If there was a world-class manager sat on the shelf ready to go, Ole would have been gone before now. I think, one, the fact that they believed in him and, two, tried to let it go, but thirdly, the fact that they have not had anyone to appoint sat there in the wings waiting.
"There will be people who say 'Antonio Conte has just gone to Tottenham'. He was never coming to Manchester United. Manchester United's board were never going to appoint Antonio Conte whether you agree with that or not. I don't think Antonio Conte would have been a fit for Manchester United and I don't think there is an absolutely perfect fit available at this time so they have to bring someone in temporarily until someone is available who can take forward the work that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has done."
Neville has urged patience, calling for Manchester United to learn from previous mistakes and not making another short-term, quick-fix appointment.
As for potential successors to Solskjaer, Neville believes the job and project at Old Trafford would suit the likes of Paris Saint-Germain boss Mauricio Pochettino, who is understood to be the No 1 target for next summer.
"Absolutely they should wait," Neville said. "They have to make sure they get the next one right, if that means being patient for six months to wait for managers to become available at the end of the season.
"I think Mauricio Pochettino - although he'd never say it - he'd leave to come to Man Utd on a five-year deal tomorrow. He'd look at that group of players, he'd look at the club and he'd realise he'd probably be able to achieve more that he wants at Man Utd in terms of a project.
"At PSG you are on season by season - 'you've got to win the Champions League or you're out' type of model. I don't think that suits Pochettino.
"I think he would absolutely come to Man Utd on a five-year deal, with backing behind him. How he'd fit in with the current coaches who are still there and left, I'm not sure."
That United find themselves in this situation - with Carrick taking over before the appointment of an interim coach until the end of the season - does not reflect well on the decision-makers at Old Trafford, in Neville's view.
"They don't have a plan for who the next manager should be, obviously. They would not be announcing they are appointing an interim manager until the end of the season if so.
"We have seen managers lose their jobs in recent weeks - Dean Smith and Nuno Espirito Santo - where there were plans in place and ready-made replacements.
"Manchester United have not got that plan.
"This is the third time in eight years that a manager here has been given a long-term extension and lost their job within a few months. So the planning has not been great.
"I don't want to stick the knife in on the club's owners, the club's hierarchy, but you have to ask serious questions. You have to ask serious questions. I have had enough of it, to be honest with you. I have spoken too much about it over the last few years.
"I think the club is run OK from a business point of view, but culturally, and in terms of football decision-making, it leaves a lot to be desired. A lot to be desired. The reality is they have been caught out again. They did not know what to do. They have been indecisive."
Ultimately, Neville believes Solskjaer should be proud of the job he has done but the players will have more immediate concerns if they are to avoid further humiliations.
"Ole will reflect on it with sadness in the end but he should be proud of the work that he did in the first two or three years, I think. Rebuilding the club might be going too far but he rebuilt the soul of the club.
"The club was in a dark place at the end of the Jose Mourinho era. There were players who were there for the money, who were mercenaries. I think now at least the players are good lads, good players who need to sort themselves out because that yesterday was a shambles irrespective of the manager they have got.
"They have a game on Tuesday where they need to perform. They have Chelsea on Sunday. And they will get battered on Sunday on live television in front of the whole country if they don't sort themselves out so they have some work to do this week on the training pitch."