Seven worst moments of Solskjaer’s Man Utd reign

Nicholas Hughes
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Man Utd, 2021-22

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has finally been sacked as manager of Manchester United.

His reign ended one day after an humiliating 4-1 thrashing by relegation-threatened Watford.

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We take a look at Solskjaer's lowest moments during almost three years in the job.

Missing the top four at the first time of asking

While this may be harsh given he only had half a season in charge, there was no excusing the way Solskjaer’s United finished the 2018-19 Premier League season.

After the euphoria of that PSG tie in the Champions League, things slowly went downhill towards the end of the campaign.

After going 12 unbeaten, United proceeded to win two of their last nine games and none of the final five. Five losses in those nine games was as many as the side had lost in the entire season up to that point.

That cost United Champions League football in the following season as they finished five points shy of Tottenham, ending up in sixth on the table.

Three semi-final defeats in one season

The 2019/20 season was Solskjaer’s first full campaign in charge, and he was backed heavily in the transfer window, bringing in Harry Maguire, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Daniel James in the summer before the big arrival of Bruno Fernandes in January.

But none of those deals were enough to prevent United from losing not one, not two, but three semi-final ties in three separate competitions.

The first of those came in the League Cup, where despite doing the double over neighbours Manchester City in the league, they went down 3-2 on aggregate.

Upon the resumption of the season in the summer after the COVID-19 shutdown, United lost two more semi-finals within a month. A 3-1 defeat against Chelsea sent them out of the FA Cup and a poor display against Sevilla saw them go down 2-1 in the Europa League. Both goals scored in those two games were Fernandes penalties.

Champions League embarrassment in 2020

Despite those semi-final defeats, United successfully returned to the Champions League with a third-place finish in the Premier League.

Returning to the scene of the famous Champions League win that started it all, Solskjaer’s side began the group stage campaign in 2020-21 with another big win against PSG before thrashing RB Leipzig 5-0.

But it would end there for Solskjaer, as United lost three of the next four, including a humiliating display in Turkey that ended in defeat against Istanbul Basaksehir.

More Europa League heartache

Solskjaer made it five semi-final appearances and no trophies by the end of the 2020-21 season, as United were again eliminated from the League Cup in the last four by Man City.

Even more embarrassing, though, was a lacklustre Europa League final performance that ended in more heartache for the Red Devils.

After 120 minutes of football failed to produce a winner, United lost in a mammoth penalty shootout against Spanish side Villarreal, who had finished seventh in La Liga and were 19 points off the top four.

Mourinho returns to Old Trafford and thrashes Man Utd with Spurs

Solskjaer’s predecessor, Jose Mourinho, got one over the Norwegian and the entire Man Utd hierarchy in 2020 when he returned to Old Trafford as manager of Tottenham Hotspur.

Despite an early Fernandes penalty giving United the lead, Spurs turned it around almost instantly and were 4-1 up by half-time.

A red card to Anthony Martial didn’t help, but two more goals in the second half completed the rout, setting the biggest losing margin of Solskjaer’s reign.

Son Heung-Min and Harry Kane had a field day, scoring two each, as United were left grateful that there were no fans in the building to witness the display.

Crushing Liverpool defeat

Unfortunately for United on this occasion, there was a full Old Trafford crowd to witness that humbling Liverpool defeat.

Naby Keita’s opener inside five minutes set the tone for an electric first half, with Diogo Jota and Mohamed Salah hat-trick completing an insane scoreline.

Salah became the first visiting player to score a Premier League hat-trick at Old Trafford, and Liverpool completed their biggest win on United territory in over 100 years.

Solskjaer was left standing stiff on the touchline, at a loss as to what to do or how to stem the bleeding, admitting afterwards that it was his darkest day as a player or a manager.

The final nail at Watford

Solskjaer was on the brink of the sack going into the trip to Hertfordshire to play against newly-promoted Watford.

And he was finally put out of his misery after a dreadful 4-1 defeat by a team who will be fighting against relegation this season.

United were completely outplayed in the first half and they trailed 2-0 at the break. Things improved slightly in the second period as substitute Donny van de Beek halved the deficit.

But a comical red card for Harry Maguire with 21 minutes to go led to Man Utd crumbling and two late goals from Joao Pedro and Emmanuel Denis left the Man Utd board with no choice but to sack Solskjaer.