Manchester United have confirmed that they have parted ways with Norwegian boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in the wake of the Red Devils’ humiliating 4-1 defeat at relegation-threatened Watford on Saturday.
The club confirmed the decision on Sunday morning with a statement on their official website thanking the club legend for his three years of service in the Old Trafford hot seat.
Former United player Michael Carrick will take charge of first-team affairs ahead of the appointment of an interim head coach to lead the club to the end of the current Premier League campaign.
“Ole will always be a legend at Manchester United and it is with regret that we have reached this difficult decision.
“While the past few weeks have been disappointing, they should not obscure all the work he has done over the past three years to rebuild the foundations for long-term success.
“Ole leaves with our sincerest thanks for his tireless efforts as manager and our very best wishes for the future.
“His place in the club’s history will always be secure, not just for his story as a player, but as a great man and a manager who gave us many great moments.
“He will forever be welcome back at Old Trafford as part of the Manchester United family.
“Michael Carrick will now take charge of the team for forthcoming games while the club looks to appoint an interim manager to the end of the season.”
The decision to axe Solskjaer comes amid a disastrous run of form which saw the club humiliated by arch-rivals Liverpool and Manchester City inside Old Trafford, as well as suffering defeats to the likes of Aston Villa, Leicester City and, most recently, the capitulation away to Claudio Ranieri’s Watford.
Saturday’s loss, which was their fifth defeat in seven Premier League games, led to reports that senior figures within the club had lost faith in Solskjaer – as did several sections of the travelling support inside Watford’s Vicarage Road stadium on Saturday as a chorus of boos erupted at the final whistle, though Portuguese playmaker Bruno Fernandes signalled to fans that the fault lay with the players and not the under-fire head coach.
It is thought that Solskjaer’s status as a club legend ruled out the possibility of him being immediately dismissed at an away ground, but the timing Sunday’s announcement suggests that the decision to part company with him was made late on Saturday given that the club’s ownership is based in Florida and is five hours behind the UK timezone.
Former United midfielder Carrick will take charge of the club’s crucial Champions League fixture with Villarreal next week but there is no indication yet as to how long he will be in charge of the team, given the club statement indicating that they are pursuing a coach to take temporary charge until the end of the season before appointing a permanent manager.
Solskjaer leaves the club having achieved respectable 3rd and 2nd place finishes in his two full seasons in charge at the club but his ability to guide the team to a legitimate title challenge came under increasing scrutiny this season amid abject performances and difficulties in translating the big-name signings of Cristiano Ronaldo, Jadon Sancho and Raphael Varane into success on the pitch.
Attention will now turn to who will fill the Norwegian’s shoes on a more permanent basis – with oddsmakers suggesting that former Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane and Leicester’s Brendan Rodgers are at the top of United hierarchy’s wishlist.