Ole Gunnar Solskjaer opens up on Man Utd sack pressure as Mauricio Pochettino linked

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has dismissed the speculation surrounding his future and insists he retains the backing of the board. Solskjaer is confident that United will bounce back when they face Everton this weekend, knowing defeat could well spell the end of his time as United boss after 101 games.

Solskjaer’s future has once again turned into a hot topic following United’s poor start to the new Premier League campaign. The Red Devils have lost three of six matches, all at Old Trafford, where they are yet to pick up a victory.

And while they had fared well in the Champions League before this week with wins over Paris Saint-Germain and RB Leipzig, they were humbled by European minnows Istanbul Basaksehir on Wednesday night.

Former Chelsea and Newcastle striker Demba Ba, now 35, took advantage of naive United defending in Turkey as Solskjaer’s side slipped to a turgid 2-1 defeat.

Post-match, Solskjaer declined to comment on his future and after laughing, said: “Of course it’s early on and, you know, opinions are out there all the time. You’ve got to stay strong. I’m employed by the club to do a job and I do that to the best of my ability with our staff.”

Previously, whenever the Norwegian’s position has been subject to scrutiny, he has produced the performances and results to restore some order at Old Trafford.

But anything bar victory against Everton at Goodison Park on Saturday (12.30pm kick-off) would keep the pressure firmly fixed on the 47-year-old former United striker.

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Some reports have claimed United have already contacted the representatives of Mauricio Pochettino with the former Tottenham coach in the frame to take over.

United’s board reportedly remain reluctant to sack Solskjaer but may be forced to bite the bullet if poor results continue, with Pochettino admired across Europe although he has spent the last 12 months without a job.

And Solskjaer said on Friday when asked if he’s still confident he can turn things around: “Yeah, why shouldn’t I be? If I don’t trust my beliefs and values and my staff’s quality and the player’s quality, who else should?

“I don’t look at one or two results and fall like a house of cards. Yeah, it’s a setback definitely. I think there’s been too much made of say not scoring against Arsenal and Chelsea. Those games, there’s been more or less nothing in those two games.

“It’s not long ago we were the best thing since sliced bread, when you beat Leipzig and PSG. There’s ups and downs in football. That’s just the way it has to be and you’ve got to have that belief in yourself [and] belief in the players.

“The club has been very positive. They’ve shown me their character and strong leadership. I’m looking to Saturday lunchtime, which is another matter. 

“You have to be mentally strong. There’s demands on a Man United player, a coach, or a manager. There’s also an expectation, because we are at the best and the biggest club in the world. You don’t expect to have anything but criticism then.

“It’s just how you deal with that setback. From what I’ve seen from the boys, they’ve been very focused since we’ve come back and ready to give a response.”

He added of his relationship with the board, amid suggestions talks have begun with Pochettino: “You know I’ve always had a very good, open, honest and positive dialogue with the club. As I said, they’ve shown strong leadership.

“I’ve had good dialogue continually since I’ve come. With me today, it’s sunny in Manchester and I don’t expect the wind to turn. There’s always pressure and expectations on us. I’ve grown up here.

“I became a man at Manchester United and I’ve learned how to deal with good and bad times. There’s always – you’re a top coach or manager when you win and you’re bad when you lose, because that’s the last game you played.

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“You’re not really better than your last game. Every game of football becomes history quickly and we’ve just got to go into Goodison Park in a positive frame of mind.

“You don’t have to be happy to stay positive, because you know that on difficult days, in life, there will be better ones coming, and I know these players well enough and I trust them well enough to give a response.”

Solskjaer is well aware of the criticism facing him with the trip to Goodison Park, particularly with predecessors David Moyes and Jose Mourinho having overseen their final matches as United managers on Merseyside.

“You know every time you play for Man United, passion and fight of course are things you expect to see,” he said. “To earn the right to win a game of football, you need that – definitely against Everton.

“With or without fans at Goodison Park you still have to have that passion and fight in you. That’s of course a given. I know times now are different, times are strange. The strain on players – football is not the same unfortunately, without the fans and the passion, so that takes away from it. No one has been in this situation the players are now.

“They’ve had months and months of playing with the uncertainty and the unknown of the virus and the pandemic and sometimes it’s easy to sit at home and think football is the same and you expect the same from everyone.

“Sometimes we have to look behind and we have to look after them both physically and mentally. These are things I think about a lot and thinking about my players: how do they cope with the whole situation?

“So yes, passion and fight, we’ll see that. I’m a definite believer in these boys, they’ll come back and show how much they care.”

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