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Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s 11 best and worst moments as Manchester United manager

Following his 4-1 defeat to Watford, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has left his managerial position at Manchester United. Here are his best and worst moments as boss of the Red Devils.

From being signed by Manchester United as a player in 1996 and going on to achieve unprecedented success to becoming manager, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is deeply rooted into the red half of Manchester.

Since being appointed as Man United boss in December 2018, initially in an interim position replacing Jose Mourinho, Solskjaer has been the topic of conversation in regard to some positive as well as some negative moments.

A string of torrid results including a 5-0 humiliation to Liverpool, a 2-0 derby loss to Manchester City and a 4-1 drubbing from Watford have led to his inevitable departure.

Here, we take a look at the Norwegian's best and worst moments in charge of the Red Devils.

Sealing a top four finish in the 2019/20 Premier League season

The Premier League campaign came to a grinding halt in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 outbreak. When things got back underway in June, Man United began the post lockdown period of games outside of the top four.

United were three points behind fourth placed Chelsea, and eight behind third placed Leicester City, with each having nine games remaining.

Bruno Fernandes and co were facing an uphill battle to secure a top four finish and confirm a Champions League participation spot for the following season.

However, Solskjaer welcomed back long term injury absentees - Paul Pogba and Marcus Rashford - and would finish the season unbeaten, beating Leicester on the final day of the season 2-0 to cement third spot. They ended the campaign unbeaten in nine games with six wins and three draws.

Losing four consecutive semi-finals

Man United have not won a trophy since 2017 when Mourinho's men defeated Ajax 2-0 in Amsterdam in the Europa League final.

Quite frankly, that drought should have been ended in Solskjaer's reign as he led them to four semi-finals in succession. His failures in the Carabao Cup, FA Cup and Europa League have not gone unnoticed.

Back-to-back Carabao Cup semi-final defeats in consecutive years to rivals Manchester City has seen Ole's role at the club questioned. The tie in 2019/20 included a shambolic first-half display in the first leg at Old Trafford with the side losing 3-1.

A 1-0 victory at the Etihad Stadium in the second-leg was not enough to get to the final. The fixture between the two in last season's Carabao Cup semi final was a much closer affair, but City still progressed, highlighting the gap in quality that still exists between the two rivals.

Man United's other two failings at the same stage included their 3-1 defeat to Chelsea in last season's FA Cup contest - a fixture which saw Solskajer criticised for keeping captain and centre back Harry Maguire on the field despite the defender sustaining a serious head injury. The England defender was clearly not stable enough to continue and Chelsea scored all three goals after Maguire's injury.

The club's 2-1 Europa League defeat to Sevilla included an array of missed chances from Solskjaer's men, as they crumbled under the pressure of the eventual winners.

Man United could be slightly forgiven for this defeat as it was off the back of completing the Premier League season in a condensed period and having the Europa League to deal with shortly after, justified the fatigue in the squad at this point.

Signing Bruno Fernandes

With midfielders Pogba and Scott McTominay out injured, Solskjaer's midfield options were looking bleak in January 2020. The previous summer transfer window saw Man United enquire about Sporting Lisbon attacking midfielder Bruno Fernandes.

Man United eventually passed on signing him heading into the new campaign but their interest remained for a future purchase.

In the January transfer window, Solskjaer felt it was time to bring the Portuguese midfielder to the club, and two days before the deadline, United secured Fernandes' signature with a transfer fee rising up to £67.7million.

His impact since joining has been sensational, with some comparing the impact made to the one club icon Eric Cantona made when signing for the Red Devils in 1992. Fernandes' efforts led to a record breaking 31 Premier League goal contributions in a calendar year for a midfielder.

The Portugal international scored 18 goals and provided 13 assists and is largely responsible for the side qualifying for the Champions League.

2020/21 Champions League group stage exit

After winning the first two group games against last season's Champions League's finalists Paris Saint-Germain and semi-finalists RB Leipzig, Solskjaer's men looked set to cruise through to the knockout stage.

What followed was a shambolic performance in the Turkish capital against Istanbul Basaksehir. Poor defending saw an old face in Demba Ba take advantage as he scored one of the two goals to record a famous 2-0 victory.

However, Man United redeemed themselves to win the return game at Old Trafford comfortably which meant they required just a point from the last two games against PSG and Leipzig.

Solskjaer failed to achieve this though as his United side slumped to two defeats.

Completing the league double over Manchester City

Pep Guardiola's Man City may have gotten the better of Man United in the Carabao Cup during the 2019/20 season but in the domestic set of fixtures, it could not have been any different.

The first Manchester derby of the season came at the Etihad stadium with Man United putting on a sensational first-half performance as they raced into a 2-0 lead - Rashford and Anthony Martial being the two goal scorers. Despite a Nicolas Otamendi consolation Man United grinded out a 2-1 victory.

The return game at Old Trafford was in fact the last time supporters were allowed inside the Theatre of Dreams. Like a typical Manchester outing, the rain was in full force come the second-half, providing a suitable setting for a derby.


Man United went into the break leading 1-0 thanks to Martial's goal - an effort which arrived from an exquisite set-piece by Fernandes. With the game moving into stoppage time, Man City goalkeeper Ederson looked to force the issue and get the ball up the pitch.

However, his throw fell straight into the path of United's McTominay, who scored from an incredible long distance to secure a memorable victory.

Home loss to Burnley

One of Solskjaer's darkest days in the dugout was a 2-0 defeat to Burnley in January 2020. This game was seen as the one which triggered Man United into finally signing Fernandes as many were eyeful of the lack of spark in recent performances.

Two goals either side of the break from Chris Wood and Jay Rodriguez secured the victory for Sean Dyche's side.

Solskjaer's dismissal looked inevitable at this point as there was not much to suggest he could turn it around. To add to the disarray, this defeat meant the Norwegian manager had lost more games than he had won since becoming permanent United boss in March 2019.

Away wins in Paris

Two of Solskjaer's biggest and memorable wins as Man United boss include victories secured in the French capital.

The first of the double sucker punches to Paris Saint-Germain came in the 2018/19 Champions League round-of-16 contest. After a sensational shift in momentum in the tie, Man United needed one more goal to complete the turnaround and a late stoppage time Rashford penalty provided that. The victory was more impressive due to the large number of senior players unavailable to Solskjaer.

The second victory away in Paris was during the 2020/21 opening group stage match, with this contest showing a much more confident and elevated performance from Man United than the previous meeting.

Outstanding performances in defence from Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Axel Tuanzebe managed to keep out attacking superstars Neymar and Kylian Mbappe.

Man United ran out 2-1 winners with Rashford again in the headlines as his late strike inside the box flew into the left-hand corner, giving United a fantastic start to their Champions League group campaign.

Heavy 4-0 defeat at Everton

One of Solskjaer's worst outings as Man United boss came away to Everton at Goodison Park in April 2019. At this stage, players including Romelu Lukaku and Chris Smalling were still at the club and were eventually surplus to requirements. This defeat may remind fans of their departure.

The Red Devils were poor on both ends of the pitch as they looked regressive and blunt in attack while defensively, they looked even worse. To add insult to injury, it was their sixth loss from eight games in all competitions.

Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford

Under previous manager Mourinho, both Martial and Rashford were young and still relatively inexperienced, which did not make for a great recipe under the Special One's mantle.

Solskjaer however, took a different approach and it worked in 2019/20 as the attacking duo had their best goal scoring seasons to date. Martial - now a French international - bagged 23 goals while Rashford was just behind on 22 goals across all competitions.
Since then, a lot has changed. Martial only scored 4 goals in 22 Premier League appearances during the 2020/21 campaign. Meanwhile this season, the signing of Cristiano Ronaldo has seen Martial's playing time severely restricted. As things stand, his future at the club is uncertain.
Rashford, on the other hand, the first three months of the season after recovring from shoulder surgery. Nevertheless, in his three Premier League appearances this season, he's already bagged two goals.

Having too much faith in David de Gea

Solskjaer's man management style and protection of his players has worked wonders for many Man United players since he became manager. This style is a huge contrast to the previous managerial tenures of Mourinho and Louis van Gaal, who always seemed to love a dig at one of their players and ultimately build a negative atmosphere in the camp.

But Solskjaer can be guilty of being too much of a friendly figure and his reluctance to drop United goalkeeper David de Gea is representative of that. The Spaniard has put in mixed performances since the 2018 World Cup and his games since have been littered with costly errors.

Having faith in de Gea at first may have been a smart move to allow him to return to his previous best, but after constant clangers in big games, many have called for Dean Henderson to get a run of games between the sticks.

Henderson is a talented keeper and has already represented England at international level. If there was ever a time to be more ruthless and less sentimental it would be now by selecting Henderson as their first choice in goal.

Thumped by Liverpool

One of the darkest days of the Solskjaer era took place on Sunday, October 24, 2021.
The Manchester United boss entered a Premier League clash against Liverpool already under pressure following a poor run of results.
Things quickly went from bad to worse for the Norwegian manager as the visitors took a 2-0 lead inside the opening 13 minutes.
Naby Keita and Diogo Jota scored the opening goals as Liverpool turned up the heat at Old Trafford.
Seven minutes before the interval, Mohamed Salah produced a brace as the Reds moved 4-0 ahead.
Five minutes after the restart, the Egyptian international completed his hat-trick as Liverpool's 5-0 thrashing of United was complete.
The post-match stats made for startling reading. This was Man United's first home defeat by five goals without scoring themselves since 1955. It was also their biggest defeat in this fixture since 1895.

Another bad omen was the fact that this game took place one day after the 10 year aniversary of their infamous 6-1 loss against Manchester City.

A mixed bag for Solskjaer

Up until this season, the jury was still out on whether Solskjaer was the man to lead the Red Devils for years to come. But, following United's early form this season, it's no surprise the case has been closed.

He's clearly enjoyed some great moments during his time in the Untied dugout, but with a star-studded side and huge expectations, the Norwegian has just not provided enough quality.

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