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Ole Gunnar Solskjaer leaves Manchester United after dismal Watford defeat

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has left his position as Manchester United manager, the club confirmed.

A humiliating 4-1 loss to Watford on Saturday was the final straw for the club’s owners, the Glazer family, with Solskjaer out amid a wretched run of five defeats in seven Premier League matches.

A club statement read on Sunday: “Manchester United announces that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has left his role as manager.

“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.”

The club confirmed that former player Michael Carrick, who was part of Solskjaer’s coaching staff, will take charge as caretaker.

The club also confirmed their intention to appoint an interim manager until the end of the season.

The manner of the performance at Vicarage Road warranted fresh discussions between the club’s owners and executive vice chairman Ed Woodward on Saturday night. Chief negotiator Matt Judge was also involved in the talks, which focused on compensation costs for the manager as well as which of his staff would stay on at Old Trafford in the event of his dismissal. Solskjaer had signed a new contract at United in July 2021 that ran until 2024, with an option for a further year.

Sources had told ESPN that Solskjaer had expected to leave the club in the wake of the Watford loss, and the news comes following United’s poor start to the 2021-22 season, which included a humiliating 5-0 home defeat versus bitter rivals Liverpool. Manchester City then comprehensively outplayed Solskjaer’s United in a 2-0 win at Old Trafford before the international break, and the Watford debacle sealed Solskjaer’s fate.

Solskjaer, who replaced Jose Mourinho as manager in December 2018 initially on an interim basis, had been in permanent charge since March 2019. While he enjoyed some success, including setting an English league-record 29-match undefeated run away from home and successive top-four finishes for the first time since Sir Alex Ferguson retired in 2013, his tenure included a mixture of devastating results and a failure to secure a first trophy since 2017.

Solskjaer also oversaw a 6-1 defeat at home to Tottenham, managed by predecessor Mourinho, last season. The Norwegian’s best opportunity of silverware ended in the 2021 Europa League final as his side lost to Villarreal on penalties, having been eliminated in the Champions League group stages earlier in the campaign.

A positive summer of recruitment, which included the arrivals of Jadon Sancho, Raphael Varane and Cristiano Ronaldo for over £120 million, heightened the pressure on Solskjaer to start the campaign positively ahead of what many expected to be a sustained challenge for a league title.

However, Solskjaer has left United following a run of one win in seven Premier League games, with the club seventh in the table and 12 points adrift of leaders Chelsea.

Speaking after the Liverpool defeat, the United manager labelled it his “darkest hour” as coach but stated he and the club had come “too far” not to carry on and said they had taken “a big step backwards” after the loss to City.

Solskjaer’s dismissal represents the latest managerial misstep since Ferguson, the club’s greatest manager, retired in 2013.

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