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Ole Gunnar Solskjaer suffers 'darkest day' in football - but vows not to quit as Man Utd manager

·7-min read
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer watched his side capitulate against Liverpool - REUTERS
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer watched his side capitulate against Liverpool - REUTERS

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer vowed not to quit as Manchester United manager despite suffering his “darkest day” in football after total humiliation at the hands of Liverpool.

A hat-trick from Mohamed Salah and goals from Naby Keita and Diogo Jota earned Liverpool an extraordinary 5-0 win at Old Trafford and condemned United to their worst ever home defeat to their great rivals and biggest since a 7-1 humbling 126 years ago.

The capitulation piled the pressure on Solskjaer, who admitted he had never felt lower and that United had hit “rock bottom”.

Watch: Solskjaer at 'rock bottom' after Liverpool's record 5-0 win at Man Utd

United were booed off at half-time, when Solskjaer is understood to have ripped into his players, and at full-time and Liverpool fans taunted Solskjaer mercilessly with chants of “Ole must stay” and “Ole’s at the wheel”.

But Solskjaer said he had been given no indication by the Old Trafford hierarchy that the defeat would cost him his job and insisted he would not walk away, despite conceding his side had “hit a brick wall” in recent weeks after taking just one point from 12 in the Premier League. United’s misery was compounded when Paul Pogba was sent off for a studs-up lunge on Naby Keita in the second half. 

“I have come too far, we have come too far as a group,” the United manager said. “We are too close to give up now. We know we are at rock bottom. We can’t feel any worse than this. Let’s see where we take it. It’s not easy to say something apart from it is the darkest day I have had leading these players.”

Asked if he still had the club’s backing, Solskjaer added: “Well, I’ve heard nothing else and I’m still thinking about tomorrow’s work. I can’t say now I’ve felt any worse than this. It’s the worse I’ve been, the lowest I’ve been but I accept the responsibility. That is mine today and it’s mine going forward.

“The only way I know how to approach life is to wake up tomorrow morning, look forward, evaluate what’s gone on, evaluate my very best and come through a difficult time.

“The feeling we’ve had that we are getting to where we want to be, in the last few weeks we’ve hit a brick wall, the performances haven’t come and we’ve conceded too many easy goals. 

“I do believe in myself. I do believe that I am getting close to what I want with the club, what we’ve done, what I’ve seen, the development. But the results lately haven’t been good enough. It’s hands up and that brings doubt in anyone’s mind probably but I’ve got to keep strong and believe in what we’re doing.”

Players accept responsibility

Harry Maguire, who endured a woeful game, issued an apology to the fans on behalf of the players. “We apologise to the fans, it was nowhere near good enough for this club,” the United captain said. “They stuck with us right to the end and we appreciate that but as a club we have to do better. I am so disappointed, we gave them so many chances. To concede four in the first half, especially at Old Trafford, is nowhere near good enough.

Harry Maguire was given a torrid time by Mohamed Salah - AFP
Harry Maguire was given a torrid time by Mohamed Salah - AFP

“As a player I know myself. I’ll be looking at myself and my individual performance. We have to stick together, there is no point blaming each other but look at ourselves. Look in the mirror when we go home tonight and think where we can do better.”

Solskjaer was given the full backing of United’s decision makers after last weekend’s 4-2 defeat at Leicester. But the United manager admitted he was not sure how the players will react going forward with Tottenham to play in London on Saturday before facing Atalanta in the Champions League in Italy three days later. 

United have conceded 11 goals in their past three games and have kept one clean sheet in their past 21 matches. Their run of 13 consecutive games at Old Trafford without a clean sheet is their worst record since 1964.

“I am sad, disappointed, angry of course,” he said. “My emotion doesn't matter apart from what we do to improve and make sure it doesn't happen. This could go either way, we could sulk or we could come together.

“Next is Tottenham away, then it’s a Champions game against Atalanta. We have to sort our frame of mind out.”

Asked who shouldered the responsibility, Solskjaer said: "It is mine, that is it. The coaching staff are very, very good, brilliant. I choose the way we approach the game, we were not clinical enough and gave too much space and when you give good players space they score.

“You can look at last season when we lost to Spurs 6-1 — this is worse, miles worse. This is miles worse for me as a Manchester lad. I’ve just got to say we have to get over this as quickly as we can.”

Ronaldo: fans deserve better than this

Cristiano Ronaldo blamed the team for the home defeat by Liverpool and said fans of the Old Trafford club deserve better.

"Sometimes the result is not the one we fight for. Sometimes the score is not the one we want. And this is on us, only on us, because there's no one else to blame," Ronaldo, who returned to the club in the summer for his second spell, said on Instagram.

"Our fans were, once again, amazing in their constant support. They deserve better than this, much better, and it’s up to us to deliver. The time is now!"

Defender Luke Shaw, who made a series of defensive errors alongside captain Maguire on Sunday, echoed Ronaldo's comments.

"We are extremely disappointed, it is not good enough and it hurts a lot," Shaw told the club website 

"I think football is obviously a team sport, we are in it together and we are all together.

"But I think, as individuals, we need to take responsibility for some of the actions tonight (Sunday)... I have not been at my best and I know that, for maybe the last few weeks, so I need to reflect on that."

Luke Shaw - GETTY
Luke Shaw - GETTY

Gary Neville, the former United captain, said he did not think the club would react by sacking Solskjaer but raised serious questions about his management. 

“I don't think they'll change things after today, but it brings massive pressure,” Neville said. “United's fixtures have been as simple as they come, but this is the first super team they've played and they're being pulled about like you wouldn't believe.

“They need to somehow regroup and figure out what he's [Solskjaer] going to say. I think there's a mentality issue.

“I didn’t think it’d ever get as bad as it did today. As soon as they played a proper team they’ve been obliterated, pulled to 

pieces, dismantled. I didn’t think they’d play like that today because I thought they’d flip a switch. But you can’t flip a switch in football.

“That Manchester United group of players, they get outrun. They’re one of the lowest running teams in the league - there’s nothing worse than being told you’re one of the lowest running teams in the league and that you’re easy to play against - but they’re both. It’s a poor reflection on the manager, the staff and the players.”

Klopp's sympathy

Jurgen Klopp, the Liverpool manager, admitted the win was “special” but expressed some sympathy for Solskjaer. “The last thing I want to be is in his shoes in this moment,” he said. “When you lose a derby, which happened to me once or twice, you don't want to go out there and give interviews and for sure it is not nice.”

Liverpool lost James Milner to a hamstring injury and Keita was taken off on a stretcher after Pogba’s challenge and will be assessed.

Klopp also wondered if Cristiano Ronaldo was fortunate to escape a red card for lashing out at Curtis Jones. 

“I saw it of course and it looked like a red card but I got told he hits the ball or didn’t hear the whistle,” Klopp said. “I don’t want Cristiano getting a red card. For me it looked like [one] but I got told it was not and that's fine.”

Watch: Salah comes face-to-face with new Madame Tussauds waxwork

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