Solskjaer walking a European tightrope with Manchester United

Amidst constant speculation that his managerial tenure at Old Trafford is at risk, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is conscious there is no margin for error in the Champions League. As Manchester United prepare for a return to European action, Premier League form has remained largely inconsistent, which arguably means that positive results in the continental competition are more vital than ever.

Indeed, as United focus once more on the Champions League, this very competition has produced two of the best results for the team. Few expected a victory from the opening Group H encounter away at Paris Saint-Germain, yet the team returned from their trip to the French capital with a hard-fought 1-2 triumph in October. That was followed up with a magnificent display against Red Bull Leipzig, as Man Utd trounced the German side 5-0 at Old Trafford.

Despite the surprise 2-1 defeat at Istanbul Basaksehir, even though the Turkish outfit made life more complicated than anyone had expected, looking at the best UEFA Champions League odds would suggest that Manchester United are comfortably expected to win the home encounter. Doing so would put the Red Devils in a commanding position in Group H once again, on target to book their passage through to the knockout phase.

Whenever there is talk about replacing Solskjaer at the wheel, Argentine coach Mauricio Pochettino always appears to be the go-to man for, at least insofar as much of the media speculation in recent months is concerned. However, the Express have highlighted Roberto Mancini as a possible alternative candidate, suggesting the Italy national team boss could potentially be lured for a lower salary.

Regardless of the poor start to the Premier League campaign, it’s fair to say that a large portion of the United support would probably react negatively, even at the hint of replacing an iconic former player with the former Manchester City boss. Nevertheless, such rumours don’t yet appear to have affected Solskjaer. And, while the Norwegian is undoubtedly feeling the pressure, outwardly he seems to remain as positive and upbeat as ever.

Essentially, progress in the Champions League remains firmly in United’s own hands. Continued participation is also a welcome distraction from domestic difficulties, as the team seeks to find some level of consistency in the Premier League. If the task of progressing to the knockout phase can be accomplished in December, that might also go a long way towards reassuring the Manchester United hierarchy that Solskjaer can turn things around.

Whether such continued support from above would also imply additional reinforcements, well, that remains to be seen. The club did manage to make four quality signings, albeit amidst the expectation that more are still needed, if United are to compete for silverware this season. Results in the coming weeks will clearly influence which direction the club takes, be that continued backing for Solskjaer or a complete change of direction.

 

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