Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has been a fan favorite from the moment he took over at Manchester United. This is true for both Red Devils fans and supporters of opposing clubs. On one hand, he has done exactly what Frank Lampard did at Chelsea. He steadied the ship after questionable leadership fractured the relationship between the club and its fans, all while building up a world class team. On the other hand, he often fell victim to managerial blunders that cost his side points down the stretch. Solskjaer looked like a dear in headlights more often than not at the top level. His situation this season is similar to Mikel Arteta’s at Arsenal last year. The only difference? Arteta pulled himself out of the hole he dug and his side is working its way up the table. Man United is slipping.
The English giant was supposed to be in the thick of the title race this season after the club recruited brilliantly during the summer. The Red Devils were amongst the biggest spenders after securing the services of players like Cristiano Ronaldo, Jadon Sancho and Raphael Varane. Nevertheless, Man United has struggled to get it going. Solskjaer’s side sat outside of the top four coming into Saturday’s match-up and the first result back from the international break did it no favors. The Red Devils were thrashed by a newly promoted Watford side, the Hornets proving to be the final nail in Solskjaer’s managerial coffin. Man United swiftly sacked the club legend ahead of an important week that features fixtures against Villarreal and the Blues.
Manchester United has sacked Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, but what does that mean for Chelsea’s match-up with the Red Devils next weekend?
Man United is set to appoint either Technical Director Darren Fletcher or Assistant Manager Michael Carrick as the interim while the coaching search continues. Thankfully, the Red Devils’ board took its sweet time in parting ways with Solskjaer, as this prevented the doomsday scenario of Antonio Conte taking over at Old Trafford. The Italian Don is now at Tottenham where he poses little realistic threat to Chelsea. Meanwhile, supporters of the Blues should be keeping a close eye on the Man United managerial hiring as it will undoubtedly impact the club’s long-term future.
The Red Devils have enough talent—both in veterans and young stars—to build a squad similar to that of Chelsea. The Blues have thrived under Thomas Tuchel’s leadership as they set out a blueprint to succeed in this exact scenario. Nevertheless, the Man United board was too patient with the Norwegian and it paid the price. The club’s hierarchy is scrambling to fill its vacant head coaching position midseason, chasing after pipe dreams like Zinedine Zidane while either Fletcher or Carrick takes over at a crucial point in the season.
The unfortunate reality of the short-term managerial situation at Man United is the fact that Chelsea won’t be as lucky as its Premier League counterparts. The Blues won’t get to face Solskjaer’s struggling side that sparked a “#OleIn” movement amongst rival fans. Tuchel’s side is flying high following a 3-0 drubbing of Leicester City on Saturday. An easy contest against a Red Devils team in poor form after a midweek clash with Juventus would’ve been a nice change of pace for the Blues. However, they will now be taking on a reinvigorated side, likely on a new manager bounce. This is not to say Chelsea will struggle to win the match either—many would favor the Blues to beat just about anybody in world football on current form—it just would’ve been fun to thrash Man United in ways other Premier League clubs have recently.
There is an unpredictability about the Red Devils now though. There is no telling how they’ll set up tactically against Chelsea at the weekend, which can make for a relatively tricky situation. The one positive is the fact that Harry Maguire will be suspended for the match. Varane is also expected to miss out due to injury. Therefore, the Blues should be able to expose the relative inexperience of Man United’s back-up centerback pairing—especially if Romelu Lukaku is fit again.
A lot will be revealed in the days ahead about Man United’s future. Solskjaer is a wonderful person and a decent manager, but the fact of the matter is he’d taken Man United as far as he possibly could. Everybody and their mothers knew this, it was only a matter of time before the Red Devils’ hierarchy caught on. The Blues have created a comfortable cushion for themselves in the table over Man United at this point. Although there are a lot of unknowns heading into next weekend’s match, a victory could essentially put them out of reach for the remainder of the season.
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