Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is fighting to save his job at Old Trafford with his side currently on a run of six defeats from their last 12 matches. But, in John Murtough, he has a vital ally. At least, if comments made by the Red Devils director earlier in the season are anything to go by.
United went into the season confident of challenging the likes of Manchester City, Chelsea and Liverpool for the Premier League title.
However, after 11 games, the Red Devils are already nine points adrift at the top of the table.
It’s been a nightmare season for United so far, with results going from bad to worse ever since their 2-1 Champions League defeat to Young Boys.
And there’s been plenty of talk about Solskjaer potentially losing his job.
United admire Brendan Rodgers, Mauricio Pochettino and Erik ten Hag at the current moment in time, despite the trio being in positions at Leicester, Paris Saint-Germain and Ajax respectively.
Zinedine Zidane is another candidate to take over, after leaving Real Madrid back in the summer, while Ralf Rangnick has been linked as well.
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But United don’t seem set to axe Solskjaer just yet.
And Murtough said earlier in the season that the club wouldn’t listen to the noise on social media and elsewhere, with the final decision resting with the board.
“[We] need to keep control, don’t get carried away, don’t deviate from our plan,” he said in September.
“Ole and the staff are very focused on that. We have a long-term strategy and confidence in the direction that we’re going.
“ We believe that we’ve got the talent and the character within the squad to succeed.
“The Premier League is one of the most competitive leagues in the world – players from abroad and other [domestic] leagues tell us how [challenging] it is – but we are 100 per cent up for that.”
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United have long insisted they have a long-term plan in place.
And, given Solskjaer has been central to their designs for the future, it explains why they’re so hesitant to wield the axe.
The Norwegian was a popular figure at Old Trafford during his playing days, especially given his heroics in the 1999 Champions League final.
And while United are stuck in a rut, there’s no true indication Solskjaer’s time is coming to an end.
Players, for the most part, like the Norwegian.
And as long as he retains the support of key figures in the dressing room such as Cristiano Ronaldo, it’s feasible the club will continue to stick rather than twist.
United legend Gary Neville, meanwhile, feels his old team need to protect Solskjaer.
“The social media noise is different to the noise in the stadium,” he said.
“They were shouting against Nuno in the Spurs stadium last week; that won’t happen here with Ole at Old Trafford.
“We didn’t hear that with Jose, with Van Gaal, with Moyes, or even with Ron Atkinson 35 years ago.
“The fans here don’t do that, they are respectful of the situation, but this is a train off the track at the moment.
“Last season, people said second in the league is progression, it’s now not progression. That has to change very quickly.
“Against big teams, they look desperately short, and they shouldn’t. That’s where the manager comes under enormous pressure, and questions are asked, and on social media the pressure will be hot, but the contingent on social media are very different to the fans in the stadium itself.
“The contingent on social media don’t have the sympathy, the empathy, the compassion that the fans in the stadium have.
“But the fans walked out towards the end of Saturday’s game, because they knew it wasn’t right.
“The club have not prepared for this, not prepared for a new manager, they didn’t expect it, they thought everything was sort of plain sailing along.
“They’ve planned around a structure of way of working in the last two or three years that they’re not going to veer away from, but in this moment in time they’re going to have to put their helmets on if they’re going to defend it.
“Because the reality of it is it’s nowhere near good enough and you can’t defend it.”