Manchester United’s clash with Liverpool at Old Trafford on Sunday marks the start of a period that will likely determine Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s future as manager.
Solskjaer, according to The Athletic, has “a lot of credit in the bank” with the Manchester United board. This has shielded him from supporter discontent fuelled by a stuttering start to the Premier League season despite big-name signings such as Cristiano Ronaldo and Jadon Sancho.
United currently sit sixth in the Premier League, five points adrift of leaders Chelsea. Between now and 2 December, the Red Devils will face Liverpool, Tottenham, Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal.
The only Premier League game in this period which will be against a side not considered direct rivals will be the fixture against Watford on 20 November. There will also be crucial Champions League games against Atalanta and Villarreal next month.
As much as Solskjaer may have credit in the bank with the board, it is not unreasonable to speculate that this could be maxed out if he is unable to navigate this run of fixtures, largely because supporters are already running out of patience.
To start off on the front foot with a win against Liverpool will buy Solskjaer much needed time as he attempts to prepare for an avalanche of top quality opponents.
an avalanche of top quality opponents.
How Crucial is This Match for Liverpool?
Liverpool have been the most convincing team in the Premier League so far this season in terms of their performances both domestically and in Europe, but they are paying for dropped points against Brentford in a 3-3 draw, as well as their inability to kill off 10-man Chelsea at Anfield in a 1-1 draw.
The Reds’ other dropped points came in a 2-2 thriller against Manchester City and the Reds thus trail Chelsea by one point. The Blues host Norwich City on Saturday in a fixture which they are highly unlikely to drop points in. As a result, Liverpool can ill afford to cede too much ground in the title race. However, a draw with Manchester United at Old Trafford would hardly be the end of the world.
This game, then, is more critical to Manchester United’s season than it is to Liverpool’s — at least on paper.
Solskjaer’s Manchester United are not the well-oiled machine they could be, but he has demonstrated before that he has the mettle to get results under pressure, including the midweek 3-2 Champions League comeback win against Atalanta.
Liverpool, however, have the most in-form player in the league in Mohamed Salah and are a better side on paper. Nevertheless, Cristiano Ronaldo can be just as influential for the Red Devils, who will have a home advantage.
On balance, this fixture looks likely to be a draw with goals, as have three of the last five clashes between these two titans in the Premier League.
As for Solskjaer, this game is not quite all or nothing for him, but it marks the beginning of a period of a month and a half which almost certainly will be instrumental in deciding his future in charge of Manchester United.