It is fair to say that since Sir Alex Ferguson stepped down as manager, Manchester United have struggled to find a manager who can replicate anywhere near the level of success that the legendary Scot enjoyed in his time at Old Trafford.

This past weekend, after a humiliating 4-1 reverse away to Watford, the Manchester United board met late on Saturday evening to discuss the future of manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, with the somewhat predictable outcome that the Norwegian was sacked from his position on Sunday morning.

Solskjaer follows David Moyes, Louis Van Gaal and Jose Mourinho as having been offered the opportunity to manage United, but have ultimately paid the price with their job.

A quick look at the outright odds for United to win the Premier League gives an indication of how far they have fallen. While Man City are 8/11 with bet365 Sport, Chelsea are 9/4 and Liverpool 5/1. Manchester United are 125/1, which is longer odds than West Ham United.

The odds are similar all over the world, including in America with sites like BetRivers Sportsbook.

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So what have been the issues at United that have seen a succession of managers fail, despite having a huge transfer budget and being at one of the biggest clubs in the world?

And who will likely replace Solskjaer at the helm?

We will answer both these questions below.

What Were The Issues Behind Solskjaer’s Dismissal?

There were a number of issues that played a key role in Solskjaer’s dismissal, which contributed to the poor set of results that United have endured in the last couple of months. Those type of poor results, such as a 5-0 home defeat by Liverpool, followed by a 2-0 home defeat by Man City and then the 4-1 loss at Watford, have their roots far deeper than simply the choices of the manager.

Poor Decisions In The Transfer Market

Over the last few years, Manchester United’s recruitment policy has been questionable at best and this, I feel, is probably the root cause of their issues. They have spent too much money on signing the wrong type of players.

A case in point here is Donny Van de Beek. Signed for £34m from Ajax in 2020, he has started just four Premier League games in that time and is also seldom used as a substitute. Jadon Sancho was signed for £76 million this summer, and has been another player that has only had limited time on the field of play for United.

Perhaps the strangest decision was to sign Cristiano Ronaldo and it is here that I think the blame needs to be apportioned elsewhere. Ronaldo was a vanity buy for United, a name that will shift shirts and bring in income as well as contribute on the pitch.

The problem was, that when Solskjaer’s Manchester United were at their best, it was based on an attack that hit teams on the counter using pace in wide areas. The likes of Daniel James, Marcus Rashford, Jesse Lingard and Mason Greenwood would cause teams huge problems on the counter attack and were key in United’s excellent away form of a year or so ago.

Signing Ronaldo, and before him Cavani, changed that. United then tried to become a more possession oriented team to cover for the fact Cavani and Ronaldo do not have that same level of pace. The net result has been a team in disarray at times, trying to play to the strengths of their star man, but at the price of sacrificing the areas of the game where the team excelled.

Injuries have also played a part. Varane’s injury in particular has been hard for United to deal with, but they are not short of defensive options. Similarly, most weeks they have players like Matic, Mata, Sancho, Van de Beek, Lingard, Tellez, Jones, Cavani, Martial, Dalot and Bailly sat on the bench.

Essentially, it looks as though Solskjaer was handed, or signed up, the pieces of an expensive jigsaw, that just do not fit together. What has been left is a fragmented team of individuals who, when playing poorly, have been found out.

While Solskjaer has to carry the can for that failure, it would be interesting to know just how much input he had in some of the big name signings, and which ones were foisted on him by those above him at the club for reasons other than football-related ones.

Who Will Replace Solskjaer At Manchester United?

We already know that Michael Carrick, a first team coach at United, will step into the fold as the caretaker manager at the club while United search for a long-term successor to Solskjaer. It is extremely unlikely that Carrick would get the job on a permanent basis, regardless of the results the team achieves under him.

As such, the search is on for United’s next manager and there are some intriguing names purportedly in the mix for the role.

Mauricio Pochettino

Seemingly the favourite to take on the role next summer and ready to walk away form his post at PSG with his family settled in England, Pochettino does tick many of the boxes for United fans given his experience in the Premier League, his style of play and the fact he has managed big clubs with big players before. Critics point out that despite this, he has enjoyed limited success in his career so far.

Zinedine Zidane

Reportedly the choice of Cristiano Ronaldo for the role, Zidane has been out of football after quitting his post as Real Madrid manager. A supremely gifted player, he enjoyed great success with Real Madrid, especially in the Champions League, often in tandem with Ronaldo. However, he has no experience of Premier League football or management.

Brendan Rodgers

The current Leicester boss is believed to have a clause in his contract allowing him to take on a role with a ‘big’ European club and United certainly fit the bill. Rodgers success as a manager notably with Celtic goes in his favour, as does his experience in the Premier League. However, he is a former Liverpool manager and that is going to be something that United fans would have a hard time dealing with if he were appointed.

Laurent Blanc

A name linked with the club as an interim appointment rather than a long-term successor, Blanc is currently with Qatari side Al-Rayyan and is a former Man Utd player, finishing his long playing career career with United in 2003. He may be considered as an interim manager, but it seems unlikely he would be United’s choice for a long-term solution.

Erik Ten Hag

The Ajax manager has developed not one, but two outstanding teams at Ajax in his relatively short time at the club, using the famed Ajax youth system to bring through a raft of talented players to play alongside some carefully signed bigger name stars. Earlier this year, he did sign an extension to his contract with Ajax until the 2022-23 end of season, which would likely make him an expensive option for United.

Ralf Rangnick

Currently head of Sports and Development at Lokomotiv Moscow, the German has experience as a head coach at Red Bull Leipzig and it was his role in overseeing the two Red Bull teams (Leipzig and Salzburg) and turning them into teams that develop young talent while enjoying domestic success that has sparked speculation about him. Whether United would want him as a permanent choice remains unknown and Rangnick is believed not to be keen on just taking on the role in an interim basis until the end of the season.

Some of the more interesting outside bets include England boss Gareth Southgate, Atletico Madrid manager Diego Simeone and Brighton boss Graham Potter, who are all rated as long odds options for the role.

Whoever gets the role faces a tough task in making this United team a contender again and some tough decisions will have to be made in order to turn the team into one capable of challenging for the game’s top honours.