Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s reign as Manchester United manager came to a calamitous end after a run of one win in seven games where United collected 4 points from a possible 21.
On Sunday morning Solskjaer became the 4th managerial casualty under Ed Woodward’s 8-year jurisdiction as Man United chief executive.
After derby defeat at home to Manchester City preceding the final international break of the calendar year, Solskjaer reportedly gave his players a week off while he and his family jetted off to Norway to escape the noise surrounding the security of his job.
In his Friday afternoon presser prior to a trip to Watford, Solskjaer told journalists that his players had a “good week in training” and that they “corrected a few things” ahead of their visit to Vicarage Road.
In reality United were on the back foot from the off and would have trailed in the opening 10 minutes were it not for David De Gea’s heroics.
Bruno Fernandes botched a clearance before Scott McTominay brought down Joshua King in United’s penalty area and referee Jon Moss pointed to the spot. De Gea denied Ismaila Sarr from 12 yards before Kiko Femenia blasted the ball into the roof of the net, albeit the goal was ruled out as the Watford full-back had encroached the 18-yard area before Sarr made contact with the ball.
Moss bizarrely ordered the penalty be retaken, with De Gea once more keeping out Sarr's spot-kick. Watford controlled proceedings in the 1st half and went in front through ex-United Academy striker King. Senegalese winger Sarr was left unmarked and doubled the hosts' advantage shortly before the break.
Donny van de Beek was introduced for the 2nd half, together with Anthony Martial. McTominay and Marcus Rashford were withdrawn with the Scottish midfielder culpable for conceding the early penalty and was in the referee’s book within 20 minutes at Vicarage Road.
Van de Beek scored less than five minutes after entering the fray when Cristiano Ronaldo cushioned Jadon Sancho‘s delivery as the Dutch midfielder tapped in to half the deficit in a rare cameo under Solskjaer.
Just as United looked to be gaining momentum, Harry Maguire clumsily picked up two yellow cards inside the space of 8 minutes, reducing a one-dimensional United team down to 10 men. Ronaldo had a few attempts at goal but nothing that troubled Ben Foster all too much.
Watford found the back of the net twice more in stoppage time – through Joao Pedro and Emmanuel Dennis – to gift Claudio Ranieri a first home win as Hornets boss, as well as a first home win for Watford since the opening day of season.
F/T Watford 4 - 1 Man Utd
The wheels came off for Solskjaer as he was dismissed by executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward after the decision was made by club owner Joel Glazer to part ways with Solskjaer.
In a club statement issued at 1030 BST on Sunday morning, United said “Ole will always be a legend at Manchester United and it is with regret that we have reached this difficult decision.”
“His place in the club’s history will always be secure, not just for his story as a player, but as a great man and a Manager who gave us many great moments. He will forever be welcome back at Old Trafford as part of the Manchester United family.”
The statement concluded “Michael Carrick will now take charge of the team for forthcoming games, while the club looks to appoint an interim manager to the end of the season”.
As for Solskjaer's other backroom staff, it is understood that assistant manager Mike Phelan and first-team coach Kieran McKenna are staying put to assist Carrick.
The Solskjaer fiasco has highlighted the sheer incompetence of the United board who have been delaying the inevitable, and they are responsible for the tarnishing of a cult hero’s kinship with the Old Trafford faithful.
Woodward had countless opportunities to release Solskjaer from his role but hesitated until the Norwegian hit self-destruct. Instead of hiring a new manager for the current season, Woodward opted to hand Solskjaer a new 3-year contract after losing the Europa League Final to Villarreal in Gdańsk.
Solskjaer experienced highs and lows as United boss but a real pity in how the 48-year-old is bowing out on such a glum note. Solskjaer has assembled a fantastic squad but it is now down to a world-class manager to properly utilise his tools.
Due to the lack of a succession plan beyond Solskjaer, and few available prospective candidates, the United hierachy may wait until the end of the season to appoint a permanent successor.
Zinedine Zidane has been touted as the Glazers' favourite incumbent for the position, however there is a belief that the Frenchman has reservations over the role at Old Trafford.
Carrick's first assignment as interim manager will be a UEFA Champions League tie away to Villarreal as United look to take one step closer to qualifying for the knockout phase of the competition. Beyond that the Red Devils face three London clubs in as many league outings.
United then close out their UCL group at home to BSC Young Boys.
Man Utd upcoming fixtures:
23 Nov - Villarreal (A)
28 Nov - Chelsea (A)
2 Dec - Arsenal (H)
5 Dec - Crystal Palace (H)
8 Dec - Young Boys (H)