Nuno Espirito Santo previews Manchester United clash
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Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is believed to have been given three games to save his job, and Paul Merson believes the club’s rivals will be backing him to do just that. The Red Devils legend has seen his side slip from being title contenders to a team battling for the Europa League placings in a matter of weeks, and supporters expect more from the club.
According to numerous reports, Solskjaer has games against Tottenham Hotspur, Atalanta in the Champions League and Manchester City to bounce back.
If the Norwegian’s side fails to get results in those games or perform with any sort of credit then they will be waving goodbye to their manager.
Leicester City boss Brendan Rodgers has been linked with the potential future vacancy, as well as Real Madrid hero Zinedine Zidane.
However, former Chelsea manager Antonio Conte is thought to be the most likely candidate to replace Solskjaer, having left Inter Milan at the end of last season.
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But pundit Merson has revealed that he thinks United’s rivals will be doing all they can to ensure Solskjaer stays at Old Trafford.
The former Arsenal midfielder wrote in his Sky Sports column: “Everybody in and around the race for the top four and Europe – West Ham, Arsenal, Leicester – will be sweating on Manchester United winning at Tottenham.
“The damning thing is they will want Manchester United to win so that Solskjaer stays.
“You’ve only got to look at Chelsea since Thomas Tuchel has come in – they won the Champions League and now they are title favourites – see what an impact a new manager could have.”
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United’s defeat against Liverpool is widely seen as one of the club’s most embarrassing defeats in recent history.
Solskjaer’s side were 4-0 down at half-time after goals from Naby Keita, Diogo Jota and a brace from Mohamed Salah, before the Egyptian made it a hat-trick in the second half.
Paul Pogba was also sent off for a dangerous, two-footed challenge on Keita in the second half which means he will be unavailable for the next few fixtures.
However, Merson believes that there is just one good thing to take away from the match – Solskjaer’s side did not have 2018 World Cup-winning defender Raphael Varane on the pitch.
Merson continued: “The only positive I can take from Sunday is that Raphael Varane didn’t play. If he did play, then what options would Manchester United and Solskjaer be able to turn to next?
“I’m not saying he would have made a huge difference to the result against Liverpool, but you could make the argument that he might be able to tighten the team upon his return.
“It’s a bit like the Virgil van Dijk situation, when he plays Liverpool are a better team, but then again, we have three years of proof with Van Dijk whereas Varane is yet to fully settle.”
It remains to be seen whether Varane returns in time for the trip to north London on Saturday evening, and if so, then the difference the defender will make. Solskjaer’s spell in the dugout may rest on the Frenchman making an immediate impact on his return from injury.
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