Wednesday 13 February 2019

Response to setback will determine Ole's future

It will take a recovery of Herculean proportions to keep United's Champions League campaign alive after PSG proved far too strong at Old Trafford.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's in-form and rejuvenated Reds had gone into this tie with optimism and the chance to put the renaissance to the litmus test against a PSG side widely tipped to go all the way in the competition.

The task awaiting United at the Parc des Princes is one akin to climbing Everest without oxygen - Solskjaer will not give up hope but logic suggests this is the end of the road for Manchester United's Champions League ambitions.
To make matters worse, Angel Di Maria made two contributions of real significance to fire a dagger through the hearts of his former employers. The Argentine held the club to ransom and refused to play at the end of a sorry season in Manchester, but showcased his full arsenal of weaponry here as he created both goals for Presnel Kimpembe and wunderkid Kylian Mbappe.

As mentioned elsewhere in these pages, we should not use these 90 minutes against  a top quality side to decide Ole's future. It was very much a 'free hit' where we'd learn more in defeat than we would in victory. For my money, he's already done enough to be given the job. There was always going to be a setback, and perhaps it's no bad thing. You can't win every game - but how we respond to it will be key when it comes to the United hierarchy giving the nod to Jose Mourinho's full-time successor. This game may not have been season defining, but United's response to it certainly will be. It's a chance to show what we're made of and to show the mentality of Ole's United - or it will perhaps show that, for all the good work so far, it's simply been a honeymoon period.

PSG is one thing, but the tricky tests continue to come thick and fast with Chelsea and Liverpool in the pipeline.
No sooner has one top class opponent come and gone, than another one loom large on the fixture list. United haven't won at Chelsea's Stamford Bridge ground since 2012 - it is the least happy hunting ground of them all. With the Champions League all but gone, 'only' the twin ambitions of league and cup remain. The latter takes United to SW6 in the fifth round on Monday. For all of United's trouble and strife at a venue that has become as much a pyschological issue as anything, there appears to never be a 'better time' to play Chelsea. If United are to end their wretched run of nine defeats and two draws, then this is surely the year to do so. If we can do so, then Ole will be one step closer to the job.

Battered and beleaguered after a 6-0 hiding of Pep Guardiola's City slickers, Maurizo Sarri is a man under pressure after a season that started so well but has rapidly gone south. That said, if Chelsea play like we know they can, especially at home with such a good record against United, then we should expect a very difficult tie - but one that's certainly winnable.

Now Ole has a chance to show what he can do in adversity. Now he has a chance to prove he is worthy of getting the job full time. If he's not up to it, it doesn't matter, he's still a legend, he's still done what we needed of him and we will still move forward next season.

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