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Pressure is mounting on United's Ole

Halloween nightmare could open door for Foxes Rodgers

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Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, with Michael Carrick (right), needs to turn his team’s fortunes around or he may face the sack

Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, with Michael Carrick (right), needs to turn his team’s fortunes around or he may face the sack

PA

Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, with Michael Carrick (right), needs to turn his team’s fortunes around or he may face the sack

Before Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was confirmed as Manchester United's choice to replace Jose Mourinho as manager, pundits felt obliged to list the most likely candidates for the job.

The half a dozen names suggested usually featured Mauricio Pochettino, Massimiliano Allegri, Laurent Blanc, Zinedine Zidane, Antonio Conte and Ryan Giggs.

Among the outside prospects such as Leonardo Jardim and Guus Hiddink, another name was sometimes added. Brendan Rodgers.

Rodgers quit as Glasgow Celtic boss and joined Leicester a month before Solskjaer was finally upgraded from caretaker to head coach at Old Trafford.

That was then. Roy Keane points out, "The honeymoon period is certainly over for Ole, and the pressure starts to mount now, particularly with the performances like that over the last week or so."

Man United's uninspiring start to the season, coupled with a lack of urgency in the transfer market, has set supporters' nerves jangling.

Having edged into third place in last season's league, Manchester United aren't showing signs of pushing on and narrowing the 33-point gap that existed between them and champions Liverpool.

Following their defeat to Crystal Palace on the opening day of the season, Solskjaer said, "We are going to get better but we are playing catch-up."

Recover

With league fixtures against Spurs, Newcastle, Chelsea and Arsenal this month, if many of his first-choice players don't quickly recover their form and if United's defensive frailties aren't successfully addressed, Solskjaer could find himself in the eye of a hurricane before Halloween.

There are half a dozen managers ahead of him in the Premier League sack race this season but, given the fickle nature of momentum in sport, the spectre of dismissal is seldom far away from club head coaches.

In the event of a full-blown crisis at Old Trafford, it's likely that Rodgers will feature prominently in speculation on a possible Solskjaer replacement.

The fact that he was manager of Liverpool for three seasons is thought to be a deterrent, but in the event of a shipwreck those drowning are unlikely to question where the lifeboat was made.

Besides, with Celtic on his CV, an Irishman who masterminded a humiliating 2-5 defeat of Manchester City by Leicester couldn't be ignored.

Stats merchants point to last Sunday's sensational result as the first time in his 686 games as a manager that Pep Guardiola saw his side concede five goals.

The loss was City's first opening-game defeat in the top league in 31 years.

By contrast, Manchester United's weekend action was notable for the ease with which Brighton ran rings around the Red Devils' defence, hit the woodwork five times, had penalty shouts dismissed by both the referee and VAR before losing to a penalty granted after the final whistle had been blown.

As Brighton's attackers found plenty of open space to play in, United's supporters were pulling their hair out in frustration, unable to fathom why Solskjaer couldn't see the obvious dangers and take remedial action.

With many former United players warning of the consequences if the club don't address the weaknesses in the squad, Keane adds, "If they don't invest in the next week, then it's tough days ahead."

If there are indeed tough days you can be sure Rodgers' name will be mentioned.

As a colleague points out, if he was to get the nod, it wouldn't be the first time an Irishman took charge at Old Trafford. Or, indeed, a Leicester manager made the switch.

Frank O'Farrell was appointed as Matt Busby's replacement in the summer of 1971 and got things off to a blinding start with just one loss in his first 13 league games, a run that brought United back to the top of the league for the first time in three years.

But Frank was worried. His team was winning games because of the mercurial talent of one man, George Best.

Rebuilding

The squad needed rebuilding but the board didn't agree.

"I wanted professionals with different vales," recalled Frank, who encountered resistance as he toiled in Busby's shadow.

Meanwhile Best, by his own admission, was becoming "a loner, drinking more and staying out later."

Frank's time in charge didn't end well. As Best's personal life and career began to fall apart, United slipped down the table and Frank was fired.

The honourable Corkman made a startling discovery at Old Trafford. "The club was a mess," he revealed. "There was no reality to the myth."