Manchester United have confirmed the departure of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and said they are looking to appoint an interim manager to the end of the season.
Solskjær’s fate was sealed at an emergency board meeting on Saturday night after the team’s 4-1 defeat at Watford. He gave an emotional interview to the club on Sunday in which he said: “I’m going to leave by the front door, because I think everyone knows I’ve given everything for this club.”
Eyes welling with tears as he discussed Michael Carrick taking temporary charge while an interim manager is sought, he said: “I’m becoming emotional now because he’s top, they’ll be fine. I’ll watch them and support them.”
United’s statement announcing his exit said: “Ole will always be a legend at Manchester United and it is with regret that we have reached this difficult decision. While the past few weeks have been disappointing, they should not obscure all the work he has done over the past three years to rebuild the foundations for long-term success.
“Ole leaves with our sincerest thanks for his tireless efforts as manager and our very best wishes for the future. 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.
“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.”
Mauricio Pochettino, the Paris Saint-Germain manager, could be a candidate to take over in the summer. He was coveted by United during his tenure at Tottenham but the timing was never right for him. He has, though, never played down the prospect of being interested in United and it is understood he would not do so now.
PSG, who have no desire to change manager mid-season, activated a one-year option on Pochettino’s contract over the summer after he was linked with an emotional return to Spurs. His deal runs to June 2023 but an agreement allowing him to leave could be possible at the end of this campaign.
Despite PSG being 13 points clear at the top of Ligue 1, having played a game more than their closest challengers, Pochettino has been heavily criticised for his team’s performances. He said last Wednesday in an interview given to newspapers including the Observer that he was still living in a hotel in Paris, with his wife, Karina, remaining in the family home in London.
Solskjær had been allowed to continue despite a 5-0 hammering by Liverpool and a meek 2-0 reverse against Manchester City, but the loss at Vicarage Road was a step too far for the club’s owners.
They felt Solskjær had earned the right to be given a final chance to turn things around after the most recent international break but concluded change was needed after the desired reaction was not seen at Watford. Solskjær’s assistants Mike Phelan and Kieran McKenna are staying.
“This club means everything to me and together we’re a good match, but unfortunately I couldn’t get the results we needed and it’s time for me to step aside,” Solskjær said.
United’s minimum target is to qualify for the Champions League. The team are well off the title pace despite the summer signings of Jadon Sancho, Cristiano Ronaldo and Raphaël Varane, who has barely played since early October because of injury, and are six points from fourth place.
“I’ve been backed,” Solskjær said. “The board and the owners have backed me in [terms of] bringing good people in, good players in and I think, or I know I leave this club with a better squad. The environment is fantastic, it’s an environment I’m proud of leaving.”
Solskjær took over in December 2018, initially on a caretaker basis, and last season the team finished second in the league and as runners-up in the Europa League.
United’s board spent time discussing Solskjær’s future after the defeat by Liverpool and stood by him after shows of support from Sir Alex Ferguson and the directors Ed Woodward and Richard Arnold.