Manchester United

Manchester United

Premier League • England

Neville changes Solskjaer tune with new timeframe on Man Utd manager’s future

Samuel Bannister

Gary Neville has admitted that the next “few weeks” will be crucial for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, despite maintaining his belief that Manchester United are not planning to dismiss their manager – who he says was hampered by the absence of one man against Manchester City.

United lost the Manchester derby 2-0 on Saturday. Eric Bailly scored an own goal before Bernardo Silva doubled City’s lead. It has raised fresh questions about a United side who were hoping to be back on track after a win over Tottenham and draw with Atalanta.

Solskjaer was under more scrutiny than ever before after the 5-0 loss to Liverpool that preceded those games. Now, another loss to a direct rival could have further negative consequences over the mood in Manchester’s red half.

Neville, who has been a staunch supporter of Solskjaer, admitted after the game that the pressure on his former teammate is “massive”.

However, the Sky Sports pundit thinks Solskjaer is still unlikely to lose his job mid-season. But he did admit time could be running out.

“Ole is under massive, massive pressure. But the first thing that has to happen is that he needs a team with courage,” said Neville.

“Up to the end of last season, the feeling here [at Old Trafford] was that there was progression because they finished second in the league. Everyone then thought that they got their recruitment right in the summer.

“So the club has not planned for this. I know there are some United fans who think the club should have acted two weeks ago because Antonio Conte was available. But this club was never going to appoint Conte and they are not prepared for this moment because they have the plan behind Ole.

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“I don’t think there is any chance there will a decision [on the manager] during this season unless it gets so bad and it is getting to the point where it is so bad.

“They are 11 points off the top of the league if Chelsea win today [Chelsea drew, so United are 9 points behind] and this United squad should not be [so far] off the top.

“Nobody has expected this. Nobody would have expected United would sink so low at this point in the season.

“I think he has a few weeks to sort it out.”

Neville notices impact of Cavani absence

Manchester United's Edison Cavani reacts after scoring during the English Premier League soccer match between Manchester United and Fulham FC

Neville still believes there are external factors working against Solskjaer’s favour, though. On this occasion, he cited the absence of Edinson Cavani as something that upset the balance.

The striker has returned to prominence recently, but had to sit this game out due to injury.

According to Neville, Cavani makes a difference via his own responsibility and the way he inspires others around him. That was missing on Saturday.

“Every time I see Manchester United out there without Cavani they’re less of a team,” he said.

“He just seems to go out there and have the fight to play for the club and sort of spirit on the pitch that you epitomise with it.

“And when he doesn’t play they just seem a bit nice and nice is not good enough.”

As a result, Neville thought United’s overall performance showed signs of fear.

“They looked frightened to death… they looked frightened in possession and out of possession,” he said.

“It was almost like they were crumpled up in a little ball in the corner waiting to be beat, and that’s not good enough.

“They weren’t aggressive and it was passive. You can get beat and lose football matches but they are flaky when it comes to big games.

“They got destroyed today, make no mistake about it. That was a mauling, that.”

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