Sacked Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer accepts he paid the price for not being able to “take the next step”.
Last season the Norwegian finished a distant second to Manchester City – 12 points behind in the Premier League – and lost the Europa League final to Villarreal after a marathon penalty shoot-out.
However, after a run of just two victories in eight matches – which included a 5-0 defeat to arch-rivals Liverpool and a derby loss to Manchester City – the final straw was Saturday’s embarrassing 4-1 reverse at Watford.
“I wanted us to take the next step to challenge for the league, to win trophies… but unfortunately I couldn’t get the results we needed and it’s time for me to step aside,” an emotional Solskjaer told MUTV.
“Second place last season ahead of arguably one of the best teams in Europe (Liverpool), I think that’s a great achievement as well.
“And we were so close in Europe. Sometimes that’s the fine margin for you, one penalty.”
United do not have a succession plan in place and, as a result, first-team coach Michael Carrick has been placed in caretaker charge while the club looks to appoint an interim manager to get them to the end of the season.
Former defender Gary Neville believes the club’s search should take them in the direction of former Tottenham and current Paris St Germain boss Mauricio Pochettino.
“They are waiting on Mauricio Pochettino not being successful at another club. If he was to win the Champions League, then PSG wouldn’t let him go,” Neville told Sky Sports.
“He’s always been a stand-out candidate and the only name I‘ve mentioned as someone I thought really suited Manchester United in terms of core principles and values and how they play, how he acts and behaves.
“They haven’t planned or prepared for this, it’s deteriorated so badly and so quickly; Michael takes over now, the only option the club had was to put someone in to the end of the season, that’s been obvious for the last few weeks.
“If there was a world-class manager sat on the shelf ready to go two or three weeks ago, I think Ole would have been gone by now.
“People will say ‘Antonio Conte has gone to Tottenham’. He was never coming to Manchester United. This board were never going to appoint him.
“I don’t think he’d have been a fit for Manchester United and I don’t think there is one at this moment in time so they have to get someone in temporarily until someone becomes available.”
As soon as United called an emergency board on Saturday night it was obvious the writing was on the wall for their former striker Solskjaer, who despite changing the atmosphere around the club following the toxic end of Jose Mourinho’s reign in December 2018 never really convinced in the role.
In a statement announcing his departure the club 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.
“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.”
Neville said his friend and former team-mate could not argue with the decision.
“Ole can’t complain, he’s been given three years, he’s been backed in the transfer market,” added the ex-defender.
“David Moyes was given eight months and kicked out, so I don’t think Ole can complain about the time he’s been given and the money he’s been afforded.”
Solskjaer offered his best wishes to the man whom eventually succeeds him.
“I want him to be successful. Hopefully I’ve laid the foundations for that to happen because I know I’m good at what I’m doing,” he added.
“I’m so honoured and privileged to have been trusted to take the club forward and I really hope that I leave it in a better state than when I came.
“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.
“I don’t want to pre-empt anything but the two times I’ve left Molde, they’ve won the league the year after, so all the best to whoever takes over – that’s the expectations.
“I know the foundation is there, I know they’re ready to kick on and I’m sure they will.”