Premier League on Betfair: Embarrassing Liverpool loss leaves Ole on the brink

Solskjaer-Man Utd
United will need a truly elite coach if this expensively assembled squad is to deliver on its potential, writes Ryan Baldi

Liverpool thrash Man Utd 5-0 at Old Trafford and it could be curtains for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, with Antonio Conte the outstanding candidate to step in, writes Ryan Baldi...

"While his abrasive nature might cause United's decision makers to think twice, Conte has won top-flight titles at three different clubs, a master tactician the calibre of those in charge of the Red Devils' rival contenders."

"I have come too far - we have come too far as a group," Ole Gunnar Solskjaer protested when questioned about his future as Manchester United boss after Sunday's 5-0 thrashing at the hands of rivals Liverpool. "We are too close to give up now."

Quite what it is that United are "too close" to, it seems, is known only to Solskjaer.

Earlier in the season, poor performances were masked by a soft fixture schedule and passable results. There are no such mercies for United any more, after losing 4-2 to Leicester last weekend and being dealt an embarrassing beating at Old Trafford courtesy of Jurgen Klopp's side.

In a performance strewn with individual errors and collective disorganisation, United found themselves 2-0 down after just 13 minutes. Their attempts at pressing were so calamitous as to be self-destructive, they saw just a 36 per cent share of possession and they were thoroughly beaten long before half-time substitute Paul Pogba's straight red card for a reckless challenge on Naby Keita on the hour, with all five goals shipped inside 50 minutes.

After a summer of headline-grabbing signings - with Jadon Sancho, Raphael Varane and Cristiano Ronaldo all acquired - a genuine title challenge was the minimum expectation Solskjaer and United had to meet this season.

Now, though, with only nine games of the 2021-22 campaign played, United are already eight points off top spot, and their slip from title contention is reflected on the Betfair Exchange. After last week's Leicester loss, United drifted to 42.041/1 to be crowned champions. They are now available to back at 85.084/1 in the Premier League Winner market.

"Solskjaer will never be Pep Guardiola, Jurgen Klopp or Thomas Tuchel," Sky Sports pundit Jamie Carragher succinctly summarised post-match.

The Norwegian manager can rightfully claim to have done some fine work in his near-three years as Old Trafford boss. He has constructed a talent-rich squad and rid the club of some of its dead weight. He has overseen third- and second-place finishes, respectively, in each of his two full season in charge - literal, undeniable progress. And while tactical misgivings have persisted, the style of play has never been as drab as the lows of Louis van Gaal or the darkest of Jose Mourinho's days at the helm.

But there has long been a suspicion, as Carragher alludes, that United will bump up against a glass ceiling with Solskjaer in charge, that a truly elite coach will be needed if this expensively assembled squad is to deliver on its potential.

Solskjaer is now the clear favourite on the Exchange in the Next Manager to Leave Position market, available to back at 1.68/13.

Who's next?

The manager's position was one United's hierarchy had to worry little about during Sir Alex Ferguson's glittering 26-year tenure. Even though they have cycled through four managers - five if Ryan Giggs' short caretaker spell is included -since the Scot's 2013 retirement, they have tended to act slowly in making the chop, waiting until Champions League qualification is impossible or the season is unsalvageable.

United haven't reached that stage yet, but that is precisely why they cannot delay much longer. The title is likely off the cards, but another manager could still deliver a return on the club's hefty summer investment, with Champions League progress attainable and a top-four Premier League place realistic - United can be backed at 1.9110/11 on the Betfair Exchange in the Top 4 Finish market.

Zinedine Zidane is the current favourite to step in and attempt to steady the ship - the former World Cup-winning midfielder is 3/1 to assume the Old Trafford hot seat. The ex-Real Madrid boss won the Champions League three times and two La Liga titles across his two spells in charge at the Bernabeu, so his pedigree is unimpeachable.

But there is another candidate who perhaps makes more sense for United, if they are determined to compete for silverware as soon as possible.

Conte.jpg

Former Chelsea manager Antonio Conte - currently unemployed after leaving Inter in the summer - is 5/1 to be United's next permanent manager.

While his abrasive nature might cause United's decision makers to think twice, he has won top-flight titles at three different clubs, is a master tactician the calibre of those in charge of the Red Devils' rival contenders, and has shown already - having won the division at the first time of asking with Chelsea in 2016-17 - that he can mastermind a Premier League title triumph.

Sensational Salah

As bad as United were at Old Trafford on Sunday, Liverpool were ruthless in ripping apart their hosts.

Klopp's men dealt United a lesson in how to press aggressively and effectively, with the Reds' midfield trio never letting their counterparts settle on the ball, and Roberto Firmino leading the off-ball efforts from the attack's highest point.

Salah.jpg

The star of the show, once again, though, was Mohamed Salah. There can be little question now over whether the Egyptian, in such scintillating form of late, is the best player in the world at present.

With his Old Trafford hat-trick, Salah took his Premier League haul to 10 goals in just nine appearances this season. And, having laid on the game's opening strike for Naby Keita, he is now second only to Paul Pogba in the assists chart this term, with five goals created.

The overwhelming favourite for the end-of-season gong, Salah is available to back at 1.8810/11 on the Exchange to be named PFA Player of the Year. And, with their star man at the peak of his powers, Liverpool have moved up to second favourites in the title race, available to back at 3.7511/4 in the Exchange's Premier League Winner market.

Salah wasn't the only player to net a treble this weekend, though. In addition to Joshua King scoring three times to help Watford overturn his old club Everton 5-2 at Goodison Park, Mason Mount bagged a hat-trick in Chelsea's 7-0 demolition of Norwich at Stamford Bridge.

That result means Thomas Tuchel's Blues hold on to top spot, and they can be backed at 4.94/1 on the Exchange to claim the 2021-22 title.

Manchester City remain the favourites to retain the crown they claimed last season, though. They dismantled high-flying Brighton at the Amex on Saturday, with Bernardo Silva and Phil Foden outstanding in a comprehensive 4-1 win. Pep Guardiola's side are available to back at 1.9720/21 in the Betfair Exchange's Premier League Winner market.

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English Premier League: English Premier League (Winner 2021/22)

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Friday 13 August, 8.00pm

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