Friday 13 August, 8.00pm
Man Utd's humiliating 4-1 loss to Watford was the last straw for Solskjaer, while Chelsea, Liverpool and Man City all laid down markers in the title race, writes Ryan Baldi...
"United have flattered to deceive all season, but results really began to slide in late September, starting with a 1-0 home loss to Aston Villa. Since then, no Premier League side has collected fewer points."
In his post-match comments, David de Gea laid bare the situation that stared Manchester United in the face.
"It was embarrassing, the way we played today," the Spanish goalkeeper said after Saturday's 4-1 loss to Watford. "We don't know what to do with the ball; we are conceding a lot of goals."
De Gea went on to claim that he and his team-mates deserved the lion's share of the blame for yet another defeat, but the manner of the loss was too shocking even for United's slow-acting higher-ups to ignore - Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, whose position had been the subject of rife speculation for weeks, finally had go.
United have flattered to deceive all season, but results really began to slide in late September, starting with a 1-0 home loss to Aston Villa. Since then, no Premier League side has collected fewer points.
Solskjaer survived a disastrous 5-0 defeat to Liverpool in October and, earlier this month, a 2-0 derby loss in which United were thoroughly dominated by Manchester City at Old Trafford.
But such a comprehensive thumping at Vicarage Road - where goals from Josh King, Ismaila Sarr, Joao Pedro and Emmanuel Dennis rendered Donny van de Beek's first goal of the season mere consolation - brought an end to the Norwegian's near-three-year reign; his departure was confirmed the next day.
Less than a third of the way into a season in which they were expected to challenge for the title, United now sit in eighth place, 12 points off top spot, 11 points off the bottom. On the Betfair Exchange, they are available to back at 160159/1 in the Premier League Winner market - longer odds than West Ham.
United have confirmed that Michael Carrick will temporarily step into the manager's position while the club searches for an interim appointment to see out the campaign, ahead of anointing Solskjaer's long-term successor in the summer.
Leicester City boss Brendan Rodgers is 7/2 on the Betfair Sportsbook to be United's next permanent manager, while Carrick is 4/1 and Zinedine Zidane is 5/1.
Top 3 breakaway
At the top end of the table, a breakaway trio has emerged.
Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City have looked the likeliest title contenders all season, and each put in an impressively dominant display against solid opposition this week, rubber-stamping their collective status as the best the Premier League currently has to offer.
In Saturday's early kick-off, Chelsea thumped Leicester 3-0, with goals from Antonio Rudiger, N'Golo Kante and Christian Pulisic cementing Thomas Tuchel's side's grip on top spot, where they hold a three-point advantage over second-placed City.
Chelsea are available to back at 3.7511/4 on the Betfair Exchange in the Premier League Winner market.
In Saturday's evening game, Liverpool hosted an in-form Arsenal at Anfield. Mikel Arteta's men came into the match unbeaten since September, boasting six Premier League wins in their last eight games.
But Liverpool made easy work of the Gunners, romping to an emphatic 4-0 victory. Top scorer Mohamed Salah was, once again, among the goals, and Trent Alexander-Arnold's superlative form continued, with the England full-back collecting his fifth and sixth league assists of 2021-22.
The Reds sit third in the table, just a point behind City and four off top. They are available to back at 6.411/2 on the Exchange to be crowned champions come May.
And on Sunday, City saw off Everton with a comfortable 3-0 win at the Etihad, where their own creative full-back, Joao Cancelo, was in fine fettle yet again.
The Portuguese produced a sublime, outside-of-the-boot pass to create the game's opening goal for Raheem Sterling. Rodri and Bernardo Silva extended City's lead in the second half, and Pep Guardiola's reigning champions can now be backed on the Betfair Exchange at 1.784/5 in the Premier League Winner market.
New manager bounce?
As Premier League action resumed this weekend after the year's final international break, there were three managers overseeing their new charges for the first time.
A positive Covid test meant Eddie Howe was unable to assume the St. James' Park dugout for his first official game at the Newcastle United helm on Saturday, but his side certainly delivered a degree of entertainment and attacking intent in his absence that promises exciting times ahead.
The Magpies were ultimately held by Brentford in a game they will have had designs on winning as they battle to avoid a relegation scrap this season. While defensive concerns will abound, the back-and-forth 3-3 draw showed Howe's attack-minded style is already taking shape.
That point wasn't enough to prevent Newcastle sinking to the bottom of the table, however, thanks to a second successive victory for Norwich City and a first win under new manager Dean Smith.
The Canaries decided to part ways with previous boss Daniel Farke on a high, dismissing the German tactician after a first win of the season prior to the international break.
And Smith managed to harness that momentum in his first game in charge, with goals from Teemu Pukki and Grant Hanley enough for a 2-1 Carrow Road victory over Southampton.
Norwich are now available to back at 1.292/7 in the Betfair Exchange Relegation market, with Newcastle available at 1.9310/11.
The most high-profile new managerial arrival this weekend was that of Aston Villa's Steven Gerrard. The Liverpool and England legend called time on a successful spell with Rangers last week to take his first Premier League post, replacing Norwich's new man Smith.
And Gerrard could hardly have wished for a better start. Late goals from Ollie Watkins and Tyrone Mings earned a 2-0 win over Brighton at Villa Park.
Villa, currently 15th, are now available to back at 3.711/4 on the Exchange to finish in the top half of the table.
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Friday 13 August, 8.00pm