Donny van de Beek was handed only his second start for Manchester United this season in Tuesday's clash with Villarreal as Michael Carrick took charge for the first time.

United were in action for the first time since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's dismissal on Sunday, and Carrick – named caretaker manager ahead of an expected interim appointment – made his presence known.

Van de Beek came straight into the starting XI after a positive cameo off the bench in Solskjaer's final game, the 4-1 defeat at Watford.

The Dutchman scored United's only goal in that game, which was just his third top-flight appearance of the season.

Van de Beek has been bizarrely marginalised since joining from Ajax last year for approximately £45million, as he made just four Premier League starts in 2020-21.

As such, he has lost his place in the Netherlands team and media speculation has strongly suggested he was planning to engineer a move away in the upcoming January transfer window.

But Carrick elected to give him a rare opportunity from the start, with Bruno Fernandes the one to drop out of the team.

Jadon Sancho also showed flashes of quality against Watford and retained his place in the starting XI, though Marcus Rashford – withdrawn at half-time at Vicarage Road – was dropped in favour of Anthony Martial, who replaced him at the weekend.

Luke Shaw missed out at left-back due to a head injury, meaning Alex Telles filled in.

Heading into the game, United sat top of Group F but level on seven points with Villarreal.

Manchester United should move to appoint Mauricio Pochettino as their new manager immediately rather than wait until the end of the season if he is their first choice, according to former Old Trafford hero Mark Hughes.

United sacked Ole Gunnar Solskjaer on Sunday in the wake of a humiliating 4-1 defeat to promoted Watford a day earlier, but the writing was already on the wall.

After an inconsistent start to the 2021-22 campaign, the beginning of the end for Solskjaer was arguably the 5-0 home loss to Liverpool on October 24.

That thrashing by Jurgen Klopp's side set several unwanted records, including United's largest margin of defeat against their fierce rivals at home and the first time the Red Devils had trailed by four goals at half-time in the Premier League.

Michael Carrick has been installed in temporary charge until United can hire an interim manager to guide them through to the end of the season, a somewhat peculiar and convoluted process that in itself has attracted criticism.

Numerous coaches have been credited with interest in the role, with Paris Saint-Germain boss Pochettino – strongly linked to United in the past – seemingly chief among them, and Hughes thinks the club need to have the courage of their convictions if the Argentinian is the man they want.

"In terms of resources, to be able to get a top manager out of a top club, clearly United are one of the few clubs that are able to do that," Hughes told talkSPORT. "I think for a long time United have coveted Pochettino.

"I think they've wined and dined him [in the past], I think he's been out with Sir Alex [Ferguson]. I think that was well documented a few years ago.

"I think he's well thought of within the corridors of United, so it wouldn't surprise me if he's the one they really want. Whether or not he's able to come to the club quickly, that's an issue for them.

"I think if he's the man, they should just go out and go get him. This interim-to-interim position doesn't seem to be the right way to go about it.

"But clearly, if they have to wait, they seem prepared to do that. I just feel it's Pochettino that they really, really want."

Former Tottenham head coach Pochettino has only been in charge at PSG since January, though there have been rumours of friction between him and sporting director Leonardo.

Speculation has suggested that PSG would be willing for Pochettino to leave, assuming a compensation package can be agreed and they have a replacement lined up.

Zinedine Zidane, also linked to United but said to have little interest in moving to England, has been mentioned as a likely candidate to replace Pochettino at PSG.

Pochettino is in Manchester this week as PSG face Manchester City on Wednesday in the Champions League – United begin the post-Solskjaer era away to Villarreal on Tuesday.

Manchester United start life without Ole Gunnar Solskjaer with a huge Champions League showdown at Villarreal, while Chelsea and Juventus face a blockbuster battle.

A 4-1 Premier League hammering at Watford was the final straw for the United board as Solskjaer was sacked on Sunday.

Michael Carrick has stepped in to take charge on an interim basis and must rally the troops for the clash between the top two in Group F at Estadio de la Ceramica.

Juventus are already assured of a place in the round of 16 and Chelsea will join them in qualifying from Group H if they avoid defeat at Stamford Bridge.

Barcelona take on Benfica in their first Champions League match with Xavi as boss knowing a win will see them through. 

Here, Stats Perform takes a look at the key Opta data for the fixtures on Tuesday.

 

Villarreal v Manchester United: Red Devils in troubled waters ahead of Yellow Submarine showdown

Villarreal have failed to beat United in five Champions League matches, drawing four and losing one.

The LaLiga side did get the better of the Red Devils in the Europa League final last season on penalties, though, and may never have a better opportunity to consign them to a defeat in Europe's premier club competition.

Carrick takes charge for the first time following Solskjaer's departure and will need United to tighten up at the back as they look to end a four-match winless away run in the Champions League. The wounded Premier League side have not kept a clean sheet in the competition this season.

Chelsea v Juventus: Bianconeri plotting another Italian job on holders

Juventus could win the group if they halt Chelsea's nine-match unbeaten run, as they lead the holders by three points.

The Premier League leaders have not lost since they went down 1-0 to Juve in September and they are overdue a victory against Italian opponents.

Chelsea have not come out on top in their past four meetings against Italian teams and Juve could become the first side to record three consecutive wins over the London club in the Champions League.

 

Barcelona v Benfica: Pressure on for Xavi's Champions League bow 

Xavi celebrated a derby victory over Espanyol in his first game as Barcelona boss on Saturday and another win over Benfica will secure qualification from Group E.

Third-placed Benfica beat Barca 3-0 in September and will attempt to become only the third side to do the double over the Catalan club in the group stage, Dynamo Kiev in 1997-98 and Bayern Munich in 1998-99 being the others to achieve that feat.

Barca are two points ahead of Benfica following back-to-back 1-0 wins over Dynamo and are looking to keep clean sheets for three consecutive Champions League games for the first time since May 2019.

 

Sevilla v Wolfsburg: Los Nervionenses nearing last chance saloon

Sevilla dropped points when they were held to a 2-2 draw by Deportivo Alaves in LaLiga on Saturday, and they can ill afford to slip up when they face Wolfsburg.

Bottom of Group G and without a win from four matches, they have not been victorious in their past seven meetings with German sides, losing four and drawing three.

Third-placed Wolfsburg have not been a Spanish team away from home in Europe, losing to Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid either side of a draw with Villarreal.

 

Other fixtures:

Dynamo Kiev v Bayern Munich

17 – Bayern have scored 17 goals in their four Champions League matches this season, the joint most by any team after four matches in a season alongside Paris Saint Germain's tally in 2017-18. Already through to the round of 16, the Group E leaders have also had the most shots (84) and shots on target (34) of any side this campaign. 

9 – Dynamo have failed to score in any Champions League matches this season, attempting just nine shots on target – three fewer than Bayern striker Robert Lewandowski has managed in 2021-22 (12).

Lille v Salzburg

43 – Following their 2-1 victory away at Sevilla, Lille will be aiming to record back-to-back wins in the Champions League for the very first time. This will be their 43rd game in the competition.

2 –  Salzburg have only won two of their previous 12 away games in major European competition (excluding qualifiers), drawing twice and losing eight times. These 12 games have seen a total of 46 goals scored (19 for, 27 against), at an average of 3.8 per game.

Malmo v Zenit

– Zenit have only won one of their past 11 games in the Champions League (D1 L9). That solitary victory and clean sheet in this run of games came in their last meeting with Malmo (4-0 in September). 

8 – If Malmo fail to score in this game, they will equal the record for most consecutive games without finding the back of the net in the European Cup/Champions League (currently on 7). The previous instances of a team going eight games in a row without scoring are Dinamo Zagreb (2016), Deportivo La Coruna (2004) and Avenir Beggen (1986).

Young Boys v Atalanta

3 – Since winning three consecutive away Champions League games without conceding a goal between October and December 2020, Atalanta have failed to win each of their past three away games in the competition (D1 L2), conceding eight goals in the process.

4 – Young Boys won their opening group game against United but have since suffered three consecutive defeats in the competition. Bottom of Group F, If they lose this game, they will have suffered four defeats in a row in major European tournaments for the first time.

Premier League football was back with a bang this weekend following the international break.

It left Ole Gunnar Solskjaer feeling especially frustrated as he paid the price for another defeat, while Mikel Arteta's Arsenal were brought back to reality by Liverpool.

That win for the Reds further highlighted their excellent record in meetings with other members of the 'big six', while Rodri once again showcased his effectiveness from distance.

Below, Stats Perform looks at some of the weekend's quirkier Opta facts.

Salah's collector's item

Another weekend, another devastating performance from Mohamed Salah.

After a quiet start, the Egyptian once again proved to be extremely effective against Arsenal, even if he was only able to score once.

Salah's goal was something of a collector's item as it was with his right foot, which in itself brought to light just how much he relies on being so good with his left.

Of his 108 Premier League goals, 87 have been with his strongest foot – that equates to 80.6 per cent, which is the greatest proportion of strikes netted with the left foot among the 31 players with at least 100 goals.

Interestingly, his Liverpool team-mate Sadio Mane is also in the top six (26.5 per cent) despite being predominantly right-footed.

Solskjaer has no defence

A 4-1 defeat at Watford brought Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's time as Manchester United manager to an end, and he could have few complaints about that.

While the Norwegian's work at United has largely been well received, as he leaves the club and squad in much better shape than when he took over from Jose Mourinho, it's fair to say the writing had been on the wall.

United have been especially poor defensively this season, not just in the Premier League, averaging 1.7 concessions every match across all competitions.

Remarkably, relegation-threatened Newcastle United (2.08) and Norwich City (2.14) have a worse record in that regard among Premier League clubs.

Whoever his interim replacement is will surely look at sorting United's ailing defence out as soon as possible.

Liverpool's big-six domination

For much of the Premier League era, Manchester United were the team to beat, and while they obviously wouldn't win every game, they seemed to rise to the biggest occasions.

But since Alex Ferguson's departure in 2013, it's Liverpool who have arguably become the best at dealing traversing contests with the other so-called 'big six'.

Liverpool's defeat of Arsenal took them to 142 points from such matches since the start of 2013-14, putting them ahead of Manchester City by a point – though the Reds have played one game less.

Granted, City boast the most victories (42 to Liverpool's 39), Liverpool have suffered eight fewer defeats.

Chelsea's 124 points is the third-most, while Man Utd are on 110 points, having lost to both City and Liverpool comprehensively in the past month.

Arsenal and Tottenham are a fair way adrift with 86 and 85 points respectively.

Acts of Rodri

Manchester City haven't been doing too badly without a recognised striker this season, with Pep Guardiola boasting plenty of midfielders who can find the net.

Defensive midfielder Rodri might not be one of those whom you'd associate with goalscoring, but he's making long-range piledrivers something of a habit.

His latest, in the defeat of Everton, was a blistering 25-yard drive.

That was his fourth goal from outside the box for City, with only Kevin De Bruyne (seven) and Riyad Mahrez managing more since Rodri joined in 2019.

Rodri's four is 57.1 per cent of his overall Premier League haul, which is the highest proportion in the City squad during that same period.

Manchester United caretaker manager Michael Carrick is relishing the challenge of leading the team for their Champions League clash with Villarreal following the sacking of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

The Norwegian was relieved of his duties at Old Trafford on Sunday following a poor run of results, culminating in a humiliating 4-1 defeat at Watford on Saturday.

Carrick was a part of Solskjaer's backroom staff and has been asked to take charge of the Red Devils until an interim manager can be hired to see them through to the end of the season.

Speaking at a media conference ahead of the trip to Spain for Tuesday's game, Carrick told reporters: "My mindset is that I'm preparing the team for tomorrow night and I'll give it my best. 

"This club has been my life for an awful long time now. I'm not too sure [how long it will be for] but that's not on my mind right now.

"It's a big game for us. I will go about my job as I know, trust myself and my staff, the players and look forward to the game."

When asked if there are likely to be any changes in tactics on his watch, Carrick responded: "I've worked closely with Ole for a long time now and we have similar beliefs.

"Of course, I have my own personality but it's very similar [to Solskjaer] and that's why we've worked together well for a period of time. I have clear plans in my own mind of what we want to do and how we want to go about it.

"It's a challenge I'm relishing at the moment and I'm really looking forward to it. I know it's not what we wanted but it's a fantastic group – they've proved that before and they'll prove it again."

The former United and England midfielder was also asked when he found out he would be taking charge of the team for at least the next game.

"I found out [Sunday] at the training ground," Carrick said. "I didn't know anything before then and I don't think anyone [among coaching staff and players] did. Ole was already here. It was a bit of a rush then to organise training, speak to the players and carry out the day's work.

"All things considered, it went really well yesterday, everyone adapted in a really classy manner."

United go into the game at Villarreal top of Group F but level on seven points with the Spanish side, while Atalanta are just two points behind in third.

"The biggest thing for the fans is a result," Carrick insisted. "There's a responsibility that comes with playing for this club that doesn't come with playing for many others.

"[Villarreal] have a good mix, a good balance and we respect that. We've met a couple of times and we know each other a little bit better. It's a big game for both teams but it's one we can really look forward to."

 

Manchester United captain Harry Maguire accepts the players must take responsibility for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's tenure as manager coming to an end.

Following Saturday's humiliating 4-1 defeat at Watford, during which Maguire was sent off, it was confirmed on Sunday that Solskjaer's reign as boss was over.

The Norwegian had arrived in December 2018 and steadied the ship initially after Jose Mourinho's sacking, while he went on to preside over a second-place finish in the Premier League last term.

But after significant investment in pre-season, including the signings of Raphael Varane, Jadon Sancho and Cristiano Ronaldo, United have gone backwards – Saturday's loss at Vicarage Road leaves them eighth in the Premier League with 17 points after 12 matches.

Solskjaer had routinely been criticised in the media for a perceived lack of tactical acumen, with a common perception being United were regularly bailed out by moments of individual inspiration rather than the team being great as a collective.

Individual quality seemingly was not enough this season, with United's 21 goals conceded only exceeded by Norwich City and Newcastle United (27 each), and just Arsenal (four) committing more errors leading to goals than the Red Devils (three).

Solskjaer paid the price, but Maguire acknowledged the players have more than played their part in his downfall.

"It's been really hard for us as players because of the amount of respect we have for the boss [Solskjaer] and the period he's been here," Maguire told reporters ahead of Tuesday's Champions League tussle with Villarreal.

"We've been on a journey together and it's never nice to see a man lose his job. We've shown as a group of lads how much we wanted to succeed.

"The result on Saturday wasn't good enough but the recent results have ultimately not been good and it's a result-based business. Unfortunately, Ole has paid the price for that and we [the players] have to take responsibility for that."

Although United's Champions League campaign has been far from straightforward, they do at least go to Villarreal at the top of Group F, level on seven points with the Yellow Submarine.

Michael Carrick, who was among Solskjaer's coaching staff, will be in charge for at least that match and potentially more, until United appoint an interim manager to guide them through to the end of the season.

Now Maguire is urging the players to dig deep to put things right, concerned that their issues have been spiralling out of control.

"I think in football you go through ups and downs. As players, it's probably the toughest time for you at club level," he continued.

"The recent performances haven't been good enough. When you're not doing it collectively, the results show. It snowballs from one thing to another.

"We've got to find something within ourselves; we've got to move this club forward. We've got to find something within us to put in a performance."

Whatever happens next, Solskjaer will be watching on as he would have prior to his return in 2018.

"Everybody's got a huge amount of respect for Ole," Maguire added. "He's a legend of the club and he'll always remain a legend here.

"One thing he said is that he'll be supporting us and wanting us to win every game."

Cristiano Ronaldo has wished Ole Gunnar Solskjaer "good luck" after the Norwegian was sacked as Manchester United manager on Sunday.

The Red Devils officially parted company with Solskjaer after a humiliating 4-1 defeat at Watford, one month shy of what would have been his three-year anniversary as manager of the club.

The loss at Vicarage Road on Saturday leaves the club eighth in the Premier League and 12 points behind leaders Chelsea.

Several United players took to social media following Sunday's announcement to thank their former boss and Ronaldo followed suit on Monday, posting two images of he and Solskjaer on Twitter, one as manager and player and another from their days as team-mates.

"He's been my striker when I first came to Old Trafford and he's been my coach since I came back to Man United," the Portuguese forward said. 

"But most of all, Ole is an outstanding human being. I wish him the best in whatever his life has reserved for him. Good luck, my friend! You deserve it!"

Ronaldo rejoined the club in August from Juventus, 12 years after leaving Old Trafford for Real Madrid, and has scored nine goals in 13 games in all competitions this season.

Manchester United's managerial post is vacant after Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was sacked on Sunday.

Solskjaer had led United since December 2018 but failed to win a trophy, finishing runners-up in last season's Premier League and Europa League.

The lean spell has United desperate to return to their former glories with their next managerial appointment.

 

TOP STORY – ZIDANE NOT KEEN ON MAN UTD JOB

World Cup winner and ex-Real Madrid head coach Zinedine Zidane is not interested in the vacant Manchester United job, reports BBC Sport.

Zidane left Madrid in May after failing to win LaLiga and has been linked with a host of roles since.

United have approached the 49-year-old about their vacant post but he is not interested in the position at this point.

 ROUND-UP

- Fichajes claims that reported United target Mauricio Pochettino would put Tottenham's Harry Kane at the top of his wishlist if he got the Red Devils job. The current Paris Saint-Germain boss is among those linked with the vacant post. The Telegraph claims that Pochettino is open to moving to Old Trafford at the end of this season.

- Ajax boss Erik ten Hag is United's second choice behind Pochettino reports Sky Sports, while The Sun claims the Red Devils have already approached Leicester City's Brendan Rodgers.

- Sport claims that new Barcelona boss Xavi wants to sign Al-Sadd's Algeria international striker Baghdad Bounedjah. Xavi coached Al-Sadd until taking over at Barca earlier this month.

- Tottenham may make a move for Roma midfielder Nicolo Zaniolo who is unhappy at the club, claims Calciomercato.

- Fichajes reports that Real Madrid have an interest in Mason Mount, who is currently in talks with Chelsea on a new deal. Manchester City and Bayern Munich are also interested in Mount's services.

Ajax head coach Erik ten Hag is focused on winning titles with the Eredivisie, insisting he has "heard nothing" about the Manchester United job.

Ten Hag has emerged as one of the leading contenders to fill the United vacancy after manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was sacked on Sunday following Saturday's humiliating 4-1 Premier League rout at Watford.

Ajax's Ten Hag has impressed in his time in Amsterdam, where he has delivered two Eredivisie titles and embarked on a memorable run to the 2018-19 Champions League semi-finals.

Ten Hag's side have been the entertainers of Europe this term, dazzling their way into the Champions League round of 16, while topping the Eredivisie ahead of rivals PSV on goal difference.

The 51-year-old Dutchman was asked about United's reported interest after Sunday's 5-0 demolition of RKC Waalwijk.

"I am focused on my team, we have a brilliant squad and we want to achieve a lot," Ten Hag told ESPN.

"We have a brilliant squad, we want to fight for titles. My focus is on Ajax, the rest only distracts.

"I expect from my players that they are focused on Ajax, so I have to give the right example for that too.

"You keep asking me [about my position as Ajax manager], yes it is a weird question. I heard nothing about [United's interest], so I can't think about it."

Ajax have scored 42 goals in 13 rounds this season, conceding just twice.

Ten Hag's Ajax have kept 20 clean sheets in the league in 2021, their most in a calendar year since 1997 (21).

Ajax have been led by Sebastien Haller, who has scored 17 goals in 18 appearances across all competitions.

Haller has scored the opening goal in the Eredivisie nine times in 2021 – the most for a player in a calendar year since Graziano Pelle in 2013.

Wayne Rooney is not anticipating being sounded out to take over Manchester United on an interim basis and slammed the commitment levels against Watford that ultimately led to the dismissal of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

United parted ways with club legend Solskjaer on Sunday a day after a 4-1 reverse versus the Hornets, their heaviest defeat against a promoted side since September 1989.

The result at Vicarage Road capped a turbulent period for Solskjaer, in which he oversaw a 5-0 loss against Liverpool – their largest margin of defeat against the Reds and the first time they had trailed by four goals at half-time in the Premier League – before a 2-0 humbling by Manchester City.

Saturday proved to be the final straw for Solskjaer and United, who have promoted Michael Carrick to take charge temporarily, are already searching for a new interim appointment until the end of the season when they will then look to make a permanent move for a new manager.

But Rooney is not expecting an offer from his former club as he insisted he is happy managing Derby County, who edged past Championship leaders Bournemouth on Sunday.

"I speak to people at Manchester United on a regular basis so I'm sure if they were to come calling it would have already happened," Rooney, who is United's all-time top scorer with 253 goals across all competitions, told reporters.

"I'm committed to Derby County and until someone says 'you're not welcome to be the manager here' I’m here."

Rooney collected 16 trophies during his time at Old Trafford, with most of those coming under Alex Ferguson who has seen United sack four managers since he stepped away from the dugout in 2013.

The former England international referenced those days under Ferguson as he questioned some of the United players' commitment levels in Solskjaer's final game against Watford.

He added: "Could the players have done more? 100 per cent.

"I was so disappointed watching that game at Watford. As a manager you know you can set the team up, prepare, shape them but there is no excuse for some of them performances.

"None at all. I've seen players waving their arms around, giving the ball away, blaming other people. It's not acceptable. I'd be very angry if that was my players doing that.

"When you look at a club like Manchester United it is one of, if not the, biggest club. Those players are in a privileged position to play for them. With the players they have, they have to show more. 

"I'm not saying they have to win the league or the Champions League, they just have to do more, show the fans they are working and playing for the club.

"That is the least you expect as a fan. Results may vary but you have to at least be willing to put the effort in.

"I remember Sir Alex Ferguson saying to me: 'the hardest thing to do in life is to work hard every day.' Whatever you're doing, it's so true."

Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola wished Ole Gunnar Solskjaer well for the future but indicated the Norwegian's sacking came as no surprise.

It was announced on Sunday that Manchester United had officially parted company with Solskjaer, one month shy of what would have been his three-year anniversary as manager of the club.

Red Devils chiefs acted on the back of Saturday's humiliating 4-1 loss to Watford, which leaves the club eighth in the Premier League and 12 points behind leaders Chelsea.

The defeat at Vicarage Road was United's fifth in seven top-flight matches, a dire run that includes a 2-0 reverse at home to City a little over two weeks ago.

Given the often brutal nature of football, Guardiola claimed he could easily have been the manager to have been sacked had City lost that recent meeting with rivals United.

"I wish him all the best, it was a pleasure to face him," the Catalan coach said following Sunday's 3-0 win over Everton.

"He beat me more than I wanted, but he knows when you're in charge of a team like United you have to win otherwise you're in trouble.

"I'm sitting here because we won, otherwise it would be another person sitting here. I hope one day we can see each other again. I wish him all the best."

City's comfortable win over Everton, coming on the back of their victory at Old Trafford a fortnight ago, moved the reigning champions above Liverpool and back within three points of leaders Chelsea.

Raheem Sterling was handed just a fourth league start of the season for what was his 300th Premier League appearance, making him the fourth-youngest player to reach the milestone at the age of 26 years and 348 days.

The former Liverpool winger opened the scoring with a first-time strike after being picked out by a sublime outside-of-the-boot pass by Joao Cancelo, having early won a penalty that was overturned following a lengthy VAR check.

That was Sterling's first league goal since August and Guardiola is hopeful it will boost the England international's confidence.

"He needed that and in the first half he was an important player," Guardiola said. "He scored a brilliant goal, from an exceptional pass from Joao again.

"He played a good game in what could have been a difficult one, because they defended really well."

With a Champions League tie against Paris Saint-Germain to come on Wednesday, Guardiola handed Cole Palmer a full Premier League debut against Everton.

The academy product played in a false nine position and led the way for the number of shots (four), while nobody played more than his two key passes.

"The striker position is the most difficult but as the game went on he felt more comfortable," Guardiola said.

"It was a good performance. He now already has 90 minutes in the Premier League in his mind. It is an incredible investment for the future."

Rodri added to Sterling's opener with a remarkable 25-yard drive and Bernardo Silva capped City's eighth straight win against Everton with a simple finish late on.

"It was a really good win. We're very pleased," Guardiola added. "The last times we played against Rafa Benitez at Newcastle, we always struggled.

"We were better today, we conceded few chances and were patient."

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer cleared his desk to make way for the next Manchester United manager as he challenged the out-of-sorts Red Devils to "kick on" and shake themselves out of their dismal slump.

After almost three years in charge, Solskjaer was sacked on Sunday, the 4-1 defeat to Watford a result from which there was no coming back.

It came on the back of excruciating manhandlings by Liverpool and Manchester City at Old Trafford, with United having now lost five of their past seven Premier League games.

Many will consider the Norwegian to have been badly let down by a talented squad, but Solskjaer departed by describing the players he left behind as "top lads, top people... such an enjoyable bunch to work with".

He intends to return to his native Norway and spend time with his family but said he would "probably" return to work in football.

"I'm going to leave by the front door, because I think everyone knows I've given everything for this club," Solskjaer told United's in-house television station MUTV. "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."

Solskjaer said he was "very, very proud" and "so honoured and privileged" to have managed the club he played for with distinction during Alex Ferguson's glory years as manager.

"It's been a ball, it's been absolutely enjoyable from the first to the last minute," he said, "so I have to thank all the players because since I came in, they're top lads, top people. Some have come, some have gone, but all of them, they've been such an enjoyable bunch to work with."

Some players have given Solskjaer many headaches along the way, but the emotional 48-year-old was not minded to look at the dark times as he gave one last interview before departing.

He said he hoped he was leaving United "in a better state than when I came" and has confidence the squad improved during his tenure.

"I know the foundation is there, I know they're ready to kick on, and I'm sure they will," he said. "I'm sure we'll see them puff their chest out and they'll go on a run.

"As I've said to them this morning as well: 'Trust yourselves, you know we're better than this.'"

Solskjaer's side lost 11-10 on penalties to Villarreal in last season's Europa League final, goalkeeper David de Gea missing the final spot-kick.

Reminded of this, he repeated a familiar trope from his reign, that it is "not always the trophies all the time that is the be-all and end-all".

Doubtless, Solskjaer would have wanted to depart with silverware though, and his inability to deliver that will ultimately mark his record as United boss.

He hopes United's next manager can deliver better results. The club are set to make an interim appointment, with a permanent boss to be named at the end of the season, or at least that is the stated plan for now.

"I want him to be successful," Solskjaer said. "Hopefully I've laid the foundations for that to happen because I know I'm good at what I'm doing. I'm 100 per cent sure to create a football environment, that's where I'm good at and at some point, I'll probably be back [working in football]."

He added: "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 expectation!"

Peter Schmeichel says the "Manchester United DNA must be brought back into the equation" when the Red Devils appoint a long-term successor to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

Club legend Solskjaer parted ways with United on Sunday in the wake of a humbling 4-1 defeat at Watford, a result that marked their heaviest defeat by a promoted side since September 1989.

The pressure had been growing rapidly on Solskjaer, particularly since a 5-0 humiliation at home to Liverpool last month – a match in that represented their largest margin of defeat against the Reds and the first time they had trailed by four goals at half-time in the Premier League – while they were also outclassed in the derby by Manchester City prior to the international break.

United have already confirmed an interim appointment will be made until the end of the season as they search for a permanent successor, with Solskjaer the fourth boss to have been sacked since Alex Ferguson stepped away from the dugout in 2013.

Schmeichel, who collected five Premier League titles with United between 1991 and 1999, says the club must focus on appointing a manager who understands the ethos of the club and not someone who will seek quick fixes.

Speaking to Sky Sports, Schmeichel said: "It's a very sad day. It's the fourth time we've had to sack a manager. Clearly, there's something not going right at the club – hopefully the fifth time we'll get the right person in, get the club organised.

"Everyone is throwing names about. I want United to get back to being a winning club; not to win one trophy and [leave] two years later – someone to win the Premier League and Champions League every year, or compete for it.

"Build the club up. When one player finishes we want there to be a transition. I want someone there for the long-term who is willing to work with the academy, who is prepared to wait six years for a player to break through, not someone who just has a big network to pluck the best players from around the world.

"The Man United DNA needs to be brought back into the equation, and I think Ole was close to doing that."

Schmeichel, who was part of the same team as Solskjaer for United's famous Champions League final comeback win over Bayern Munich in 1999, also suggested his former team-mate has been hampered by decisions above him.

"I feel really sorry for Ole," he continued. "I think personally he's done a very good job. We only see what happens on the pitch, which is of course the most important thing.

"He's had to work with a big squad he hasn't picked. It's difficult for a manager to do that. I think he's done well, especially behind the scenes to organise the club. But then that's football – you don't get a lot of time. Hopefully he'll bounce back, and hopefully he's okay."

Spain head coach Luis Enrique moved to end speculation over interest from Manchester United as he questioned reporters whether it was April Fools' Day.

United announced on Sunday that they were parting ways with manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer following a 4-1 humiliation at Watford – their heaviest defeat against a promoted side since September 1989.

Pressure had been building on Solskjaer since a 5-0 crushing by Liverpool on October 24, which was United's largest margin of defeat at home to the Reds and the first time they had trailed by four goals at half-time in the Premier League.

Saturday's demolition, which followed a home humbling against Manchester City prior to the international break, proved the final nail, and United are now in the market for a new boss, at least on an interim basis until the end of the season.

Reports have linked the likes of Zinedine Zidane, Brendan Rodgers and, later, Luis Enrique to the role, with Cristiano Ronaldo said to want the former Barcelona coach to join him at Old Trafford.

However, the Spain boss has quickly quashed any talk of a move as he expressed his desire to stay with the national team, who qualified for the 2022 World Cup with a 1-0 win over Sweden in the final Group B fixture.

Questioned on the speculation by La Sexta, Luis Enrique replied: "Is it April Fools' Day today?

"I am already in the biggest team in Spain, the national team.

"We are 5,000 players, I have the players I want. What's bigger than that? The future changes in 15 seconds. Now we have to enjoy ourselves, and I am happy where I am."

Former midfielder Michael Carrick is set to take temporary charge of United, who travel to Villarreal in Tuesday's Champions League clash before visiting Chelsea on Sunday.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's near three-year reign as Manchester United manager was officially brought to an end on Sunday.

The Red Devils parted company with the Norwegian, who was appointed on an initial caretaker basis in December 2018, on the back of Saturday's 4-1 loss to Watford.

United's fifth defeat in seven Premier League matches leaves them with 17 points from 12 games – their second-lowest tally at this stage behind the 16 accrued in 2018-19, also under Solskjaer.

As United begin the search for a fifth permanent boss since Alex Ferguson retired in 2013, Stats Perform looks at the numbers behind Solskjaer's trophyless tenure.

 

SECOND ONLY TO FERGIE

Solskjaer was given the United job on a permanent basis following an impressive three-month spell as interim boss, which started with a thumping 5-1 win over former side Cardiff City.

That was the first of 109 Premier League games for Solskjaer, meaning only legendary figure Ferguson (810) has taken charge of more matches in the competition than the Scandinavian.

For comparison, predecessor Jose Mourinho managed 93 Premier League games during his time at United, while Louis van Gaal and David Moyes were at the helm for 76 and 34 games respectively.

In all competitions, the Watford humbling was Solskjaer's 168th match – 24 games more than next-best Mourinho was given – with the iconic striker departing with a win rate of 54.2 per cent.

That is a better return than Moyes (52.9 per cent) and Van Gaal (52.4 per cent) managed, but below Mourinho's 58.3 per cent.

SOLSKJAER'S FLAT SEMI RECORD

Despite being given more time than each of the four permanent bosses before him, Solskjaer was the only post-Ferguson manager at Old Trafford to fail to win a trophy of any sort, with even Moyes walking away with a Community Shield.

Solskjaer reached five semi-finals but won just one of them, seeing off Roma in last season's Europa League before falling to a penalty shoot-out loss at the hands of Villarreal in the final.

United also reached the last four of the EFL Cup last season, where they lost to Manchester City, while the 2019-20 campaign saw them fall one step short of the final in the Europa League (defeated by Sevilla), FA Cup (defeated by Chelsea) and the EFL Cup (defeated by Man City).

 

BEST OF THE REST

Solskjaer did at least improve United's league position year-on-year after finishing sixth in his first half-season in charge, the Red Devils ending third in 2019-20 and then as runners-up to Man City last time out, albeit with a 12-point margin on the champions.

Indeed, the 197 points garnered by United since December 22, 2018 is bettered only by Man City (244) and Liverpool (245), though the points difference only goes to highlight the true gulf between United and the Premier League's two leading clubs over the past three years.

THEATRE OF NIGHTMARES

Regardless of their lack of silverware, United had some high points under Solskjaer and recently set an English top-flight record for the number of away games without defeat.

Between February 2020 and September 2021, Solskjaer's side went 29 league games without losing on their travels, surpassing Arsenal's previous high of 27 games in a run that ended in September 2004.

In fact, two of United's longest away winning runs in all competitions came under Solskjaer's management, winning nine in a row (Dec 2018 – March 2019) and 10 in a row (June – October 2020) across two separate periods.

It has been a different story at Old Trafford, though, a ground so often considered a fortress, having lost six Premier League matches on home soil last season – only in 2013-14 (seven) have they lost more times in the competition, while the 28 home goals shipped was their most ever.

 

WOEFUL DEFENSIVE RECORD

After an inconsistent start to the 2021-22 campaign, the beginning of the end for Solskjaer was arguably the 5-0 home loss to Liverpool on October 24.

That thrashing by Jurgen Klopp's side set several unwanted records, including United's largest margin of defeat against their fierce rivals at home and the first time the Red Devils had trailed by four goals at half-time in the Premier League.

Two of the three occasions United have conceded five goals in a home Premier League game have come under Solskjaer, having also lost 6-1 to Tottenham in October 2020 and 5-0 to Liverpool in October 2020.

United quite simply could not keep out opposition teams, and the 21 goals they have conceded through 12 Premier League games this term is their joint-most alongside the 2018-19 season.

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