Solskjaer needs a lift before fans turn mutinous [DailyTimes] 29 Jan, 2020

WHAT HAPPENED: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer may still be a beloved ex-player for Manchester United, but his short tenure as manager of the Red Devils is perilously close to being an unhappy one, especially after his side’s appalling 0-2 home defeat by Burnley last Thursday (23 January).Yet, should he even have been appointed in the first place by the bumbling United board, given that his past managerial experiences were at modest Cardiff City (relegated from the EPL during his tenure) and Molde from his home country?Executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward has been targeted for fan criticism for too hastily making Solskjaer’s original interim job a permanent one, without a concerted search for a better candidate. And United are arguably suffering from this poor judgment call, with acclaimed managers such as Mauricio Pochettino and Massimiliano Allegri still available in the market.A 6-0 rout of Tranmere Rovers in the FA Cup fourth round on Saturday gave Solskjaer a little respite from the growing unhappiness, but United seem to be drifting further from title-challenging Liverpool and Manchester City in terms of footballing style and long-term player development.Solskjaer needs to produce far more consistent improvement – player-wise and result-wise – to convince the frustrated United fans. He is fast running out of time though. WHAT’S NEXT: A Carabao Cup semi-final second-leg clash with Man City away at the Etihad Stadium on Wednesday, before a home clash with Wolves on Saturday. Both are tough opponents to overcome; City already have a 3-1 first-leg advantage, while Wolves gave league leaders Liverpool a torrid time despite losing 1-2 last week.Solskjaer needs to lift his players to put in at least battling, high-intensity performances in both matches before they go into the winter break, otherwise the mutinous voices amid United’s fan base will become even louder.Prediction: Draws in both the Carabao Cup semi-final match and the Wolves clash.Klopp needs to rethink FA Cup replay decisionWHAT HAPPENED: Sixteen points ahead in the EPL title race, and still in contention for the Champions League and FA Cup – you would think Liverpool should be free from criticism on their stellar season.But manager Jurgen Klopp waded into controversy after his side’s limp 2-2 draw against lowly League One side Shrewsbury Town in the FA Cup last Friday (24 January). The result had meant a replay at Anfield in the midst of the Premier League winter break early next month, and Klopp is adamant that his first-team players will go on the break and not feature in the replay.Furthermore, he said that he will not take charge of the youth players who will play in the replay; the Reds’ Under-23 manager Neil Critchley will take over the German’s place on the sidelines instead.Not surprisingly, criticism came in thick and fast on Klopp’s “disrespect” for the oldest football competition in the world. Andy Holt, owner of League One side Accrington Stanley, branded Klopp a “disgrace” for “selfishness of the highest degree”.Former Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand also took aim at Klopp’s decision not to be on the sidelines. “I think the manager should be in the dugout. Every game, (it) doesn’t matter if he’s putting out a depleted squad or not, he should be in there,” he told BT Sport.It has become a sore spot among English football that top clubs do not treat FA Cup as a prestigious competition any more, and Klopp’s decision – supported by Liverpool’s board of directors – will only further antagonise the Football Association.While it is understandable that Klopp wants to rest the first-team players, given that they have been giving their all while playing his brand of high-intensity football, it is strange that he has excused himself from managing the FA Cup replay altogether.Ferdinand’s reasoning that the club manager should be in the dugout for every game seems a valid criticism. By excluding himself from the replay, Klopp comes across as truly disdainful of the FA Cup, as well as the lower-league clubs who view the competition as a vital income source, especially if they earn replays. Some Reds fans would be resentful of his stance too.It would be a significant blemish on what has been an outstanding season for Klopp and his relentless Liverpool.WHAT’S NEXT: Before the FA Cup replay can happen, Liverpool have to negotiate two more EPL fixtures – against West Ham away on Wednesday, and then at home to Southampton on Saturday.The struggling Hammers had just suffered a 1-4 thrashing by Leicester City in the league, and a 0-1 defeat by second-tier West Bromwich Albion to exit the FA Cup. Southampton, on the other hand, are enjoying a upsurge in recent form, with a 2-0 league win against Crystal Palace and a creditable 1-1 draw against Tottenham in the FA Cup. Still, both are winnable matches for the Reds. However, as they are scheduled just three days apart, Klopp is expected to rotate his squad extensively.

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