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Champions League: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer out, Manchester United look for solace on continent

The Norwegian parted company with the club on Sunday after nearly three years as permanent manager
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
File Photo.

Reuters   |   Published 23.11.21, 02:30 AM

Manchester United captain Harry Maguire said the players must share a “big responsibility” for manager Ole Gunnar Solskajer’s sacking following a dreadful run of results.

The Norwegian parted company with the club on Sunday after nearly three years as permanent manager — a shambolic 4-1 Premier League defeat at Watford proving the final straw.

Solskjaer’s former assistant Michael Carrick has been put in temporary charge while an interim manager is chosen.

Speaking ahead of Tuesday’s crucial Champions League clash away to Spanish club Villarreal, Maguire said Solskjaer’s dismissal had been an emotional day for the squad. “It has been a very hard time as players. The amount of respect we had for the boss. We’ve been on a journey together,” Maguire, who was sent off in the defeat at Watford that left United eighth in the Premier League, told reporters.

“The players need to take a big responsibility. Ultimately the manager has paid the price, we’re all so disappointed by that. We know we haven’t been good enough. We’ve spoken about that. The lads want to succeed.”

After a bright start to the season, following the arrival of signings such as Jadon Sancho and Cristiano Ronaldo, United have slumped alarmingly and have lost four of their five league games, shipping 15 goals in the process.

“It hasn’t been good enough, not delivering individually or collectively. It snowballed from one thing to another,” Maguire said. “We have to find something within ourselves to find that focus and mentality. The manager came in and spoke to us on Sunday, it was an emotional day. He was a legend, he’ll remain one.”

Carrick, who worked with Solskjaer for three years, also said it had been an emotional farewell to the former striker but added his priority now was gaining the win against Villarreal that could all but seal United’s place in the last 16.

Giving little away about the club’s plans to replace Solskjaer, former midfielder Carrick said he would give his best whether it is one game, two games or a stretch longer in charge.

“It’s not the time to look back now, I know what I could have done in my own mind better,” he said.

“It’s easy to look elsewhere, as a player I was exactly the same. For me what’s next is a flight to Spain and preparing for tomorrow (Tuesday). All I’ve been thinking about is the game.

“We have a big game on the weekend (against Chelsea) but we will address that whenever we need to. As long as club want me I will give my best.”

United lost to Villarreal on penalties in last season’s Europa League final but avenged that with a 2-1 home victory in September — when Ronaldo scored a stoppage-time winner.

Battle for pole

Juventus face an important test in the battle for top spot in Group H against Chelsea, Massimiliano Allegri said on Monday, but the head coach admitted his side are still struggling for goals since the departure of Ronaldo.

The Italians head to London having already qualified for the last-16 with a perfect record after four games, sitting three points ahead of the English Premier League side.

But Chelsea, who suffered a 1-0 defeat to Juve in Turin in September, are aiming to knock Allegri’s side off top spot and could have record signing Romelu Lukaku back from injury to help their cause.

“Tomorrow we face off for first place against a team that’s on top of the Premier League and won the Champions League last season,” Allegri told a news conference.

“With Lukaku they play in a different way. Without him they have fewer reference points. It’ll be an important test for us.”

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