In an alternate universe, Mauricio Pochettino’s Manchester United have just cruised past Watford to keep pace with the Premier League leaders, and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is preparing his Molde team for a trip to Brann.
Instead, the reality is that Solskjaer, who was meant to hand over the reins to the Argentine more than two years ago, is only now just saying his goodbyes. When Jose Mourinho was sacked in December 2018, the plan was for Solskjaer to steady the ship as caretaker manager until the end of the season and let United prepare their approach to Tottenham for Pochettino.
United’s executive vice chairman Ed Woodward still insists there was no defining moment that prompted the club to veer away from what had been decided, although beating Pochettino’s Spurs 1-0 at Wembley in January 2019 did Solskjaer no harm at all.
The Norwegian won his first eight games in charge, but Woodward was also impressed by the way he handled back-to-back defeats to Arsenal and Wolves in March. Woodward particularly liked that Solskjaer had the courage to call the 2-1 defeat at Molineux the worst performance of his tenure.