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Conte next? Ole Gunnar Solskjaer on brink as Manchester United chiefs hold crisis talks

Conte prepared to bide his time with United boss in danger of losing dressing-room


Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's position at Old Trafford is under intense scrutiny

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's position at Old Trafford is under intense scrutiny

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's position at Old Trafford is under intense scrutiny

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was clinging to his job last night after Manchester United’s hierarchy held crisis talks over the manager’s future and the team’s collapse amid serious concerns about how their season is unravelling.

Solskjaer’s position is under intense scrutiny after Sunday’s 5-0 humiliation at home by Liverpool triggered an inquest at the top of the club and it is understood significant parts of the dressing room have lost faith in the manager’s ability to take the club forward.

Joel and Avram Glazer, United’s co-chairmen, held emergency talks with executive vice-chairman, Ed Woodward, and his expected successor, Richard Arnold, yesterday after a calamitous past few weeks that has sent their season into a tailspin.

Senior sources at Old Trafford claimed last night that there had been “no change” to Solskjaer’s position but accepted that there was “a lot to do to turn things around”.

One senior figure claimed the club had been “let off lightly” by Liverpool and that the scoreline could have been much worse after Paul Pogba was sent off with half an hour left and Jurgen Klopp’s side already five goals to the good.

In a damning indictment of United’s woeful form, Luke Shaw, the left-back, admitted the Liverpool result had “been coming” and the display was “not good enough”.

Antonio Conte is understood to want to succeed Solskjaer but the former Chelsea, Juventus and Inter Milan coach would seek full control and the Old Trafford hierarchy have previously held reservations about the demanding Italian, despite his outstanding coaching credentials and trophy haul.

Sources at Old Trafford distanced themselves from claims in Italy yesterday that there had been conversations with Conte’s representatives.

United were left scarred by Jose Mourinho’s tenure and any move for Conte may be considered to represent a departure from the club’s self-proclaimed “cultural reboot”.

But United have been so wedded to Solskjaer, who signed a new three-year contract in the summer, that their sudden implosion has left the club’s decision-makers scrambling as they reflect on what has gone wrong and their options going forward.

United have coveted Mauricio Pochettino, the former Tottenham coach, in the past but he remains in charge of Paris Saint-Germain and well-placed sources believe a lack of available candidates could be another factor influencing the club’s thinking.

United face Tottenham, Atalanta and Manchester City before the international break next month in a crucial run of fixtures.

They have taken just one point from the past 12 available in the league and trail leaders Chelsea by eight points in a season when Solskjaer was expected to mount a sustained title charge.

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Despite remaining well liked by players and staff, Solskjaer faces a challenge to convince the dressing room to pull behind him as faith in his methods erode.

He tore into the players at half-time of the Liverpool game, with his team trailing 4-0, before issuing a rallying call afterwards when he urged the players to “fight” their way back from what he described as “rock bottom” and his “darkest day” in football.

Yet multiple dressing-room sources have indicated that Solskjaer no longer has the trust of a number of players, opinions that have hardened over a dreadful past week during which time United have conceded 11 goals in three games and looked hopelessly disorganised.

Solskjaer’s tactical acumen, selections, reluctance to make big decisions and indulgence of underperforming players and star names have all been called into question as results and performances have gone from bad to worse.

One dressing-room source said there was disbelief among some players that Solskjaer and his coaching staff had picked the same team to play against Liverpool who had been taken apart defensively in the first half against Atalanta in the Champions League four days earlier.

Solskjaer is understood to have been challenged by a number of players during frank exchanges before the Atalanta game, when United came from two goals down to win 3-2.

Eric Bailly is believed to have asked why the manager picked his fellow centre-half Harry Maguire to play in the 4-2 defeat at Leicester City a few days earlier, despite the captain being unfit after three weeks out with a calf injury.

Maguire endured a miserable game but kept his place for Atalanta and Liverpool, when he committed more glaring individual errors.

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