Sources: Ole in limbo as Man Utd split on Conte


Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is being allowed to continue as Manchester United manager but has been told his job is still very much under threat, sources told ESPN, amid disagreements at board level over the potential hire of Antonio Conte.

Solskjaer was involved in discussions with executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward and managing director Richard Arnold on Monday, 24 hours after the humiliating 5-0 defeat to Liverpool at Old Trafford, but the day ended with the 48-year-old still in the job. However, ESPN has been told that the Solskjaer’s fate is almost certain to be sealed during the forthcoming international break unless he can oversee positive results against Tottenham, Atalanta and Manchester City.

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Conte has made it known he would be willing to take over but sources told ESPN that there are varying degrees of enthusiasm at board level for hiring the former Juventus, Chelsea and Inter Milan coach.

There is a feeling among some high-level figures that handing the job to Conte, a title winner in both England and Italy, would go against the club’s “cultural reboot” that has heavily influenced decision-making since the departure of Jose Mourinho in December 2018.

Sources close to Solskjaer expect him to remain in charge for Saturday’s trip to Tottenham but he has been given no guarantees beyond that. Solskjaer’s coaching team is also under heavy scrutiny, with sources adding there was no appetite to remove the manager and install one of his backroom team on an interim basis until a permanent successor is identified.

Heavy defeats to Leicester and Liverpool have prompted some players to lose faith in Solskjaer but one problem facing the board is a lack of alternatives.

The top three candidates identified in 2018 — Mauricio Pochettino, Thomas Tuchel and Julian Nagelsmann — are all now settled in jobs with Paris Saint-Germain, Chelsea and Bayern Munich. Pochettino especially retains support within the United hierarchy, but only signed a one-year contract extension at PSG in July and is unlikely to be a straightforward appointment if Solskjaer leaves.

Sources told ESPN that former Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane would not be interested if the job became available.

A number of staff members involved in United’s succession planning want time to assess their options before making a final decision on Solskjaer’s future.

The former Molde and Cardiff boss was handed a three-year contract in the summer and the pace at which this season has unravelled has caught many at United by surprise.

After winning three of their first four games, Solskjaer’s team have lost five of their last nine and conceded nine goals in their last two Premier League games. They have not won a league game since the 2-1 victory over West Ham on Sept. 19 and are seventh in the table, eight points behind leaders Chelsea.

United travel to Tottenham on Saturday before a Champions League trip to Atalanta on Tuesday. Champions Manchester City are the visitors to Old Trafford four days later in United’s last game before the November international break. The ideal scenario for United is for Solskjaer to win all three games and banish the crisis engulfing the club, but if another defeat is forthcoming, the time afforded by the decision to keep him at the helm this week will enable a plan to be drawn up in the event of a change being necessary.

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