A defiant Ole Gunnar Solskjær insisted he remains the best manager for Manchester United and is not considering leaving his position despite their 5-0 home humiliation by Liverpool on what he described as his darkest day in charge.
United trailed 4-0 at half-time on Sunday for the first time in the Premier League era following goals from Naby Keïta, Diogo Jota and two from Mohamed Salah. The players were booed off at the interval and when the Egyptian became the first visiting player to score a league hat-trick at United since 1991, soon after the restart, some supporters left. To make matters worse Paul Pogba was later shown a straight red card for a lunge on Keïta, who was taken off on a stretcher.
Solskjær, when asked why he had no doubts he is still the man to take United forward, said: “I have come too far, we have come too far as a group. We are too close to give up now.” The Norwegian said he would not consider resigning. “I do believe in myself, I do believe that I am getting close to what I want with the club, what we’ve done, what I’ve seen, the development,” he said. “[True] the results lately haven’t been good enough, it’s hands up and that brings doubt in anyone’s mind probably, but I’ve got to keep strong and believe in what we’re doing.
“Today’s rock bottom [and we’re] low in confidence. Next week is Tottenham away, then it’s a Champions League game at Atalanta and the next team who visits us is Manchester City. We have to make sure we go into the next training session in the right frame of mind.”
The result was Liverpool’s best ever victory at United, and their highest at Old Trafford or Anfield since 1925, with the Merseyside club only once before beating them by a greater margin – in 1895. United have taken only one point from the last 12 and lost five of nine matches.
“ “It is not easy to say something apart from that it is the darkest day I have had leading these players,” Solskjær added.
“We were not good enough individually and as a team we can’t give a team like Liverpool those chances but we did. I am sad, disappointed and angry of course. My emotion doesn’t matter apart from what we do to improve and make sure it doesn’t happen.
“This could go either way, we could sulk or we could come together. The whole performance was not good enough. We created openings, they had chances and they have been clinical. The third goal decided the game. We know we are rock bottom, we can’t feel any worse than this. Let’s see where we take it. You can look at last season when we lose to Spurs 6-1: this is worse, miles worse. This is miles worse for me as a Manchester [United] lad. I’ve got to say we have to get over this as quickly as we can.”
Solskjær took sole blame for the defeat. “It is mine, that is it,” he said. “The coaching staff are brilliant. I chose the way we approached the game, we were not clinical enough and gave too much space and when you give good players space they score. We are at home, playing against Liverpool, over the last two and a half years we have had a similar approach to high press.”
The United defender Harry Maguire struck a similarly disconsolate tone, saying: “We apologise to the fans, it was nowhere near good enough for this club. They stuck with us right to the end and we appreciate that but as a club we have to do better.”
Jürgen Klopp was understandably delighted. “The result is insane, I asked if there was one like this in history and if there isn’t then it will take a while [to digest],” the Liverpool manager said. “The players put a nice piece [chapter] in the book. It is special but we don’t celebrate like crazy, we have respect for the opponents.
“We were lucky in some moments, United are not in their best moment. What can I say? Did I expect that? No. What we did in the last third was insane. Pressing high, winning balls, and scored wonderful goals.”
Salah now has 12 goals in 15 games this season. “He enjoys his football and long may it continue,” said Klopp, who said that James Milner had suffered a hamstring injury. The extent of Keïta’s injury will be known in the next day or so.