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Friday November 26th, 2021 6:10PM

Manchester United fires manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

By The Associated Press
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LONDON (AP) — Manchester United fired Ole Gunnar Solskjaer after three years as manager on Sunday after a fifth loss in seven Premier League games.

“Ole will always be a legend at Manchester United and it is with regret that we have reached this difficult decision,” United said a day after a 4-1 loss to Watford.

Former midfielder Michael Carrick, who was on Solskjaer's coaching staff will be in temporary charge, starting with a trip to Spain for a Champions League match at Villarreal in the group stage on Monday. United said it would look to then appoint a manager only until the end of the season.

Solskjaer’s future has hung in the balance before but he has finally lost his job at the club where he was adored as a player, notably for scoring the dramatic late winner in the 1999 Champions League final. He couldn’t replicate that success as a manager, failing to win a single trophy.

“While the past few weeks have been disappointing, they should not obscure all the work he has done over the past three years to rebuild the foundations for long-term success,” United said. "Ole leaves with our sincerest thanks for his tireless efforts as manager and our very best wishes for the future.

“His place in the club’s history will always be secure, not just for his story as a player, but as a great man and a manager who gave us many great moments. He will forever be welcome back at Old Trafford as part of the Manchester United family. ”

Coming after chastening losses to fierce rivals Liverpool (5-0) and Manchester City (2-0) in the last month, Solskjaer said he was “embarrassed” after United's lackluster performance at Watford but insisted after the game he still could turn things around at the club.

Recent results suggested otherwise. The team is seventh in the Premier League, already 12 points behind leader Chelsea after 12 games.

That's far from good enough for a team that finished second last season and was supposed to challenge for the title after adding superstar Cristiano Ronaldo in the offseason along with the $100-million signing of England international Jadon Sancho.

Solskjaer, who played for United from 1996-2007 under Alex Ferguson, was hired as caretaker manager to replace Jose Mourinho in December 2018 and was handed the job permanently after a promising start at Old Trafford, having rediscovered some of the team's attacking verve and bringing calmness after a toxic ending to Mourinho's tenure.

United finished third and second in the last two seasons in the Premier League, suggesting the team was heading in the right direction under Solskjaer. However, the regression has been stark this season and he leaves as a nostalgia appointment gone wrong, his tactical limitations clearly apparent and the team's inconsistent performances leading to ever-present doubts among some fans and critics about his pedigree as a manager.

Those doubts only grew louder in recent weeks — especially after the collapse at Watford.

The Norwegian had been able to ride out previous stretches of underperformance, in part because of his popularity with fans as a former striker who took on legendary status because of his ability to come off the bench to score crucial winners.

But even the traveling United fans seemed to turn against him when he came over to applaud them after the Watford game.

___

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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