Ole Gunnar Solskjaer enjoyed an incredible start when he took over as Manchester United caretaker boss but that form has deserted his team in recent weeks.
The Norwegian won 14 of his first 17 matches in charge but just two victories in the next 11 games and seven defeats have seen United finish the season on a low note, with Sunday’s 1-1 draw at relegated Huddersfield the latest in a litany of dire displays which ended their hopes of qualifying for the Champions League.
So what has gone wrong and where do Solskjaer’s United go from here? Press Association Sport takes a look.
Was Jose Mourinho right about Paul Pogba?
The World Cup winner had an uneasy relationship with Solskjaer’s predecessor Mourinho, who felt the midfielder was inconsistent and not fulfilling his potential.
When Solskjaer became manager, Pogba was the catalyst behind United’s revival, scoring nine goals in his first nine Premier League games in charge.
But Pogba is not performing anymore and has been largely anonymous in games during the last couple of months.
Is Romelu Lukaku fit?
No is the simple answer and it explains his lack of form this season. The striker scored 27 goals in all competitions during his debut campaign at Old Trafford.
He has often had the tendency to go missing in matches but you can forgive that when he is hitting the back of the net. But that has not been happening.
Since netting twice in Paris in United’s memorable Champions League comeback against Paris Saint-Germain on March 6, Lukaku has failed to score again.
His contribution has been worryingly below par and the Belgium international looks too bulky and muscular, which is affecting his ability to run. That can easily be remedied by a good pre-season under Solskjaer and at just 25, Lukaku’s prime years should still be ahead of him.
At least United can rely on David de Gea, right?
There is no doubt that the Spaniard is one of the finest goalkeepers in the world but his form recently has been alarming. Uncharacteristic errors are becoming more frequent and De Gea has been at fault for goals against Arsenal, Everton, Barcelona, Manchester City and Chelsea in the past two months.
Much has been made of his future being uncertain but he has lived with the rumours of Real Madrid’s interest for a few years now and still thrived. Solskjaer has stuck by De Gea and rightly so. Financially, it makes no sense to spend upwards of £60million on a new goalkeeper when you already have one of the world’s best.
They say form is temporary and class is permanent. Well, if that is the case, the money men at Old Trafford should make sure De Gea stays around for a long time yet.
Is there a case for the defence?
Mourinho made strengthening his central defensive options the priority during the summer transfer window. His list of targets reportedly included Toby Alderweireld, Harry Maguire, Diego Godin, Yerry Mina and Jerome Boateng.
But none of them arrived at Old Trafford. Senior sources at the club claimed the lack of transfer activity was not a question of money but value, with few defenders on the market considered an upgrade on Mourinho’s current crop – which he was able to guide to a second-placed finish in the Premier League last season and an FA Cup final.
However, United have conceded 52 Premier League goals this season, with one match still to be played. That is more than Wolves, Everton, Leicester, Crystal Palace and Newcastle.
United lack leadership and organisation at the back and if they are to improve next season and return to the top four in the Premier League then this must be addressed.
How can Solskjaer turn it around?
Despite the inconsistency of Pogba, Lukaku and De Gea, these remain top class players and along with the likes of Marcus Rashford, Jesse Lingard and Luke Shaw there is a platform from which Solskjaer can try to build.
But now he has got his feet under the table the scale of his task has become clear – United’s squad needs a huge overhaul in the summer. If they had managed to qualify for the Champions League this season, it would have papered over the cracks.
During Solskjaer’s five months at the helm there will be players who he feels have bought into how he wants to play and players who have drifted to the wayside.
Solskjaer needs to bring in his own players and put an identity on this United team and he needs to be given the money to do so. It will not be a quick-fix and it could take several transfer windows.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer admitted Manchester United were just not good enough after Sunday’s draw at Huddersfield ended their hopes of a top-four finish.
Isaac Mbenza cancelled out Scott McTominay’s first-half opener for United, who twice hit the crossbar through Paul Pogba.
The point left Solskjaer’s side four points behind fourth-placed Tottenham with one game left, with a sixth-place finish behind Arsenal appearing likely.
“Effort and attitude was not the problem,” Solskjaer said. “The players were running and trying. We just weren’t good enough. That is the problem.
“We could have, should have, played better. In the first half an hour they weren’t close to our box once. Today we had good periods, very bad periods. It has just caught up with us. It is a fair reflection, being sixth.”
United’s winless run was extended to five matches in all competitions and Solskjaer was left to rue several missed opportunities for them to rescue their season.
“We gave ourselves a chance to be in the Champions League, something we didn’t think was possible,” he said.
“We had so many opportunities to grab third or fourth. We weren’t able to. So it’s probably the right place for us, the Europa League, next year.
“And if (Manchester) City don’t win the FA Cup we’ll have a very early and bright start (in the) qualifiers for the Europa League and that just might make it even more difficult.”
Solskjaer was referring to the possibility of his side having to play in a Europa League qualifier should Watford beat City in the FA Cup final.
A Watford win at Wembley would send them straight into the Europa League group stage and leave United facing a qualifying match on July 25, the same day they are scheduled to play Tottenham in a pre-season friendly in Shanghai.
United started well, with McTominay giving them an eighth-minute lead with a low shot from the edge of the box that Huddersfield goalkeeper Jonas Lossl misjudged.
Lossl made amends by pushing Pogba’s header on to the crossbar shortly before half-time, but Huddersfield were allowed to force their way into the game in the second period.
Mbenza hauled Town level after racing on to Lossl’s long punt forward and firing between David De Gea’s legs.
Pogba hit the crossbar again in the closing stages with a shot from outside the area, but Huddersfield held on.
Solskjaer said his players were not letting him down, but were “a tired team”, while he refused to be despondent.
“You can use the Europa League as something positive as Chelsea and Arsenal have done this year and we did a couple of years ago when we won it.
“I’m an optimist by nature and you make the most of it. We have to make something positive out of it.”
Former captain Gary Neville says Ole Gunnar Solskjaer needs to “dismantle” his misfiring squad after Manchester United’s top-four tilt came to an end at Huddersfield.
The honeymoon period is well and truly over for the Norwegian, with United winning just two of their last 11 matches in all competitions.
That run saw their Champions League qualification hopes ended with a game to spare as United were held to a 1-1 draw at relegated Huddersfield.
Isaac Mbenza cancelled out Scott McTominay’s early goal as the Terriers capitalised on what furious former United defender Neville called an “awful” display.
The ex-skipper said there is “nothing about this United team I like at all” and said “they’re a despondent group of people” similar to the group Mauricio Pochettino inherited at Tottenham.
“This is not a team,” Neville said on Sky Sports. “The more I watch this it’s not a team. Do you know what it reminds me of?
“It reminds me of the Tottenham team that Mauricio Pochettino picked up. When it had (Emmanuel) Adebayor, (Younes) Kaboul, (Vlad) Chiriches and (Etienne) Capoue in midfield.
“A group of players that looked like individuals, nothing there, no real spirit and he dismantled it piece by piece and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer needs to dismantle this piece by piece.”
It was a scathing comment that underlines the task that Solskjaer faces ahead of an unwanted return to the Europa League next term.
“Solskjaer is smiling at them they’re that bad,” Neville added.
“Manchester United’s away support will never stop singing but this group of players have drained the energy out of them.
“(Executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward) had several (transfer windows) already so maybe it will be better this time.
“Ordinarily at this point in time you would say this is a real test for these Manchester United players, we will find out about them, but we already know.
“It’s just how they will do in this 25 minutes. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has got the job and they’ve just switched off haven’t they?
“They’ve just switched off – simple as that. There can be no other explanation.”