Manchester United captain Harry Maguire accepts the players must take responsibility for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s tenure as manager coming to an end.
Following Saturday’s humiliating 4-1 defeat at Watford, during which Maguire was sent off, it was confirmed on Sunday that Solskjaer’s reign as boss was over.
The Norwegian had arrived in December 2018 and steadied the ship initially after Jose Mourinho’s sacking, while he went on to preside over a second-place finish in the Premier League last term.
But after significant investment in pre-season, including the signings of Raphael Varane, Jadon Sancho and Cristiano Ronaldo, United have gone backwards – Saturday’s loss at Vicarage Road leaves them eighth in the Premier League with 17 points after 12 matches.
Solskjaer had routinely been criticised in the media for a perceived lack of tactical acumen, with a common perception being United were regularly bailed out by moments of individual inspiration rather than the team being great as a collective.
Individual quality seemingly was not enough this season, with United’s 21 goals conceded only exceeded by Norwich City and Newcastle United (27 each), and just Arsenal (four) committing more errors leading to goals than the Red Devils (three).
Solskjaer paid the price, but Maguire acknowledged the players have more than played their part in his downfall.
“It’s been really hard for us as players because of the amount of respect we have for the boss [Solskjaer] and the period he’s been here,” Maguire told reporters ahead of Tuesday’s Champions League tussle with Villarreal.
“We’ve been on a journey together and it’s never nice to see a man lose his job. We’ve shown as a group of lads how much we wanted to succeed.
“The result on Saturday wasn’t good enough but the recent results have ultimately not been good and it’s a result-based business. Unfortunately, Ole has paid the price for that and we [the players] have to take responsibility for that.”
Although United’s Champions League campaign has been far from straightforward, they do at least go to Villarreal at the top of Group F, level on seven points with the Yellow Submarine.
Michael Carrick, who was among Solskjaer’s coaching staff, will be in charge for at least that match and potentially more, until United appoint an interim manager to guide them through to the end of the season.
Now Maguire is urging the players to dig deep to put things right, concerned that their issues have been spiralling out of control.
“I think in football you go through ups and downs. As players, it’s probably the toughest time for you at club level,” he continued.
“The recent performances haven’t been good enough. When you’re not doing it collectively, the results show. It snowballs from one thing to another.
“We’ve got to find something within ourselves; we’ve got to move this club forward. We’ve got to find something within us to put in a performance.”
Whatever happens next, Solskjaer will be watching on as he would have prior to his return in 2018.
“Everybody’s got a huge amount of respect for Ole,” Maguire added. “He’s a legend of the club and he’ll always remain a legend here.
“One thing he said is that he’ll be supporting us and wanting us to win every game.”