The Daily Sun
IT is no longer a matter of whether Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has the competence to manage an elite football club.
It is now a case of whether the Manchester United boss has any self-awareness – or shame.
Nobody tends to do the decent thing and resign any more – not in politics, in football, or anywhere else in life.
But given that United’s board are adamant they will not sack the Norwegian, there must surely come a time soon when Solskjaer can no longer find the brass neck to stand in his technical area any longer.
This was utterly brutal, utterly humiliating – and utterly predictable as Liverpool ran riot with four first-half goals, Mo Salah completed a 12-minute hat-trick and Paul Pogba a 15-minute red-card.
Solskjaer was mocked mercilessly and constantly by a gleeful travelling support as United suffered a defeat even more painfully convincing than the 6-1 defeat inflicted by Mario Balotelli and Manchester City a decade ago this week.
The United boss had opted for ‘caution’ by starting with two holding midfielders and leaving Pogba on the bench – yet his team were repeatedly torn to shreds by their bitter rivals as Klopp’s men ran amok.
It was a personal horror show for captain Harry Maguire – conspicuous at the scene of all five goals and who seems to have been rushed back from injury in indecent haste for a week in which United have conceded 11 goals.
Not that any of the rest of the United defence were much better.
Liverpool were wonderful and they will contest a three-horse race for the Premier League title against Chelsea and Manchester City, which United might have joined with a proper manager in place.
United great Paul Scholes had predicted this, even after a second-half comeback papered over cracks in a 3-2 Champions League victory over Atalanta in midweek.
United had actually managed to create the first clear chance of the match when their front four all combined in a flowing move, Mason Greenwood releasing Bruno Fernandes, who blazed over.
Yet Liverpool went straight down the other end and scored after just five minutes, Roberto Firmino and Salah roaming through a frozen United defence and Naby Keita applying the finishing touch.
The second, on 14 minutes, started with a crossfield pass from Andy Robertson which Maguire and Luke Shaw both went for, both missed, allowing Keita to find Trent Alexander-Arnold who crossed for Diogo Jota to tap home.
Ronaldo shot over, Shaw drilled just wide and Greenwood forced Alisson into a decent save and yet every time Liverpool attacked, you felt they would score.
There was an air of panic around Old Trafford – every time De Gea tried to play the ball out from the back, the Stretford End begged him not to, with Klopp’s men in pack-of-dogs mode.
Naby Keita opened the scoring for Liverpool in the fifth minute. Diogo Jota doubled his side’s lead eight mintues later.
And seven minutes before the break, Salah joined in – the Egyptian having a shot blocked by Maguire, who, along with the rest of the defence, failed to move, allowing Keita to square for Salah to side-foot in at the near post.
First-half injury-time didn’t go well for United, either. Ronaldo dodged a red card for kicking out at a prone Curtis Jones and Fred escaped with a yellow for a high boot which almost took Keita’s head off.
And then it was 4-0 – Firmino embarrassing Maguire again with a turn and Jota centring for Salah to net at the near post.
There were not so much boos as howls of derision at half-time.
Solskjaer sent on Pogba for Greenwood but after Fernandes was booked for kicking Jones up in the air, Henderson played a gorgeous through-ball and Maguire ran through treacle as Salah sauntered through to slot past De Gea.
Ronaldo cut inside and curled one inside the far post but, out of nowhere, VAR judged him offside – leading to the loudest roar of the day from the Liverpool end.
Pogba had been on for just 15 minutes when he committed an ugly high-speed over-the-top challenge on Keita – which ended with both victim and culprit leaving the pitch, Pogba sent off by Anthony Taylor, via a VAR intervention and Keita carried off on a stretcher.
The level of crowing reached fever pitch as the Scousers serenaded Solskjaer with mocking versions of ‘Ole’s at the wheel’, ‘Ole most stay’ and ‘Ole gissa wave’.
Mercifully for United, Klopp’s men eased up and ‘declared’ against ten men half an hour from time – they clearly don’t fancy Solskjaer leaving any time soon.