Manchester United went into November’s international break on the back of a 2-0 home defeat to Manchester City.
After guiding his side to a four-match winless streak in the Premier League, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer dropped his preferred 4-2-3-1 formation against Tottenham Hotspur.
A switch to a 3-5-2 set-up paid dividends as the Red Devils hammered Spurs 3-0 in north London to accelerate Nuno Espirito Santo’s departure from the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
Solskjaer did himself a huge favour by pushing the-ex Wolverhampton Wanderers strategist to the exit door, with Antonio Conte appointed as his replacement.
The Italian, who severed ties with Inter Milan in the summer, was one of the leading candidates to take over the managerial reins at Old Trafford if the Norwegian was sacked.
While Conte is now out of the picture, there is a feeling that the 48-year-old remains in Manchester on borrowed time.
In the absence of high-profile solutions, the Red Devils could be forced to stick with the under-pressure Solskjaer, although the next four matches may provide a definitive answer on the former striker’s future.
Only time will tell whether the international break only delayed the inevitable or Solskjaer managed to find the formula to get Man United’s season back on the rails.
Watford – Premier League – November 20
Solskjaer’s first attempt to regain the board’s confidence pits his United side against newly-promoted Watford at Vicarage Road.
Considering what’s coming next, the Hornets represent a winnable task, especially given Watford’s form wobble in the Premier League.
Claudio Ranieri’s men have lost four of their previous five top-flight matches, including a pair of 1-0 defeats to Arsenal and Southampton in the last two rounds.
Only a victory will do the trick for Solskjaer, as another failed attempt to capture the three points could kick the Red Devils out of the title race already in November.
Villarreal – Champions League – November 23
While United’s recent showings in the Premier League have invited plenty of criticism, their European performances remain a rare shining light this term.
Since losing 2-1 at Young Boys in their Champions League curtain-raiser, the Red Devils have won two of their subsequent three Group F games (D1).
However, Solskjaer has Cristiano Ronaldo to thank for steering United out of trouble, with the Portuguese ace single-handedly catapulting the Old Trafford outfit to the top of the section.
The Norwegian will need the Champions League all-time leading scorer to bring his A-game to the table when United meet Villarreal at La Ceramica.
Another success in Spain would all but cement United’s place in the Champions League knockout stage, which could play a pivotal role in Solskjaer’s hopes of retaining his job.
Chelsea – Premier League – November 28
United’s last Premier League match in November pits them against the current top-flight pacesetters Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.
The Red Devils have faltered in the last two domestic derbies. They followed a 5-0 thrashing to Liverpool up with the aforementioned loss to City.
Regardless of what happens in the Champions League, another underwhelming result in a Premier League derby could be inconceivable.
Solskjaer can ill-afford to underperform in another high-stake affair, having already been utterly outclassed by Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola this season.
Unfortunately for Solskjaer, Thomas Tuchel has turned Stamford Bridge into a fortress, which could make his life in London immensely difficult.
Arsenal – Premier League – December 2
Not long ago, Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta was one of the most under-pressure managers in the Premier League, but he has turned his fortunes around in spectacular fashion.
The Gunners’ three-game losing start to this Premier League season now looks like a remote memory, with Arteta’s side going unbeaten in their last eight league fixtures in a row.
Maybe the Spaniard could give Solskjaer some tips on how to drag his team out of trouble.
At the same time, Arteta, who has seemingly had Solskjaer’s number, could put the final nail in the Norwegian’s coffin.
In addition to holding him winless in all five managerial H2Hs in the Premier League, the Spanish strategist has kept United goalless on four occasions in that time.
Read: Manchester United players on international duty.
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