Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's job is safe - even if Manchester United's season goes from bad to worse
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer retains the full support of the Manchester United hierarchy despite growing concerns over whether he is the right man to manage the club.
Ed Woodward, the executive vice-chairman, remains convinced that Solskjaer is turning the club around and, according to sources, is prepared to take the pain of another difficult season, if it comes to that, because he thinks the "project" will ultimately reap its reward.
Solskjaer signed a three-year contract in March after succeeding Jose Mourinho, initially as caretaker, when he was sacked in December 2018 and oversaw a run of 14 wins in 19 matches, transforming the atmosphere around the club.
However, after beating Paris St-Germain in the last 16 of the Champions League at the beginning of March, Solskjaer has endured a sequence of 19 games with just five victories, losing 10, including Sunday's dispiriting defeat at West Ham United that left his side in eighth place in the table and already 10 points behind leaders Liverpool.
In the league, United have collected just 16 points from a possible 45 and have not won away from home in all competitions since that night in Paris.
Questions are being asked by pundits and supporters over Solskjaer's management while, tellingly, there has been concern expressed privately by some players in recent weeks at the perception of uninspiring and old-fashioned coaching that has been taking place on the training ground.
In Solskjaer's favour is the acceptance that the squad need an extensive rebuild, which was started in the summer with the signings of Harry Maguire, for £85m, Aaron Wan-Bissaka (£50m) and Daniel James (£15m) and that this may take time.
That was another significant investment, with the club also prepared to sign a replacement striker during the last window, with Romelu Lukaku sold to Inter Milan and Alexis Sanchez going to the Italian club on loan.
However, although United explored the possibility of deals for either of the Juventus pair of Paulo Dybala and Mario Mandzukic, it is understood that Solskjaer said he would go with the forward options available to him. His squad looks remarkably thin following injuries to Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford, who, Solskjaer said, would be out "for a little while".
The England international had a scan yesterday to assess the extent of the damage to his groin as he pulled up against West Ham. It is hoped Mason Greenwood, 17, will return from tonsillitis to lead the line in the Carabao Cup tie at home to Rochdale tomorrow. After that, they are at home to Arsenal next Monday, with Martial expected to be back.
The strategy is to invest in youth and give opportunities to the likes of academy graduate Greenwood, with an acceptance that it will also take subsequent transfer windows to continue the changes that are needed to an underperforming squad.
United still look unbalanced, with six central defenders in the squad while Chris Smalling is also on loan at Roma. They have a one-paced midfield which looks short of creativity while Paul Pogba, who has been pushing to leave the club, is out injured.
It remains to be seen whether United are able to accept another difficult season but that appears to be the plan - as long as there are signs of progress and a "project" taking shape.
Woodward will address investors in a conference call today following the announcements of United's latest set of financial results, which are expected to reveal record annual revenues and again show that the club are performing far better off the pitch than on it.
United have already moved to reassure supporters that they remain committed to "competing for trophies at the highest level" and that success on the pitch comes before making money, even if it might take time. At a recent fans' forum, United insisted they were heading in the right direction.
"Everyone at the club, from the owners down, is focused on competing for and winning trophies at the highest level," a United spokesman said. "To do that we have invested heavily in the playing squad and will continue to do so.
"At the same time, the exciting pool of talent coming through from our youth and academy sections is a result of increased investment in this area over the last five years.
"It's important to note that while our successful commercial operation helps drive that investment, the priority is the focus on achieving success on the pitch."
One of the players Solskjaer is pinning his hopes on is Scott McTominay, 22, who said after the West Ham defeat that the message from the manager was that he and his team-mates needed to take greater responsibility.
"We know we all need to do more on and off the ball," the midfielder said.
"It's up to us. With all the leaders in the group, we need to bring everyone together and keep our heads. It's not the time to back down and say, 'This is OK.' It's not OK! We need to do more on and off and pitch.
"The manager has reiterated that, how it's about the standards of this club and they weren't there. It's sickening when you come in and that's the result. It's so tough to take and it's difficult as well for all our fans, who were unbelievable all game. Unfortunately, we didn't send them back with three points."