Ole Gunnar Solskjaer tasted defeat for the first time in his 12-game reign as Manchester United’s interim boss when Paris St Germain handed out a Champions League lesson at Old Trafford.
A run of 10 wins and one draw before that reverse had prompted popular calls for him to be installed as Jose Mourinho’s permanent replacement, and his chances could rest on what United do over the remainder of the season.
Here, Football Paradise takes a look Solskjaer’s next seven games and the role they could play in that decision.
February 18: Chelsea (a), FA Cup fifth round
United have an opportunity to extend their pursuit of a 13th FA Cup success when they head for Stamford Bridge, where they were denied a league victory by Ross Barkley’s late equaliser in October. However, they will face a Blues side still smarting from a 6-0 drubbing on the blue side of Manchester on Sunday and desperate to make amends as they return to domestic action following their Europa League clash with Malmo.
February 24: Liverpool (h), Premier League
Denting Liverpool’s title hopes would prove hugely popular with the Red Devils’ fan-base and underline the improvement United have made under Solskjaer. The men from Merseyside hammered the final nail into Mourinho’s coffin with a 3-1 victory at Anfield on December 16 thanks to a late double from substitute Xherdan Shaqiri.
February 27: Crystal Palace (a), Premier League
Solskjaer launched his spell at the helm with an inviting run of fixtures, and a trip to Crystal Palace, who currently sit just three points clear of the relegation zone, could prove welcome after games against PSG, Chelsea and Liverpool. However, the Eagles battled their way to a goalless draw in the reverse fixture in November which came 13 days after a 3-1 derby defeat at Manchester City.
March 2: Southampton (h), Premier League
Southampton’s need is even greater than that of Palace as they attempt to drag themselves out of relegation trouble despite proving significantly more difficult to beat under new manager Ralph Hasenhuttl. United had to fight their way back from 2-0 down at St Mary’s Stadium to draw 2-2 courtesy of goals from Romelu Lukaku and Ander Herrera in December, and the Saints emerged from their last trip to Old Trafford with a 0-0 stalemate.
March 6: Paris St Germain (a), Champions League last 16, second leg
Solskjaer’s men will run out at the Parc des Princes facing an uphill task to make it to the quarter-finals and without rejuvenated midfielder Paul Pogba, who will be suspended following his red card in the first leg. Goals from Presnel Kimpembe and Kylian Mbappe handed PSG a near-decisive lead to defend and the odds will be heavily stacked against United in Paris.
March 10: Arsenal (a), Premier League
The Norwegian has already managed to get the better of Arsenal having guided his side to a 3-1 FA Cup fourth round victory at the Emirates Stadium on January 25. Indeed, United are unbeaten in four games in all competitions against the Gunners and have emerged victorious from their last two trips to North London.
March 16: Manchester City (h), Premier League
Derby victory would go much of the way towards cementing Solskjaer’s vaunted status among his club’s fans in a fixture which matters more than most. City have won four of the last nine league clashes with United claiming three, although they have triumphed in only one of the last four encounters on home soil.