Neil Humphreys: Solskjaer must prove his worth now
Norwegian will be judged on how he improves players' fitness, restore side's balance in midfield and defence, and deal with Pogba enigma
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer loves to smile, so much so that he's often a weird cross between Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone and Hannibal Lecter.
Like a baby-faced serial killer, his smile makes him hard to read. Whatever the result, he's still grinning after the game, which brings to mind Leonardo da Vinci's famous remark about adversity.
I love those who can smile in trouble. Da Vinci would've loved Solskjaer after the Wolverhampton Wanderers defeat, considering he was still smiling after a troubling result.
United were awful in their FA Cup quarter-final loss, trailing their opponents in goals, shots on target and every other meaningful stat in a performance that was as poor as anything under Jose Mourinho.
Ed Woodward watched from on high. The vice-chairman turned up at the Molineux, presumably expecting another heady cup triumph following United's exploits in Paris.
But he ended up witnessing a second defeat in a week.
First, Arsenal in the English Premier League and then Wolves in the FA Cup, the Red Devils are wobbling. The honeymoon is obviously over, but Woodward might see an unexpected silver lining here.
The elixir of life, post-Mourinho, carried Solskjaer's United up the table and into the quarter-finals of the Champions League, as if Solskjaer's greatest attribute was simply not being Mourinho.
He wasn't the Messiah, just a very nice boy after all that Portuguese nastiness, which may be a simplistic interpretation of a turnaround that inspired a long, unbeaten run (United have lost only three of Solskjaer's 19 games).
But the perverse side of Woodward will see the value of the post-honeymoon period, allowing him and the Glazers to adopt a "wait-and-see" approach.
Like a hotshot pilot, Solskjaer pulled off plenty of eye-catching manoeuvres, but now he's taken a couple of hits, there's a chance to see if he can hold off larger, experienced fleets for the rest of the campaign.
Arsenal's Unai Emery and Tottenham Hotspur's Mauricio Pochettino have been there before. Solskjaer hasn't - apart from his relegation battle with Cardiff, which he lost.
With the international break, United do not play again for a fortnight, giving everyone at the club a chance to take stock of Solskjaer's giddying achievements, but also to acknowledge the recent setbacks.
Cooler heads should prevail when analysing their losses, particularly at Wolves, where United threw away their greatest shot at silverware.
After an injury crisis that essentially cut his squad in half, Solskjaer threw in most of his returning first-teamers, choosing to ignore a couple of potential drawbacks.
First, they clearly weren't match fit. Anthony Martial was anonymous in his first start for a month and stuttered through his ordeal for a full 90 minutes.
Jesse Lingard and Ander Herrera's ring-rustiness also quickly became apparent as Wolves dominated in midfield.
Solskjaer didn't remove either until it was too late. Their replacements were the other cause for concern.
Few Red Devils had encapsulated the Solskjaer effect quite like Andreas Pereira and Scott McTominay. The unassuming pair had slipped down the pecking order and were used as Band-Aids as the injuries piled up. But they excelled.
Pereira inspired the comeback victory against Southampton and McTominay turned the Parisians into paupers at the Parc des Princes.
McTominay was the ideal candidate for an FA Cup scrap against Wolves' in-form five across midfield, but his manager played safe. Solskjaer went for the tried and tested and ended up with the tired and untested.
United's fitness problems were a thorn in Mourinho's side, with accusations that his squad was being over-trained and over-coached into sterile subservience, and the two-week break can't come soon enough for Solskjaer.
But the Norwegian still opted to send out three players in Martial, Herrera and Lingard, who were not match-ready and left fitter, in-form alternatives on the bench.
To muddy the waters further, Paul Pogba picked United's most inept showing under Solskjaer to follow suit, offering his coach a first glimpse of the peripheral performer that drove Mourinho to distraction.
So Solskjaer's greatest challenge comes now as he seeks to improve fitness, restore the side's balance in midfield and defence and deal with the Pogba enigma. He inherited many of these issues, of course, but his employers will be curious to see how he addresses his first setback.
Solskjaer will no longer be compared to Mourinho's record, but to his own. He must spend the rest of the season proving that his honeymoon was no fluke.