Odds against Ole, but there’s a silver lining: Richard Buxton
Under the Norwegian, United have done well in derbies and there's CR7's potency
Everything that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer touches lately seems to fall apart.
Microphones refused to stand on ceremony for Manchester United's manager as much as his own players in the aftermath of their Champions League 2-2 draw with Atalanta on Tuesday.
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Video clips of the Norwegian's "mic drop" scenes in Bergamo have been circulating online. It is a fitting metaphor for his Old Trafford tenure; no matter how he tries to prop things up, they still have a habit of conspiring against him.
But technical difficulties are the least of the beleaguered manager's troubles, as the 20-time English champions head into tomorrow's Manchester Derby both in wildly inconsistent form and with Raphael Varane sidelined by injury and Paul Pogba continuing to serve his suspension.
A never-ending boom and slump sequence, which has seen the Red Devils pick up just one win in their last five EPL outings, leaves Solskjaer perennially teetering on the brink.
Things cannot conceivably get any worse at this stage.
Potential redemption, however, presents itself in a showdown with City that can double as a palette cleanser for the baby-faced assassin.
Solskjaer's record against the "noisy neighbours" maintains a rare modicum of creditability for what will soon be a full three years in the United hot seat under various guises.
Out of eight Manchester Derbies in all competitions since 2019, he has masterminded victories over Pep Guardiola's men four times and lost thrice.
City's comprehensive 4-1 dismantling of Club Brugge in the Champions League yesterday morning (Singapore time) leaves them requiring only a solitary point, from their remaining two group fixtures, to secure a place in the knockout stage of Europe's elite club competition.
United, meanwhile, unconvincingly top Group F on the same number of points as Villarreal and remain heavily indebted to Cristiano Ronaldo for keeping their round-of-16 hopes alive.
In three successive continental encounters, the evergreen Portugal international has stepped up to snatch respectability from the jaws of defeat during the final minutes.
Ronaldo's late heroics are the trade-off for United's begrudging acceptance that he will largely coast through matches, actively shirking the team's pressing responsibilities, all while disrupting the balance and cohesion of what should be a finely tuned attack.
As a serial Champions League winner and their elder statesman, the 36-year-old can justifiably claim he has earned the right to dictate how, and when, his genius manifests.
That sheer unpredictability is why Guardiola's plan to shackle what he deems to be "one of the greatest players in history" at the Theatre of Dreams threatens to unravel in the same way that City's pursuit of Ronaldo did late on in the summer transfer window.
He had earmarked the five-time Ballon d'Or winner as the most viable solution to a Sergio Aguero-shaped hole up front - after Harry Kane's failed move - but United ultimately gazumped their local rivals to his signature at the 11th hour.
Beyond Ronaldo's exploits, Solskjaer's side are still beset by fallibility as proven by a porous defence which will be further diminished by Varane's expected month-long layoff and a midfield axis that has yet to evolve beyond a fast food-inspired nickname.
Yet United have consistently shown they are at their most dangerous when prematurely written off.
A likely repeat tomorrow will allow Solskjaer to deliver a rare mic drop.
It might not save him in the long run but clinging to marginal gains is all he has left now.