Richard Buxton: Squeaky bum time, Solskjaer
Career on the line as United manager faces hectic run of games, including matches with heavyweights
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's yearning to emulate Sir Alex Ferguson could soon reach new levels.
His mentor famously declared Arsenal's pile-up of difficult fixtures in 2003 as "squeaky bum time".
Little did he know that history would come full circle in the Manchester United hot seat.
Solskjaer may be far away from the midst of an English Premier League title race, but the principles of Ferguson's immortal phrase remain following the Red Devils' 0-0 stalemate in their FA Cup third-round tie with Wolverhampton Wanderers yesterday morning (Singapore time).
If they advance to the FA Cup fourth round, which is scheduled on the weekend of Jan 25, they will have eight games in 25 days.
The run begins with the first leg of their League Cup semi-final against Manchester City in the early hours of Wednesday.
Given the abject nature of his side's display, an Old Trafford replay against Nuno Espirito Santo's side appeared charitable to the Norwegian despite the reality proving otherwise.
If the 20-time English champions produce a similar fare to what was served up beneath the floodlights at Molineux, Solskjaer will be lucky to still find himself in employment this summer.
Zero shots on target is damning in itself but even more so after a cursory glance at United's fixtures between now and February's midway stage.
Besides the League Cup double-header with City, they also face trips to Liverpool and Chelsea in the EPL, while Wolves will be visiting the Theatre of Dreams twice in the space of three weeks.
This hectic run of fixtures would not have fazed Ferguson's teams of old.
As masters in the art of winning, no matter what competition or circumstances, they always rose to the challenge.
But Solskjaer is not exactly cut from the same cloth as the man he continues to idolise.
Ferguson administered the hairdryer treatment, while his modern successor opts for endearment.
Little wonder, then, that United are now widely perceived as being a soft touch on the pitch.
It has been a steady decline since Ferguson called time on proceedings seven years ago.
A succession of ill-suited replacements eroded the steely facade that he had once built up.
That the man whose only prior EPL experience was in relegating Cardiff City now presides over the remnants feels somewhat fitting if slightly unfair on the latest incumbent.
POOR WIN RECORD
Solskjaer is not the sole reason United have become soft-centred but, equally, has to take his fair share of responsibility with dismal numbers aligned to similarly poor on-field displays.
His win record since being appointed United manager on a permanent basis is currently three per cent worse off than the 30 per cent accrued across nine months with the Welsh outfit.
They disposed of him after just nine months at the helm. United will be slightly more lenient.
Nostalgia and geniality, however, will only keep Solskjaer out of the firing line for so long, especially with Mauricio Pochettino still out of work yet firmly in the Stretford End's thoughts.
A bruising departure from Tottenham Hotspur makes the Argentinian coach a risk but one which appears increasingly appealing than the convoluted mess being overseen by Solskjaer.
United supporters turned on Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho, justifiably, for far less than their 1999 Champions League-winning hero has served up over the previous 10 months alone.
More of the same will make it only a matter of time before their patience snaps with him too.
FA CUP 3RD-ROUND, SELECTED RESULTS:
Man City 4 Port Vale 1, Leicester City 2 Wigan 0, Watford 3 Tranmere 3, Fulham 2 Aston Villa 1, Preston 2 Norwich City 4, Burnley 4 Peterborough 2, Brighton 0 Sheffield Wednesday 1, Sheffield United 2 AFC Flyde 1, Crystal Palace 0 Derby 1