Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has revealed that he told his Manchester United side that he suspected he was going to be sacked midway through his final match at the club. The Norwegian bowed out after a 4-1 defeat at the hands of Watford in November 2021 following a run of poor results that saw the pressure mount on his shoulders.
The Red Devils made a great start to the 2021/22 season but soon hit an unrecoverable slump that proved decisive in Solskjaer’s career. Five defeats in seven games saw the club legend sacked by Ed Woodward, with a 5-0 loss at the hands of Liverpool and a 2-0 defeat to Manchester City both proving decisive moments.
Solskjaer was ordered to pack his bags after United lost 4-1 to Watford at Vicarage Road, with two late goals from Joao Pedro and Emmanuel Dennis the final nails in the coffin for the ex-Cardiff boss. The Red Devils headed into the half-time break two goals behind, with Donny van de Beek halving the deficit after the interval.
United looked set to bounce back before Harry Maguire was sent off in the 69th minute, with Watford taking full advantage late on. Despite the late rally, Solskjaer suspected that he would be sacked when watching on from the sidelines, going as far as telling his squad of such during a heartfelt half-time team talk.
Speaking to The Athletic, he explained: “Nobody told me, but I knew at half-time against Watford (a 4-1 defeat in November 2021). We didn’t look like a Man United team; the players weren’t running for each other. At half-time, I told the players it was probably going to be the last time we worked together and to play with pride. We almost turned it around, until Harry Maguire got sent off.”
Solskjaer also felt that the Watford match was when he began to realise that the fanbase was not truly behind him, continuing: “Apart from Watford away, I can’t remember any negativity at games, bar the odd comment. At Watford, I went to the away end after and remember thinking, ‘I really don’t have the backing of all of them’.
“Bruno (Fernandes) was there too, but I knew I was finished. The 4-1 looked awful, but it was 2-1 after 90 minutes. We conceded two more. I understand how fans felt — 4-1 is 4-1.”
Woodward was tasked with giving Solskjaer the bad news, in what proved to be an incredibly emotional day for Solskjaer – who took the time to address every part of the club before exiting for the very last time.
He said: “I got a text message the next morning from Ed Woodward saying he needed to see me in his office at Carrington. That was pretty hard when you’ve been at the club for 18 years with all those good and bad times.
“I’d had lots of backing and good times with Ed. He’d given me the chance and for that, I’ll always be grateful. I dropped my family at the airport before the text arrived. After the text, I told my wife that I might be back in Norway before her. It was an emotional day.
“Very emotional. I didn’t think it would be, but it was like leaving your family. I wanted to speak to all the players and say goodbye. I spoke to the coaches and the staff. Then I went back to an empty house.”