Eight Man United stars who got worse under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as Cristiano Ronaldo call costly

In time, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will be remembered for that goal again and, for a decent man whose love for Manchester United always shone brightly, that seems about right.

There was certainly no joy in seeing him as a lightning rod for fans’ anger, or comfort in watching this unfailingly polite man crushed and exposed time and time again.

But as a manager his three years at the helm of the most powerful club in the world will go down as a failure for all the positive spin United’s board tried to put on it after sacking him yesterday.

Solskjaer restored pride to the club after the toxicity of Jose Mourinho and there were some notable nights on his watch. It has not been a dull three years.

But he never had a strong enough idea of how he wanted his team to play or the authority to challenge a board who continue to make bafflingly bad footballing decisions.

His signings have been hit and miss, but the more damning charge is that good players have gone backwards under him.

Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Marcus Rashford, Harry Maguire, Donny van de Beek, Paul Pogba, Anthony Martial, Fred and possibly even Mason Greenwood. The list goes on.

Solskjaer may look back and believe his biggest mistake was to accept the imposition of Cristiano Ronaldo, whose arrival upset pre-season planning with regard to Edinson Cavani and put his best player last season, Bruno Fernandes, in the shade.

Yet if that arrival can be pinpointed as the moment things started to unravel the board and Ed Woodward must take their share of blame.

Indeed, it is a good job the departing executive vice-chairman is good at the commercial side of things because his decisions on footballing matters have been nothing short of disastrous.

Just three months ago Woodward gave Solskjaer a new contract like he had done with Mourinho before reaching for the axe – a decision which resulted in a £19.6million pay-off.

The money has flowed in and rushed out at United with a near £400m spend on their current squad including £133m this summer – the second most expensive ever assembled.

And Solskjaer never demanded a quality midfielder, Jude Bellingham slipping through his fingers to go to Germany and Declan Rice staying at West Ham.

A midfield built from parts including Scott McTominay, Fred, Nemanja Matic, Pogba and Juan Mata was never strong enough to compete with the best.

If Solskjaer has been let down by a set of players lately there is a sense they have just grown tired of having to bale him out.

In his time there have been 19 occasions when they have come from behind to win starting with Southampton in March 2019 and most recently when scorching back from 2-0 down to win 3-2 against Atalanta.

After the first of those Solskjaer said it was “just like the old days” but the adrenaline-fuelled nostalgia trip was unsustainable long term finally running out of track.

Solskjaer’s devotion to Sir Alex Ferguson appeared to dictate his approach to hands-off coaching and also smother chance of a methodology of his own emerging.

Where Thomas Tuchel, Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp have imposed their style on a dressing room, it is still hard to put your finger on what the Solskjaer model is three years on.

Defeats against Liverpool, Manchester City and Watford certainly showed what it had become – performances devoid of spirit, organisation and effort. And for that a good man had to go.