Sarri vs. Solskjaer: Chelsea and Man Utd futures could hinge on crucial run of games
One is trying to save his job while the other wants to secure his full-time
When Chelsea and Manchester United go head-to-head in the FA Cup on Monday evening it won’t just be the players and supporters hoping to see their club secure a huge result.
That’s because the fifth-round clash at Stamford Bridge marks the start of a crucial run of matches for both Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri and United caretaker boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
Following a run of poor results Sarri’s job is on the line at Chelsea while Solskjaer is bidding to become United’s next permanent manager.
Simon Johnson of the London Evening Standard explains: “The glamour tie of the fifth round gives both men a timely opportunity to prove to their employers why they should remain in charge.”
As well as cup encounters there’s also the small matter of the Premier League top four and Champions League qualification at stake for the duo.
Here we look at how the next run of matches could prove crucial for the futures of the rival managers.
Seven days for Sarri to save job
In recent weeks there has been huge speculation about Sarri’s future at Chelsea following the away defeats at Arsenal (2-0), Bournemouth (4-0) and Manchester City (6-0).
The Italian is under pressure to turn things around at the Bridge and according to the Daily Mail he has just seven days and three massive cup games to save his job.
First up is tonight’s FA Cup clash against United. Chelsea are the FA Cup holders after beating the Red Devils in the final in May last year and neither the fans, or the club’s owner Roman Abramovich, would want to lose their grip on the trophy.
On Thursday the Blues bring a 2-1 aggregate lead to west London when they host Malmo in the Uefa Europa League last-32 second leg. Then on Sunday, in what could be the biggest match of all this week, is a Wembley final against Manchester City in the Carabao Cup.
The Mail says the 60-year-old is hanging on to his job after just eight months in charge and there is “a feeling in the dressing room” he could be fired if Chelsea “fail to win at least one of this week’s games”.
Sarri’s assistant Gianfranco Zola has backed his boss and says he must have time. Zola told The Guardian: “I know there are questions about what we’re doing, a lot of doubts, but we are adapting to the league.
“But we don’t change what we believe is good for this club because, otherwise, we are nothing. What we’re trying to do is ambitious in a competitive league, and it’s not easy. But we believe it’s the right way and we carry on.”
Chelsea’s next five fixtures
- Monday 18 February: FA Cup fifth-round home vs. Man Utd (7.30pm, live on BBC One)
- Thursday 21 February: Europa League round of 32 second-leg home vs. Malmo FF (agg 2-1; 8pm, live on BT Sport)
- Sunday 24 February: Carabao Cup final vs. Manchester City at Wembley (4.30pm, live on Sky Sports)
- Wednesday 27 February: Premier League home vs. Tottenham (8pm)
- Sunday 3 March: Premier League away vs. Fulham (2.05pm, live on Sky Sports)
Crucial three weeks for Solskjaer
While the Mail says that Sarri has a crucial seven days ahead of him, The Daily Telegraph believes that if Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is to secure his “dream” job at Manchester United then it could all hinge on results in the next three weeks.
United’s Norwegian caretaker boss has publicly said he wants the Old Trafford job on a full-time basis and he has done his chances no harm with an impressive run of results since taking over in December.
After replacing Jose Mourinho Solskjaer has won ten of his 12 matches in charge - but the only defeat was a crucial one, 2-0 at home against Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League last-16 first leg.
After the FA Cup clash with Chelsea, United then host fierce rivals Liverpool at Old Trafford on Sunday before Premier League matches against Crystal Palace on 27 February and Southampton on 2 March.
Solskjaer will then take his side to Paris for the return leg against PSG looking to overturn the two-goal deficit to reach the Champions League quarter-finals.
The Telegraph’s James Ducker writes: “The next few weeks could make or break Manchester United’s season.”
United legend Ryan Giggs, the current Wales head coach, believes that Solskjaer should be given the job full-time. Giggs told The Guardian that United should appoint Solskjaer as their next permanent boss, but keep it secret for now.
Man Utd’s next five fixtures
- Monday 18 February: FA Cup fifth-round away vs. Chelsea (7.30pm, live on BBC One)
- Sunday 24 February: Premier League home vs. Liverpool (2.05pm, live on Sky Sports)
- Wednesday 27 February: Premier League away vs. Crystal Palace (8pm)
- Saturday 2 March: Premier League home vs. Southampton (3pm)
- Wednesday 6 March: Champions League last-16 second leg away vs. PSG (agg 2-0; 8pm, live on BT Sport)