As Manchester United fell 30 points adrift of Liverpool in the Premier League table on Sunday, perhaps it was fair of Jamie Carragher to suggest that other top European clubs would not put up with a manager like Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
It was in those moments after United's defeat at Anfield that Carragher became embroiled in a heated debate with Roy Keane, setting social media alight.
"Manchester United are one of the biggest clubs in the world," Carragher said on Sky Sports. "Would Bayern Munich or Real Madrid put up with what's happening with Manchester United at the moment?"
It was the 18th time United have experienced defeat under the Norwegian's guidance since he took caretaker charge 13 months ago. Solskjaer has a 51.5 percent win ratio from 64 matches in charge.
Carragher is right; Bayern or Real would most likely not accept such form. The Bundesliga side parted ways with Niko Kovac in November just 65 games into his reign—and he had won 45 of them, suffering eight defeats.
Yet in this moment, United can't be compared to those clubs. They spent the past six seasons hiring and firing managers—and there is a feeling among many at the club that that has to stop.
"Give him time," Keane hit back at Carragher. "I'd give Ole certainly another year."
We reached out to sources close to the situation to discover just how long this situation can go on, and it seems Keane is going to get his wish.
All messages from in and around the club suggest Solskjaer is in no immediate danger of losing his job. He will stay for another year, at least.
"He is safe," one source insisted. "He has the club's full backing. He needs time to build the team he wants, so if anyone is expecting a knee-jerk reaction to a defeat, they will be disappointed. He is not going anywhere at the moment."
Patience has been difficult to maintain since Sir Alex Ferguson left Old Trafford in May 2013. The "Chosen One" David Moyes lasted just 51 games—and since then, we have seen Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho struggle to restore United to past glories too.
Van Gaal lasted two seasons, delivering one trophy in the shape of the FA Cup. Mourinho produced the best record, winning the Europa League and Carabao Cup and compiling a 58.33 percent win record from 144 games, but he was still sacked after two-and-a-half years at the helm.
Solskjaer is entering his second year in charge with hope he can pull together a side that could see them break back into the top four—but could equally end in them suffering their worst league season on record.
"United can still make the top four this season, they are able to break in there," a source insisted. "But even if the club do not manage it, this is all a process, and there is an acceptance right now that changing manager will not necessarily help them."
Things have not been ideal for Solskjaer recently. The club missed out on Erling Haaland, who joined Borussia Dortmund from Red Bull Salzburg instead and then scored a hat-trick on his debut. There have been fresh issues with Paul Pogba, who has undergone ankle surgery. A deal for Bruno Fernandes from Sporting CP has stalled. And now Marcus Rashford faces a lay-off.
The absence of Rashford over the coming months could be the biggest problem for Solskjaer to overcome. In planning meetings, the United boss had made his feelings over short term fixes clear—he wasn't interested in signing someone like Mario Mandzukic or Fernando Llorente. He wanted a longer vision. But that was before news broke that Rashford will miss the next three months with a back fracture.
Now United need to react. They have been brainstorming ideas since Thursday, sources said.
Edinson Cavani of Paris Saint-Germain is an option, while other avenues being explored are players on the fringes at major clubs—think Krzysztof Piatek at AC Milan, Luka Jovic at Real Madrid or Paco Alcacer at Borussia Dortmund.
Fernandes and Jude Bellingham of Birmingham City remain key targets in this window and have been scouted extensively, but United have a strategy in place beyond that, too, and it is all part of the reason Solskjaer is to be given more time. He's been part of the conversations and long-term planning.
"He's building his own team and has got to be allowed the time and space to do it," another United source told B/R. "The backing for him is in no doubt."
The pursuit of Dortmund's England star Jadon Sancho is a big part of the conversation leading towards the summer. Another midfielder will come in, too, possibly Declan Rice of West Ham United or Sander Berge from Genk.
Despite being unable to string more than three successive wins together, they can still win a trophy. The Carabao Cup looks unlikely as they trail Man City 3-1 after the first leg, but they are set to face Watford or Tranmere (who play on Thursday before facing United on Sunday) in the FA Cup fourth round and are confident of a push for Wembley in the competition. They also remain the UEFA Europa League, with a tie against Club Brugge next up.
No one in football is unsackable, but even if United don't make the top four and don't win silverware, Ole is set to remain at the wheel.
The next two transfer windows are likely to define his reign as he is given every opportunity to become the man that turns the club around.
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