Ole Gunnar Solskjaer cleared his desk to make way for the next Manchester United manager as he challenged the out-of-sorts Red Devils to “kick on” and shake themselves out of their dismal slump.
After almost three years in charge, Solskjaer was sacked on Sunday, the 4-1 defeat to Watford a result from which there was no coming back.
It came on the back of excruciating manhandlings by Liverpool and Manchester City at Old Trafford, with United having now lost five of their past seven Premier League games.
Many will consider the Norwegian to have been badly let down by a talented squad, but Solskjaer departed by describing the players he left behind as “top lads, top people… such an enjoyable bunch to work with”.
He intends to return to his native Norway and spend time with his family but said he would “probably” return to work in football.
“I’m going to leave by the front door, because I think everyone knows I’ve given everything for this club,” Solskjaer told United’s in-house television station MUTV. “This club means everything to me and together we’re a good match, but unfortunately I couldn’t get the results we needed and it’s time for me to step aside.”
Solskjaer said he was “very, very proud” and “so honoured and privileged” to have managed the club he played for with distinction during Alex Ferguson’s glory years as manager.
“It’s been a ball, it’s been absolutely enjoyable from the first to the last minute,” he said, “so I have to thank all the players because since I came in, they’re top lads, top people. Some have come, some have gone, but all of them, they’ve been such an enjoyable bunch to work with.”
Some players have given Solskjaer many headaches along the way, but the emotional 48-year-old was not minded to look at the dark times as he gave one last interview before departing.
He said he hoped he was leaving United “in a better state than when I came” and has confidence the squad improved during his tenure.
“I know the foundation is there, I know they’re ready to kick on, and I’m sure they will,” he said. “I’m sure we’ll see them puff their chest out and they’ll go on a run.
“As I’ve said to them this morning as well: ‘Trust yourselves, you know we’re better than this.'”
Solskjaer’s side lost 11-10 on penalties to Villarreal in last season’s Europa League final, goalkeeper David de Gea missing the final spot-kick.
Reminded of this, he repeated a familiar trope from his reign, that it is “not always the trophies all the time that is the be-all and end-all”.
Doubtless, Solskjaer would have wanted to depart with silverware though, and his inability to deliver that will ultimately mark his record as United boss.
He hopes United’s next manager can deliver better results. The club are set to make an interim appointment, with a permanent boss to be named at the end of the season, or at least that is the stated plan for now.
“I want him to be successful,” Solskjaer said. “Hopefully I’ve laid the foundations for that to happen because I know I’m good at what I’m doing. I’m 100 per cent sure to create a football environment, that’s where I’m good at and at some point, I’ll probably be back [working in football].”
He added: “I don’t want to pre-empt anything, but the two times I’ve left Molde, they’ve won the league the year after, so all the best to whoever takes over – that’s the expectation!”