Wolverhampton (United Kingdom) (AFP)
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will look for Manchester United to respond
to the first domestic defeat of his reign when they face Wolves
in the FA Cup quarter-finals on Saturday as the Norwegian moves
closer to landing the job on a permanent basis.
United's shock Champions League victory at Paris Saint-Germain
last week carried them through to the last eight and all but
confirmed Solskjaer will soon be named Jose Mourinho's successor
on a long-term basis.
Since that famous evening in France, United have tasted defeat
for the first time in England on the interim manager's watch,
beaten 2-0 in last weekend's league visit to Arsenal.
But although that setback dented United's bid for a top-four
finish, it did little damage to Solskjaer's standing, especially
given the nightmare injury list he has endured recently.
Some reports have suggested Solskjaer could be confirmed as
manager during the forthcoming international break, which follows
the Wolves Cup tie.
United officials have offered no guidance on whether the
appointment is imminent, but it emerged last week that Solskjaer
does not, as was commonly thought, have a contract with his
former club Molde.
He revealed that, with regulations forbidding a manager from
having concurrent contracts with more than one club, he tore up
his deal with the Norwegian side to join United in December.
It is understood United and Molde have put in place a
compensation package should Solskjaer win the post permanently,
with a figure of around £500,000 ($665,000) mooted.
However, the United hierarchy, led by executive vice chairman Ed
Woodward, have another burning personnel issue to resolve as the
club seek to appoint a director of football.
- Pivotal period -
The time-table is for that role to be filled before the end of
the season, allowing the newcomer the opportunity to oversee a
close-season of transfer activity about which Solskjaer has
already been consulted.
The former United striker has talked openly about having been
asked by the board for his thoughts on future player sales and
acquisitions, although he claims that has no bearing on whether
he will eventually land the manager's job.
It was always believed that March would be a pivotal period in
the process of appointing a director of football as plans for the
pre-season tour to Australia become finalised and increased
attention starts being placed on signings.
Former Tottenham and Southampton head of recruitment Paul
Mitchell has been consistently linked with the post.
Part of the logic behind his potential appointment seemed to
focus on the possibility that his friend and Tottenham boss
Mauricio Pochettino might be in line to become the United
Mitchell, now at German side RB Leipzig, has seen his name
mentioned alongside the likes of Borussia Dortmund's director of
football Michael Zorc, former Arsenal sporting director Sven
Mislintat and former United goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar,
currently CEO at Ajax.
While that appointment will be made with an eye on the summer,
United must also assess what possible impact Solskjaer's
permanent promotion to the post might have on the remainder of
The feelgood impact of his December arrival still shows no sign
of being diluted and, conceivably, an announcement could have
public relations value for the club over the closing stages of
In the shorter term, United's long injury list is slowly
improving ahead of the trip to Wolves, with Ander Herrera, Juan
Mata and Jesse Lingard all in contention to rejoin the squad.
Wolves could prove a significant obstacle to United's hopes of
reaching the semi-finals however, having already beaten Chelsea
and Liverpool and drawn with Manchester City at Molineux this
"It's an important game for us to get the semi-final at Wembley.
We play at home. We're going to prepare for this game all week
now and try to do something great on Saturday," Wolves midfielder
Romain Saiss said.