LONDON: Eight years after Sir Alex Ferguson retired Manchester United are again seeking a man capable of stepping into his impossible shoes.

United tried Ferguson’s own protégé David Moyes. They tried superstar coaches such a Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho. Then they tried an old fans’ favourite with the club in his heart in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

Now Solskjaer too has failed to deliver. He was in danger before the international break. But Tottenham snapped up the obvious replacement in Antonio Conte and the Norwegian was left relying on progress in the Champions League. Now even that is not enough after a 4-1 defeat by promoted Watford.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

United’s anaemic performance demonstrated that Solskjaer has failed to both inspire the players mentally and to coach them effectively. All the remained after an emerg3ncy board meeting on Saturday night was to agree financial compensation and find the words to ease the pain of dismissal.

Saturday’s defeat was United’ fifth loss in their last seven league games in which a shaky defence has conceded 15 goals. The tally would have been far worse had it not been the brilliance of goalkeeper David de Gea who also saved a penalty. United’s disorganisation was exacerbated by the expulsion of captain Harry Maguire.

The Hornets took a deserved lead through Josh King in the 28th minute with Ismaila Sarr scoring a second just before half time. Substitute Donny van de Beek pulled one back with a header in the 50th minute before Joao Pedro and Emmanuel Dennis completed the rout.

De Gea described the result as “embarrassing.” He added: “It’s been very bad for a long time. A club like Manchester United must be fighting for trophies and for big things. We are far from that. We don’t know what to do with the ball.”

The board finally knew what to with Solskjaer.

A statement said: “Ole leaves with our sincerest thanks for his tireless efforts as Manager and our very best wishes for the future.

“His place in the club’s history will always be secure, not just for his story as a player, but as a great man and a Manager who gave us many great moments.

“He will forever be welcome back at Old Trafford as part of the Manchester United family. Michael Carrick will now take charge of the team for forthcoming games, while the club looks to appoint an interim Manager to the end of the season.”

Former United midfielder Michael Carrick takes over on an interim basis.

Zinedine Zidane has been described as United’s ideal target and is reportedly learning English.

But the Frenchman may not want to risk the Champions League-winning reputation he built at Real Madrid on a high-risk, high-pressure challenge at United. Zidane has never previously shown any interest in testing himself in the Premier League as player or manager.

This leaves the prospect of United having to spend heavily to prise either Brendan Rodgers away from Leicester or Graham Potter from Brighton. Ironically, this season has seen Rodgers’s reputation dented by Leicester’s fading form.