When Manchester United were beaten 5-0 by Liverpool in October, the task facing Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was clear.
The home hammering left the Norwegian under huge pressure, but his job appeared to be safe… at least for the immediate future.
A run of victories might have been able to earn Solskjaer a reset, while three defeats would surely have spelled the end.
Instead, though, we have been left somewhere in the middle as United go into the international break needing to determine whether they should stick or twist on the managerial front.
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As is often the case in these situations, the first of the three games was the most important for Solskjaer to win.
The performance at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium was an impressive one, too, with enough positives to suggest United’s players were ready to produce the performances needed to turn things around.
However, that result also comes with the caveat that it came against an out-of-sorts Spurs side who themselves parted ways with manager Nuno Espirito Santo in the aftermath of the game.
The subsequent two games were more worrying, even if neither game was especially easy on paper.
United’s draw in Bergamo owed a lot to some late Cristiano Ronaldo magic, and again highlighted their worrying defensive limitations when unable to call on Raphael Varane, who suffered another injury setback.
As for the defeat to City, it looked like exactly what it was: a team in defensive disarray trying and failing to contain opponents whose attacking options were always likely to cause problems.
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The issue isn’t that United lost to City, or even that they looked comfortably second-best.
Rather, it’s that – after three games which were supposed to define Solskjaer’s future – we remain none the wiser about his capabilities at Old Trafford.
The potential they had before the trio of fixtures is still there, but the problems they had going into those matches are the same problems they have after them.
If the last three games were supposed to tell us something new about Solskjaer’s status as the right man for the job, they failed.
However, the fact that we’ve learned nothing new might in itself be enough – for some, the onus would have been on the manager to show something we hadn’t seen before from his team, to demonstrate the Liverpool defeat and the results leading into it were behind them.
Former United captain Roy Keane insisted a line needed to be drawn, saying “management is about survival and he’s got to get a result in the next game”.
However, what will victory against struggling Watford achieve? And how will a match against opposition in the bottom half of the table do for a manager whose recent problems have demonstrated surrounded an inability to challlenge with a team which is supposed to be fighting at the top?
If we know no more than we did after the Liverpool game, at the end of what felt like a three-game run which was meant to be do or die for the manager, one wonders what else the club are waiting for.