Neil Humphreys: United romantics must wise up
After failing his first big test at Manchester United, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer knows the honeymoon is over.
But the Champions League last-16, first-leg 2-0 loss to Paris Saint-Germain also offered a wake-up call for those who assumed Solskjaer's full-time appointment was a formality.
Here are reasons why United's final decision should not be clouded by sentiment.
1) OLE FLUNKED THE FIRST OF THREE TESTS
PSG pulled back the curtain to reveal a popular relief teacher who has realised that his giggling kids can't keep scribbling pretty patterns with crayons.
Before the biggest tests, they need detailed lesson plans beyond Sir Matt Busby's famous "here's a ball, go out and enjoy yourselves" (to quote George Best).
When the French exam came around, it was painfully obvious that the Red Devils were not fluent. They couldn't communicate at the highest level and that's not entirely the fault of Solskjaer, obviously.
The amiable guy was parachuted into a panic-stricken club to end the internal crisis of confidence and he's already exceeded all expectations in that regard.
But United's domestic unbeaten run with an expensive, re-energised squad overly forced a romantic narrative.
One of United's own was coming home. Even David Beckham refers to Solskjaer as "The Boss". In media studios, the Class of 92 and United old boys were practically dragging Solskjaer into the dugout, willing him to succeed. Hopefully, he will.
But his legendary reputation as a Champions League-winning striker has no real bearing on his coaching suitability beyond an understanding of United's entrenched playing philosophy (an understanding shared with almost every United supporter).
Solskjaer's suitability should be determined across several key games - PSG in the Champions League, across both legs, Chelsea in the FA Cup and Liverpool in the English Premier League.
He's already lost one.
To make amends, he needs to display a tactical acumen that eluded him against PSG.
2) TUCHEL TOOK OLE TO SCHOOL
The camera never lies.
And it caught Solskjaer's confusion, moments after Kylian Mbappe's wonderful finish to extend PSG's lead.
Solskjaer didn't just look traumatised. He looked like a novice.
For once, the baby-faced assassin's cherubic looks worked against him.
Ironically, Thomas Tuchel is six months younger than the Norwegian. Both are 45, but the tactical battle was "man against boy" stuff.
Much had been made of Paul Pogba's recent resurgence and his interplay with the front three back under Solskjaer.
So Tuchel put Marquinhos on Pogba and put United to bed.
With Pogba shackled, a half-fit Marco Verratti edged forward and linked with Angel di Maria as Nemanja Matic and Ander Herrera stayed back.
As the game progressed, PSG's midfield grew in confidence, increasingly aware that Pogba wasn't going to break away behind them.
Solskjaer didn't fix the problem. He might argue that his options on the bench were limited. But when he was forced to intervene, he actually made United worse.
3) OLE MADE YOUNG LOOK OLD
Anthony Martial and Jesse Lingard's injuries were unfortunate, but Solskjaer's response was baffling.
Juan Mata and Alexis Sanchez came on as replacements, but Mata was moved to the right, an area where United were already being targeted.
Di Maria and Mbappe were taking turns to bully the 33-year-old Ashley Young. Throwing on Mata in front of Young was essentially throwing good money after bad.
The Spaniard's lack of speed offered Young no defensive support in an area where PSG constructed their decisive second goal.
Romelu Lukaku has done little of late to earn his manager's trust, but his introduction would've at least allowed Marcus Rashford to move to the right.
Instead, a front three of Sanchez, Rashford and Mata conceded both speed and initiative to their opponents.
Rashford was isolated, Mata was off the pace, Sanchez went AWOL and PSG skipped away on the counter-attack.
4) CONSIDER COACHING ALTERNATIVES
No one advocates the return of Mourinho's football, but United's coaching predicament cannot be settled by such simplistic binary thinking.
It's not a case of "negative Mourinho" bad and "positive Solskjaer" good. United must be convinced that their returning club legend is the next Zinedine Zidane, rather than another Roberto di Matteo.
Mourinho produced enough turgid football to put a glass eye to sleep, but if the Red Devils needed a manager to avoid a home defeat in the Champions League, would you back Mourinho or Solskjaer?
Or, to make a more pertinent point, would you favour Solskjaer over Mauricio Pochettino? Solskjaer has the adulation, but only Pochettino has the track record.
In a post-facts political landscape, populism might lead to the American Presidency.
But in football, it rarely leads to Champions League glory.
Facts and figures still matter.
And Solskjaer must improve his figures against heavyweight opponents or that fickle pendulum of popularity will swing back to Pochettino.
MAN UNITED: De Gea, Young, Bailly, Lindelof, Shaw, Herrera, Matic, Pogba, Lingard (Sanchez 45+4), Rashford (Lukaku 84), Martial (Mata 46)
PARIS ST GERMAIN: Buffon, Kehrer, Silva, Kimpembe, Bernat, Verratti (Paredes 75), Marquinhos, Alves, Draxler, Di Maria (Dagba 81), Mbappe