Richard Buxton: Comeback wins don’t help Solskjaer
United far from top level under clueless Solskjaer as Pochettino remains on radar
Mastering the art of comebacks remains ingrained in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's DNA.
Few do it better than Manchester United's folk hero, both as a player and now manager, following his side's 3-1 win over West Ham United yesterday morning (Singapore time).
Just a few points separate Old Trafford from the English Premier League's summit, yet the Solskjaer experiment continues to be a confusing mix almost two years into his tenure.
Racking up a club-record nine consecutive away victories in the top flight is not the cause for celebration that it might have been in the Norwegian's formative months at the helm.
The last United team to begin their season with five consecutive wins on the road, back in 1985/86, famously finished a distant fourth in a previously two-horse race. Their present-day successors will do well to be considered also-rans on current evidence.
Solskjaer has become the ultimate managerial Houdini; pulling off highly improbable victories around the same time that his feet are about to be held to the fire again.
A 13-minute turnaround at the London Stadium followed that theme as the visitors trailed for the fifth time in as many league matches on their travels.
United's 15 points won from losing positions is unrivalled this term, but they cannot afford to indulge Solskjaer's escapology habit for much longer if they are to scale the competitive heights that were once a staple of their modern existence.
Treading water can only last so long, even in an EPL campaign that is still wide open.
Every cavalier fightback the Red Devils boss oversees could just weaken his position.
After trailing to Tomas Soucek's first-half strike, United needed Marcus Rashford and Bruno Fernandes to come off the bench to engineer a comeback with goals from Paul Pogba, Mason Greenwood and Rashford.
They were also lucky with the equaliser as Dean Henderson's punt seemed to have gone out of play before Fernandes collected it for Pogba's leveller.
To some, the comeback may have been exhilarating, but overall, it has also been exasperating.
WINDOW OF OPPORTUNITY
United's window of opportunity to evolve beyond misty-eyed nostalgia into genuine aspiration is rapidly narrowing as Mauricio Pochettino appears on the radar of numerous European heavyweights mulling over whether to enact their own mid-season changes.
This week's Champions League group stage finale will provide a clearer indication of where the former Tottenham Hotspur manager could pitch up, with Real Madrid ready to make a play for him if their continental fortunes take a rare turn for the worse.
Should the Spanish champions make a previously unforeseen drop into the Europa League, Zinedine Zidane's position is automatically downgraded to untenable.
United's Group H rivals Paris Saint-Germain could accelerate their own pursuit of Pochettino as they seek a result against Istanbul Basaksehir to ensure progress to the last 16 of Europe's elite club competition.
Solskjaer's failure to avoid defeat at RB Leipzig on Wednesday morning (Singapore time) will only draw the Argentinian's coronation closer.
Pochettino has been on the radar of the Old Trafford hierarchy already this season, when their latest incumbent was staring into the abyss once more.
A worst-case scenario in east Germany affords them a 24-hour head start on Real in any potential race to line up the Champions League finalist as their new successor.
United's last missed opportunity proved costly to their pursuit of progress. A ham-fisted approach for Juergen Klopp led to the German eventually steering Liverpool to a first EPL title.
Passing up on Pochettino, before he ends up elsewhere, would be a greater blunder.
Ole at the wheel has delivered a joyless tour of various cul-de-sac. Changing the driver now is United's best chance of finally seeing open roads again.