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Manchester United-Cardiff City Preview
With Jose Mourinho no longer in charge, Manchester United move on looking to change their fortunes in the Premier League.
One of the most dramatic weeks in the history of the storied club nears an end Saturday when United visit Cardiff City looking to bounce back from their latest league defeat in the beginning of the post-Mourinho era.
In hardly a shocking move, United (7-5-5) sacked "The Special One" on Tuesday after 2 1/2 grueling and tempestuous seasons with the club. It was another third-season failure for Mourinho, who went 84-32-28 in 144 matches guiding the Red Devils. He won both the League Cup and Europa League with United during his first season, and finished a distant second to rivals Manchester City in the Premier League in 2017-18.
However, this campaign has been a nightmare of sorts for Mourinho and the club. He reportedly was never able to really get along with star Paul Pogba, while promising Red Devil Anthony Martial seemed to be a regular fixture in the gaffer's dog house.
Mourinho also never shied away from publicly criticising his players. On the pitch, United sit sixth in the Premier League, 19 points back of leaders Liverpool - which handed Man U a 3-1 loss last weekend - and 11 out of the top-four.
It's the club's worst league start since 1990-91.
Manchester United issued a three-sentence statement, saying it "would like to thank Jose for his work during his time at Manchester United and to wish him success in the future."
Mourinho, meanwhile, said in a statement as reported by BBC Sport: "I have been immensely proud to wear the badge of Manchester United since the first day I arrived, and I believe all United fans recognise this. Each time a chapter is closed, I show my deepest respect by not making any comments about my former colleagues."
As was rumoured, former United forward Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has been named the team's caretaker manager through the remainder of the 2018-19 season. The club is expected to seek a more high-profile hire during the offseason. Solskjaer, who totaled 126 goals in 366 matches for Man U from 1996-2007, has been managing Norway's FC Molde.
"Manchester United is in my heart and it's brilliant to be coming back in this role," he told United's official website.
Solskjaer, coincidently, managed Cardiff for 30 games from January-September 2014, when it was relegated from the Premier League.
The Bluebirds (4-2-11) might be free of the relegation zone at the moment, but need to bounce back from a 3-2 loss at Watford last weekend. Cardiff trailed 3-0 after 68 minutes, but made things interesting when Junior Hoilett and Bobby Reid scored within two minutes apart later in the match. However, they would not get closer, and now have split their last six matches after winning once in the first 11.
"The majority of the people wrote us off before the season," keeper Neil Etheridge told Cardiff's official website. "You saw things online that said we're meant to finish bottom of the league with a record-low points total. We know it's going to be tough for us to stay in this league, but for us, we're just going to keep fighting and giving it everything we've got."
Updated December 20, 2018