When Ole Gunnar Solskjaer looked ahead to a home fixture against bottom of the table Sheffield United he obviously didn’t give them too much thought.
As soon as the team line-up’s came through it was obvious that the Manchester United boss felt no matter what team he put out it was a mear formality.
Axel Tuanzebe’s name was the stand out players in the starting line up. A player who this season had played 49 minutes in four appearances probably didn’t expect to start this game himself.
Tuanzebe looked shakey and nervous at times. He never seemed to settle or look totally comfortable. Not that he had a disaster of a game, far from it. But he was well off the pace.
Victor Lindëlof should have started against Chris Wilder’s men. No if, buts or maybes! If Solskjaer wants to rotate he should have played Tuanzebe on Sunday against Liverpool.
When rotating you need to prioritise. The Premier League trumps the FA Cup everytime. Solskjaer got so caught up in having to beat Liverpool he forgot about priorities.
The second player that stood out was Edison Cavani. Why is he on the bench? Again, if the manager feels he can’t play two games in a row then he needs to prioritise.
The Premier League fixture should have had the Uruguayan starting up front. He is the clubs only natural centre forward. He oozes quality. Martial is a winger, a make shift centre forward. A square peg in a round hole.
The solid base in Manchester United’s good run of form has been the midfield pairing of McTominay and Fred. Again Matic in his twilight years cannot be starting Premier League games unless injuries require him to.
Telles in for Shaw completed the baffling thought process over the two games. These changes showed the lack of respect Solskjaer showed to Chris Wilder’s team.
Goals from a corner and a deflected shot gave the blades three vital points. Despite 76% possession and three times as many shots it’s hard to say United deserved much more than what they got.
Big players like Rashford and Fernandes were bang average. Pogba was his consistent inconsistent self. For me the most overrated player at the highest level of the game. But generally a flat performance all round.
The message sent out from Solskjaer by his team selection was this game is in the bag. The players played like they received that subliminal message. Urgency and quickness of play were seriously lacking.
Solskjaer guided United to the top of the table in January. This was seen as vindication for his appointment and proof that he is capable of bringing success back to Old Trafford. It isn’t an achievement to put on your CV.
Top of the League
Nine teams this year have topped the league this topsy-turvy season. More than any other Premier Leagur season. One of those teams were Chelsea and Frank Lampard. Frank is now unemployed.
I started writing an article in November after Manchester United’s 3-2 victory over Southampton with the headline ‘Inconsistency will get Solskjaer the sack’. For numerous reasons I never got to finish it.
Even though United who were 2 nil down at half-time, won 3-2 with a 94th minute winner by Cavani and went on to claim the 3 points, it masked the performance.
The team selection had been tinkered with again and inconsistent performances were normal place. I still stick by that headline even now.
The Tinker Man
United have had some fantastic results which have pushed them to the top of the table. In fairness Solskjaer had found some balls by leaving Pogba out and introducing Cavani to the starting eleven.
The starting eleven which started to bring success was De Gea, Wan-Bisakka Maguire Bailly/Lindëlof Shaw, McTominay Fred Fernandes, Rashford Cavani Greenwood.
Bailly should start if he is fit. Greenwood is still learning his trade so inconsistency is normal and you expect his position to be rotated. It’s a position that needs to be looked at in the summer.
Solskjaer needs to prioritise the Premier League over all the cup competitions . The strongest starting line-up every Premier League fixture.
He can’t keep tinkering and expect players to perform when they haven’t got the minutes under the belt. Play your strongest eleven in the Premier League and rest some in the cup competitions.
Solskjaer needs to finish in the top four. That is not guaranteed. If he doesn’t bring Champions League football back next season then his job is not guaranteed either.