The very moment that summed up Manchester United’s season so far was when the cameras turned to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer midway through the second half. United were 2-0 down to local rivals City. A close up on the Norwegian in his technical area showed him scratching his head.
It was timely as United had zero answers to what Pep Guardiola’s side threw at them. Manchester City had total dominance of the ball over the ninety minutes. It was one of the most comfortable games City have had all year.
There are reasons while Solskjaer finds himself been questioned. One of them being his constant shuffling of the cards. Frequently changing his formation over the last few weeks shows his desperation to seek solutions he cannot currently solve.
His substitutions are baffling at times too. Jadon Sancho was brought in to offer something different on the right wing. Yet the United boss insists on playing him on the left? Now I am not convinced by Sancho, but at least give him the opportunity to try to perform in his natural position! A position on the right which made him a fan’s favourite at Dortmund.
We could go over Solskjaer’s tactical decisions and debate them until the cows come home. There has been many questionable games such as the recent hammering from arch rivals Liverpool. The worry now is the work rate. Or in this case the lack of!
Lack of Work Rate
It is embarrassing to watch such highly paid athletes giving back so little to the fans in effort. Also so little when it comes to pro-active thinking and communication on the pitch. To sit in two banks of four for most of that second half and settle for 2-0. They were petrified. The Liverpool game seems to have mentally scared them.
This is not Manchester United. Manchester United step up to a challenge. They face it head on. This is where the manager plays his part. It seems to me that Solskjaer is unsure how to progress this team. The players in turn have no direction and seem to be winging it. They have a manager who is hoping individuals can get his side out of a hole on a weekly basis.
Paul Pogba was unavailable for selection for the weekends game after his red card in the Liverpool humiliation. When you see a player like Pogba get praised as a professional footballer it’s a worry. Manchester United’s performances recently are a mirror image of what Pogba has been allowed to get away with since his return.
He plays as an individual. He takes no responsibility for his own game within the team unit. Pogba likes to play as a free spirit. He certainly cannot be played in centre midfield where positional discipline is a must. Solskjaer still hasn’t figured this one out yet.
If you play Pogba it can only be in behind Ronaldo. A position that Fernandes has claimed as his own over the last couple of seasons. Fernandes has been a more effective player since his arrival so deservedly holds the spot. They cannot both play if Solskjaer insists on playing two sitting midfielders.
Solskjaer Bottled It
This is where the Manchester United boss has bottled it. He has tried to squeeze all his ‘Stars’ into his team. Playing players out of position. With the a loss of team chemistry as a result.
Since taking the job Solskjaer consistently started Anthony Martial when available and fit. This should be an immediate stackable offence. Martial is another Pogba. All flash and no substance. Yes he had moments, but moments don’t cut it. He was never a centre forward and yet Solskjaer persisted.
When it comes to the two sitting midfielders Fred has been Solskjaer’s first name on the team sheet. It’s hard to understand where the United manager feels Fred trumps McTominay? Either way its blatant to see that there is a huge gap in this position which a Paul Pogba makes weaker.
What is Manchester United’s style of play now? At least when Ole Gunnar Solskjaer started he had a game plan. He had his team sit and counter attack with pace up front. That has since been abandoned.
When Ronaldo and Sancho came in it looked as if a return to wingers and getting crosses into the world’s best was to be a focus. That hasn’t happened.
Manchester United Defensively
Defensively it is just far too passive. There is no pressing, no aggression and no accountability. The team is on auto pilot from week to week with little that we can visually see that suggests any pro-active work from Solskjaer’s back room staff during a week’s training.
The fact that Manchester United’s challenge for a league title ended in October shows that Solskjaer’s team plan and management is well below what should be acceptable at Old Trafford.
It has to be said that Solskjaer stabilised the club and built morale back up at the very time the club, the fans and the team needed it. He should be commended for his role in that. In saying that, if you are making the same mistakes in a job over and over again then maybe the job is not the job for you.
It is embarrassing to watch a great club accept a management regime that panders to players egos. A regime that shows no leadership. A manager that takes off his centre forward in a game and apologies profusely for taking him off.
It’s also embarrassing that in the last three games away fans have mocked the clubs big wigs by chanting ‘Ole’s at the wheel’. The fact that every man and his dog can see that Solskjaer is drowning shows that Manchester United’s problems run deeper than just the manager.