Manchester United have had a bumpy start to the season and their supporters aren’t happy. Many are calling for the head of manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and their wish may become a reality sooner rather than later. The current predicament isn’t necessarily his fault, but football is a cruel business and fans are a fickle bunch.
The midfield without Paul Pogba is bottom-half standard. Scott McTominay has the heart and desire of a lion but to look towards the 22-year-old Scot as a source of inspiration is a step too far.
Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and Daniel James have all shown flashes of promise. Solskjaer gives his players the confidence to express themselves and there have been moments where these three young guns have looked like their reputations would suggest.
Problems Facing Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
There is no creation. Aaron Wan-Bissaka is arguably the best defensive right-back in the division but his attacking craft is far from stellar. Meanwhile, Luke Shaw struggles to convince at left-back as Solskjaer tries to throw Brandon Williams into the deep end.
The midfield is even worse. McTominay has grown a lot since the start of the season but he isn’t the man to be a creator. He has heart and desire in abundance but that alone isn’t going to win you matches.
Pogba is waiting in the wings and looks head and shoulders above his team-mates, even when he is only playing at 50%. His imminent return will be met with relief but if his head is elsewhere then it’s difficult to build a team around him. At the same time, the likes of Fred, Andres Pereira and Juan Mata just don’t cut it for a top club and throwing more academy talents into those positions isn’t going to help if it is out of desperation.
The midfield is such an important department. It creates attacks and helps the defence. United’s midfield isn’t great at providing that protection and it is simply incapable of delivering creativity. So, as Solskjaer tries to play out from the back and through the lines, you have to question what the benefit is if he doesn’t have the players to do it. Sadly, he is not part of a three or four-year plan; he is on a treadmill and to stay on that treadmill he needs to start finding wins on a regular basis.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer or Big Sam
So, in theory, Sam Allardyce could probably have more joy with this current group of players.
Selling Romelu Lukaku was appropriate for Solskjaer but he would certainly help give United a focal point as a forward. Keep the Belgian and you have a perfect group for Big Sam to work with. The former England manager doesn’t care where the results come from and will look to play directly into the forwards. There’s a plethora of physical players at Old Trafford and a lack of genuine creative talent. Solskjaer might have bold plans for the future but unless he gets a lot of money then he won’t be making it to that future. People don’t care that the squad isn’t good enough. He is the manager of Manchester United.
The unfortunate truth is that United’s board will have their eyes on Mauricio Pochettino. He was their main-man when Jose Mourinho was sacked so his availability now will not have gone unnoticed.
Solskjaer’s plans are noble but he needs lots of time and money before those plans can become a reality. He will not get the time of a Pep Guardiola, a Jurgen Klopp or a Pochettino. These managers have elite status in management because of their past achievements at big clubs.
Solskjaer would have been wise to play a more simplistic level of football if he is to pick up results more quickly. Keeping Lukaku would have given them a focal point and they could have bypassed their threadbare midfield by playing over it. Of course, the United manager wants to build his own philosophy but he doesn’t have all the pieces in the puzzle to enact that. The point is that Solskjaer will never have the full backing of the board and the fans unless he starts winning regularly. Whether the squad is good enough is irrelevant when top-level managers are out there. People will always say, ‘if we had X’ or ‘if we had Y’ then things would be different.
Pochettino and United fit like hand and glove. The former Tottenham Hotspur manager transformed Spurs from a group of raw youngsters to a team that was challenging at the top end of the table. His development of players speaks for itself. His shadow will always be hanging over Solskjaer’s head. As will the shadow of every available manager with a reputable CV.