The pressure is starting to grow on Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer after a dismal 4-2 defeat to Leicester City. It was the worst possible start to what could be a defining week for the Norwegian.
Not for the first time during his United tenure, Solskjaer is a man under pressure. The arrivals of Raphael Varane, Jadon Sancho, and Cristiano Ronaldo were expected to elevate United to the next level.
However, the reality so far this season has been the polar opposite.
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The way United are playing, you wouldn’t have confidence that they could get anything out of those games. So far this season, the performances have been abject at best and that is being kind.
One of the biggest issues is there is a lack of balance in midfield. Against Villarreal in the Champions League on September 29, 2021, United were constantly overrun. The Spanish side managed to create chance after chance and Solskjaer’s side were fortunate to win.
It was the same against Leicester City on Saturday, October 16. Manchester United had no control over the midfield. A midfield duo of Paul Pogba and Nemanja Matic didn’t work. Neither was able to press and they were not aggressive enough.
That’s been United’s biggest problem. As Gary Neville has said, United don’t have enough workhorses. In their successful squads in the past, they had players who may not be the best in the world but worked like trojans. The likes of Darren Fletcher and Park Ji-Sung spring to mind.
You look at the likes of Kevin De Bruyne, Mohamed Salah, and Sadio Mane, not only are they great players but their work rate is through the roof. That is not something you can say of this United side. They don’t work hard enough, they don’t press from the front, and are not aggressive enough.
That has to change if Manchester United are to be successful.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer Still Doesn’t Know Best Team
Another issue is that Solskjaer still doesn’t know what his best team is. Despite all the attacking talent they have, it is clear that the Norwegian doesn’t know how to best utilise them.
Also, the biggest quandary is what is Paul Pogba’s best position. Once again, Pogba went missing against Leicester City. It is clear that he is not a defensive midfielder. He has played on the left-hand side of the attacking midfield three in the past under Ole with some success.
However, that means that either Marcus Rashford or Mason Greenwood would miss out. Rashford, in particular, is more effective on the left-hand side and is less effective on the right.
Solskjaer said in his post-match interview against Leicester that “something has to give”. Surely it is time to bench Pogba for the benefit of the team.
Something has to change if performances are going to improve. Last season, Fred and Scott McTominay as a midfield duo worked to an extent. However, it is time to give Donny Van de Beek a chance and a sustained run in the team.
The Dutchman has made just 20 Premier League appearances during his time at Old Trafford. He is a player who can control games, dictate the tempo, and is a great passer of the ball. This is what Manchester United so badly needs.
Solskjaer said earlier this season that Van de Beek would get his chance. You have to ask yourself if it is not now then when will he get his chance?
Players Need to Take Blame as Well
All of Manchester United’s problems can’t just be attributed to Solskjaer. None of Manchester United’s best players have shown up consistently this season.
Bruno Fernandes has been disappointing so far. Paul Pogba went missing against Leicester, Jadon Sancho has been ineffective since joining from Borussia Dortmund, failing to hit the ground running.
Harry Maguire was awful against Leicester but is due some slack given he has only just returned from injury. It is easy to say with the benefit of hindsight, that there was no way that Maguire should have started. This shows how little faith Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has in Eric Bailly.
So far this season, United’s best player has been David De Gea. That just illustrates the extent of Manchester United’s problems.
Somehow Solskjaer needs to galvanise his players and get them working and playing as a team. At the moment, they are playing as individuals.
If United loses to Atalanta and Liverpool, the scrutiny on Solskjaer will only grow. The owners are currently backing the Norwegian, as reported by The Athletic’s David Ornstein following Saturday’s loss, but at some point, if results and performances don’t get better, that stance has to change.
There are no more excuses, it is time for Solskjaer to deliver.
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