As the international break draws to a close, Ole Gunnar Solskjær and Manchester United sit in fourth place in the Premier League, two points behind league leaders Chelsea. Although that may be seen as a positive, seven games into the season, the side have lost to Aston Villa and have dropped points against the likes of Everton and Southampton since the start of the campaign, picking up just 14 points out of a potential 21.
And with the arrival of Cristiano Ronaldo in the final week of the summer transfer window, the pressure is on Ole Gunnar Solskjær to deliver a successful campaign to the Old Trafford faithful, who is yet to win a single piece of silverware since managing the club from December 2018.
The 48-year-old Norwegian is quite a way behind the other coaches in the top four, in terms of in-game management, experience as a winning manager and implementing an effective blueprint into the squad. However, if he changes his ways for the greater good, by utilising the squad to its strengths and qualities as well as playing with a useful system, he may silence his critics once and for all. Here are the three things that the manager has been doing wrong.
3 things Ole Gunnar Solskjær has been doing wrong
Relying on individual brilliance
United’s lack of control in matches is due to the missing presence of a style of play, where the team do not have a coherent way of playing and are mainly effective through individual brilliance. Time and time again, Solskjaer’s side have failed to set the tempo from the get-go and have experienced great difficulties to consistently progress the ball, leading to issues when facing low-block teams.
On top of that, United have played a lot of fixtures under the former Molde and Cardiff City manager, where it has taken them conceding an early goal to wake up and take the match to the opposition’s throat. Since the start of last season, the Red Devils have achieved 35 points from losing positions, which is almost as twice as many as any other Premier League side.
Without a defensive structure and more organisation in midfield and attack, the team will not be able to keep up with Liverpool and Manchester City for the league title throughout the season, as both play with an actual identity and go into each week with a proactive gameplan. And the side’s reliance on individual players will dry up, as it is simply not sustainable for 38 league matches.
Constant use of Fred and Scott McTominay
Ole Gunnar Solskjær constantly uses Fred and Scott McTominay which simply isn’t good enough at this level. The midfield pivot is a huge factor behind why the side are failing to control matches from the middle of the pitch. Neither midfielder possesses the experience, intelligence of qualities of a top class holding midfielder, as they perform recklessly and without discipline week in and out.
United are already suffering from a lack of a style of play, resulting in the full-backs playing high up, whilst the advanced midfielders along with the forward options occupy areas close to one another. So, with less players in the defensive phase, the side need individuals who are reliable and dependent on, having the understanding when to commit themselves and when to hold their stance. This is something that neither Fred or McTominay have shown when required, so far this season.
And with the difficult run of games the team have from now till the end of November, Ole Gunnar Solskjær has to play both Nemanja Matic and Donny van de Beek when they face the top-six sides, two individuals who have the ability to retain possession within tight spaces and are able to help the side transition the ball from one area of the pitch to the other, in a matter of moments. If he continues to persist with “McFred”, United will make costly errors and lose the key battles in the midfield department.
Jadon Sancho needs to start on a regular basis
Manchester United’s DNA has always been to play direct football, at a high tempo and through pacey and skilful wingers. A player that certainly fits into this is Jadon Sancho, who is more than capable of creating something out of nothing along with having the ability to play on either flank. So far this season, he has played 235 minutes in the Premier League, with the game time being split from the start of the match and from the bench, limiting his chances to be an influential individual.
When he has been in the starting line-up, Solskjaer has not allowed him to settle into the right-wing area, as he has been utilised down the left side of the pitch due to the absence of Marcus Rashford. Though, with the latter available after the international break comes to an end, Sancho should be able to return to his favourite position and help the side to be more balanced when going forward.
Overall, it all comes down to Ole Gunnar Solskjær, who is trying to help Sancho’s transition into the Premier League as smooth as possible, especially with the former Dortmund star suffering from a mental block, where he is playing with caution in possession and is not looking to take risks as he normally does so. Yet, if the side want to aim for titles and trophies, Jadon Sancho has to start on a regular basis in order to gain momentum and assist the side with creativity and output in the final third.
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