Ole's at the wheel but he can't seem to turn the corner
Updated: Nov 13, 2020
The blinker is on but anyone that believes Manchester United have turned a corner hasn't got a clue. This United team is filled with talent but are still lacking the three or four players and possibly the coach needed to challenge for league and European honours.
League form so far this season has been pathetic and the most worrying aspect is that in three games against teams United are expected to challenge with for top four honours (Spurs, Chelsea & Arsenal) they have floundered, 1-6, 0-0 & 0-1, all games were at Old Trafford and all were performances that would make you turn off the television and delighted you did not have the option to have wasted your money to go and see it live.
Solskjaer has now taken charge of 100 games as Man United manager but for the most part, the issues from day one are still very evident on day 1,049.
Solskjaer had a dream start to his United managerial career and it seemed like everything was clicking into place with this young team but since the honeymoon period has ended, United's biggest struggles have come against teams that sit back against them. To put it simply, if Manchester United cannot use their pacey forwards in behind defenses they are going to struggle to create scoring opportunities and thus drop points.
When teams are set up to defend against United, you see sideways passes for the most part, they haven't got a plan b. On paper it seems Ole has his team set up to deliver the ball to his forwards in behind as quick as possible and if the opposition block that option off, he has nothing. Now I am not going to sit here and say that Ole should be fired or anything because he has delivered some great moments in his season and a half in charge. However, if he can't figure out other ways to win and match up with teams, the club may have no choice but to look to elsewhere in order to catch Liverpool and Man City.
Not knowing his best starting XI:
You can make allowances for mangers not knowing the best starting team/formation a month or two into their reign or maybe after a busy summer of signings but when you are working with basically the same players one season after another there is no excuses for not knowing the team that can deliver you the most consistent performances and wins.
The only major addition to the United team from last season to this is Donny van de Beek but Ole is working hardest to find places for Pogba, Fred and McTominay over the Dutchman. It appears that Solskjaer has still not learned one of the keys of top tier management, making hard decisions and accepting that you aren't able to keep everyone happy. The best teams have a set formation with a settled starting eleven that will only tweek slightly week on week.
Manchester United's defence was a major concern in the early parts of the season but since the Spurs embarrassment they have looked more solid, the forwards have talent and can be effective, the major problems with the team at the moment appear to be in the midfield.
Paul Pogba is not the man and never will be:
This is Paul Pogba's fifth season as a United player since returning to the club for £93 million in 2016, in that time he has produced memorable performances on two occasions, one of which came against Fulham, so yeah who cares, the other was the second half performance against Man City in 2018 that inspired a comeback win from 2-0 down. That was the one moment of Pogba's United career that made you think, "wow, he just might be a player", but it has never come to fruition and Sunday's performance has got to be the final nail in the coffin for Pogba. Ole set his team up with a diamond midfield to start Sundays game so he could fit Pogba into the team and he repaid his managers faith by losing the ball and giving away a crucial penalty.
Unfortunately for Man Utd and their fans they are now stuck with Pogba but if there is one way for Ole to prove to the world and most importantly the United hierarchy that he is the man to take United forward would be to drop Pogba to the bench and use him as an impact player. I'm not saying dropping Pogba would solve all United's problems but he has shown again & again that he just isn't up to the level required to play at the top level in the Premier League, maybe if United could find away to start playing in French kits, Pogba would have a shot at elite level but all he has done up until now is remind everyone of the genius that Sir Alex Ferguson was in getting him out of Manchester in the first place.
Must sign-Declan Rice:
The West Ham and England midfielder is everything that Man Utd need in midfield, he can do the job of McTominay and Fred by himself and he also has an eye for a forward pass.
Manchester United's have openly said they are pursuing young, English talent in the transfer market and Rice fits the bill perfectly. The 21 year old has been the best player on the pitch for West Ham in nearly every game they have played over the last two seasons and has his best years ahead of him. Some might say, he is only playing at West Ham he is no great shakes but it's the games against the elite teams where he often shows his best form.
Rice has all the attributes of a modern day holding/box to box midfielder, while West Ham will no doubt demand a large transfer fee for the player given his age, talent and nationality it will no doubt be worth it as he will be set to play at the top level for at least the next 10 years. If Manchester United are serious about catching the top two in England, signing Declan Rice is one step towards narrowing the gap.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is managing one of the biggest clubs in the world and while he is paving over some of the craics, there are still issues with his players, the hierarchy and his management ability but for now the job is his to lose and if he is to succeed they he needs to start making the tough decisions and get his boys playing to the levels that saw them reach three semi-finals and finish third last season.
First call, give Van de Beek a shot in the starting XI, consistently, at the very least it will shut those up that keep questioning his irregular involvement in the early weeks of the season or he'll ball out, it's win win.