When Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was appointed Manchester United’s interim manager at the tail end of 2018, there weren’t many who thought he’d be in the job long term.
Fast forward almost three years later, and the Norwegian is firmly in the Old Trafford hot seat. Nevertheless, an inconsistent start to the season has mounted the pressure on the United boss which has left many wondering if he is still the right man for the job.
There were huge questions surrounding Solksjaer and his players in the aftermath of their Europa League Final loss to Villareal last May. To lose a game like that despite being heavy favourites was embarrassing for all involved with Manchester United. The club were keen to put it right in the summer though and added Jadon Sancho (finally) and Raphael Varane to their ranks. Oh, and not to mention, they brought back one of the greatest to play the game in Cristiano Ronaldo to Old Trafford.
Such additions beg the question, are there no excuses now for Ole as he chases his first piece of silverware as United boss? Well, it’s not as simple as that. Although I agree that its hard to identify a style, or pattern, of play when I watch United, there are other issues within the squad. Firstly, there is a lack of balance in the team. The playing staff, in terms of quality, is top heavy with the bulk of the talent being in the attacking ranks of the squad. United really lack in the midfield area. Solskjaer seems to be unsure on what his best midfield is. United play a 4-2-3-1 with Bruno Fernandes ahead of a double pivot. The problem is, what is the best combination to deploy in that pivot?
Solksjaer often opts for a Scott McTominay and Fred combination in the engine room or one of the two, or Nemanja Matic, alongside Paul Pogba. Either cause problems for United with the first being too conservative and potentially, not good enough, and the other lacking defensively which leaves United’s rear-guard open. It’s obvious United need additions in the middle of the park with players like Declan Rice and Wilfred Ndidi being linked with a move to the ‘Theatre of Dreams’. United need a ‘destroyer’ or a Fabinho-esque player in that midfield which may allow players like Pogba to have more freedom in the final third. Although, does a midfield with Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba
work if Ole was to move to a 4-3-3? I don’t think so, unless a player like N’golo Kanté joins. Even still, I would be skeptical.
As we head into the International break, United fans are once again left to ponder if Solksjaer is good enough or if he needs more backing in the market whilst also getting more time with an improving squad. So, are Manchester United on the brink under Ole, or is a very talented squad being wasted by a man way out of his depth?
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