Manchester United have been in a serious rut over the past few months, even the last few seasons. Gone are the days of Sir Alex, last-minute winners and holding aloft iconic trophies. Now we’re in a time where United scoring, or even just staying in competitions, seems to be too much for them.
Majority of the blame has been placed on the doorstep of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. The former United super-sub has seemingly struggled to get a squad full of superstars to combine and take United back to the heights they reached so easily back in the day.
The biggest criticism of OGS has been his apparent lack of a proper tactical mind. Obviously, coaches need time to get used to a squad, but the best of the best can see exactly how his team should play almost immediately.
He makes simple mistakes – take United against PSG when Fred was sent off for instance. He is prone to sloppy challenges, he had a yellow card against his name at half time, it was bizarre that OGS didn’t simply replace him. He went on to get red carded, United were down to 10, and their chances of winning were shot by that time.
This isn’t the only mistake Solskjaer has made. He constantly changes the team unnecessarily, makes strange substitution choices, and more times than not, goes into the game with the wrong plan in place.
The mere fact that they have recently received praise for fighting back in the second half of games while almost always completely ignoring the fact that United looked like an amateur team for the first 45 minutes.
What kind of strategy is playing horribly for 45 minutes, and then bombing forward with no real plan in place, desperately trying to equalize or win a game. Solskjaer then praises this “hunger” at the end of the game.
Calling desperate and unorganised attempts to score a goal “hunger” is just blatantly ignoring the bigger problem, that there is no plan. They don’t adapt to going down a goal or two, they just usually flounder then think that a goal will magically appear.
What makes it worse is that they have the talent to build a real system around. Rashford, Martial, Greenwood, Fernandes, to name a few, all players that a team can work for and work around, and it wouldn’t even be that difficult to make it happen.
Another big problem that Solskjaer is facing is the fact that he’s been there long enough to not be in the “rebuilding” phase. You can’t use the excuse of trying to find the best system or trying to see which player is best for which position.
This excuse is ok for new managers still finding their feet, but Solskjaer doesn’t count as ‘new’ anymore. He is established, he has been there for months and months now, there still can’t be this “mystery” surrounding what United’s style and game plan is.
Ed Woodward and the United board are also seemingly backing Solskjaer completely, no questions asked. While fans and pundits alike are looking into who could be the best replacement. Mauricio Pochettino is a name that is being thrown around regularly.
Even though names of replacements are being thrown around, OGS and United do get results. They may start slowly, and usually badly, but the fact that they come back to win obviously can’t be a bad thing.
Take their most recent game for instance. United went 1-0 to Sheffield really early on, but still came back to win 3-2. A win is a win, but what worries people is that Sheffield are at the bottom of the table, and still managed to get ahead against a United team that should have won easily.
If a team like Sheffield can take advantage of the way United start games, then much stronger and better teams are going to take serious advantage and end the game before the first half is even finished.
What United needs, and have needed for a while, is a plan. Once again, there is no denying that they get results and wins, but the best teams have a strategy, they adapt quickly, and the whole team works in unison.
As mentioned already, United have incredible talent at their disposal. Goal scorers, playmakers, and defenders that can all ensure easy victories game after game, they are just lacking cohesion, they aren’t on the same page.
On the other hand, maybe this is their new style? Alex Ferguson was all about United scoring as many goals as possible, if they concede, who cares? As long as they just score more than their opponents, how many they concede is irrelevant.
What is for certain, is that United quickly need to develop a style and game plan that helps them win consistently. The players need to know what they are doing and going down a goal or two early on needs to become a thing of the past.
Yes, they may be out of the Champions League, but they have the ability to win the Europa League, and most definitely have a shot at winning the Premier League. Maybe now is not the best time to think about replacing Solskjaer.
No matter how you look at it, United can still win trophies this season, Solskjaer can lead them to victory, and all this talk of replacing him can easily and quickly be forgotten. Only time will tell.