Manchester United v Atalanta Match in Pictures
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Questions are, rightfully, being asked of Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. With a squad that includes a five-time Ballon d’Or winner, a four-time Champions League-winning defender and some of England’s most exciting young prospects of recent times, three victories in their last eight matches is not good enough.
The Red Devils’ recent 3-2 victory over Atalanta in the Champions League was a great example of what Solskjaer’s squad is capable of when they step up to the mark.
Having gone into the halftime break 2-0 down, goals from Marcus Rashford, Harry Maguire and Cristiano Ronaldo sent Old Trafford into a frenzy with a much-improved second-half showing.
Although tactically there were no significant changes and rather a few substitutions, the big game players emerged and gave United supporters a glimmer of hope that the club is going in the right direction.
Defeats at the hands of Leicester City and Aston Villa, and a draw at home to Everton mean that United are without a victory in three league games.
Their winless streak could even extend to as far as the end of the month with fixtures against Liverpool, Tottenham and Manchester City coming up.
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Poor form over his tenure has led to many calling for United boss to be sacked, but is Solskjaer truly responsible for United looking incapable of mounting a strong title charge? Of course, his managerial ability can be faulted, but should the buck stop there?
On paper, the Norwegian has been thrown in at the deep end by being made manager of United. His first spell at Molde, where he won the Tippeligaen twice, was commendable, but his second was nothing of note despite being what secured him the role at his former club.
Solskjaer did have experience in the Premier League, but it was rather uninspiring. He took over as manager of a weak Cardiff City team in January 2014 and earned just 12 points in 19 games in charge, finishing 20th and leaving soon after.
Considering the aforementioned, you have to query what Ed Woodward and the Glazers were thinking when they handed Solskjaer the job on a bumper contract, even if his interim spell was successful.
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Liverpool legend Jamie Carragher wrote in The Telegraph about how he feels the United boss will never be able to compete with other top managers in the league due to his lack of previous successes.
He said: “He’s done a good job at Manchester United. I honestly believe that. He’s probably exceeded expectations. There’s been entertainment you didn’t get under Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho.
“But he’s never going to be at the level of the three managers he’s got to beat. He’s never going to be them. He’s never going to have that gravitas. He hasn’t got the presence of (Jurgen) Klopp at Liverpool, he’s hasn’t got the trophies behind him that (Pep) Guardiola has at Barcelona, Bayern Munich and now Manchester City so that when he speaks the players hang off his every word.
“He’s up against managers of two of the best teams we’ve seen but what intensifies the spotlight is (Thomas) Tuchel coming in. Chelsea were where United have been in the last two or three years but they brought in a manager who has taken them up to that Liverpool and City level really quickly.
It goes without saying that Solskjaer has had every chance to succeed at United, and maybe this recent patch of poor form will give him the chance to rebuild the team and form a stronger unit.
In two-and-a-half years, the 48-year-old has spent £441million on new signings. The squad is, as you’d hope, a lot better than the one he took over.
But no matter what players the manager has at his disposal, the fundamentals have remained the same – tactics rarely change, the squad selection often raises eyebrows and substitutions sometimes lack impact.
When you consider Solskjaer came from Molde to the Premier League compared to Klopp coming from Borussia Dortmund, Guardiola joined from Bayern Munich and prior to Chelsea, Tuchel was at Paris Saint-Germain – are the recent results really this unexpected?
For a club of United’s stature, it is no shock that there is unrest amongst supporters given the lack of silverware, vision and hope. The news from the Daily Star that a fans rebellion is on the horizon, though condoned, isn’t surprising.
But the powers above Solskjaer need to be questioned about the direction the club is going in rather than the man in the dugout, because the six-time Premier League winner may not have the skill set required to win trophies at no fault of his own.
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