Are Solskjaer's Manchester United any better than Louis van Gaal's?

Manchester United have had just one shot on target in their last two Europa League matches.

That was Anthony Martial’s penalty against Partizan Belgrade on Thursday, which secured a 1-0 victory.

The 0-0 draw against AZ earlier this month saw United fail to muster a single shot and an inability to create chances is reminiscent of former manager Louis van Gaal.

We’ve had a look at the ways in which Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s reign is beginning to resemble the Dutchman’s.

What are the similarities?


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Back in his pomp, van Gaal’s passing style of play created flowing passing patterns and bundles of chances which led to goals.

By the time he got to United, his methods created a side which dominated possession but was largely completely unable to make opportunities to score.

It was incredibly boring for the Old Trafford faithful to watch and placed enormous pressure on the forwards to score the only chance of the game which came their way.

Solskjaer’s current European away numbers, as well as the failure to score more than one goal in a game since the opening day and the continued struggles to break down organised defences bring back memories of the van Gaal era.

The Norwegian emphasises the need for his strikers to get better at finishing, but they need chances to finish.

With van Gaal, there was a clear passing philosophy, but Solskjaer’s United simply look clueless about what to do against a deep, organised defence, regardless of the standard of opposition. That’s a huge worry.

Van Gaal and Solskjaer largely reliant on same faces

Ian Walton/Getty Images

Van Gaal came to rely on the unpredictability of Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and Jesse Lingard to earn United the FA Cup.

Solskjaer is largely relying on those same players, with the addition of Daniel James.

In fact, the issue has all of afflicted United’s managers since Sir Alex Ferguson. They have all come in with varying theories but eventually settled on a safety-first style, where the ball moves around very slowly in attack and the emphasis is on not getting caught out of position.

Both van Gaal and Solskjaer made big noises early on about making United far more attractive to watch, but the latter’s reign is going the same way as the former’s.

Solskjaer may have got his first away win as permanent manager – imagine the furore around van Gaal if it had taken him seven months – but he is no closer to finding a way to create chances in open play.

The sterility of United’s attacking play eventually did for van Gaal.

Attacking signings will come for Solskjaer in January and next summer. He needs to get to those points first, and then make the most of them.

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Sam Preston is an NCTJ gold standard news and sports journalist who studied with the Press Association. He also has a 2:1 law with French law degree from the University of Birmingham, which included a year studying at Bordeaux Montaigne University. He is an FA Level 1 football coach who appeared on the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire show in 2018 and has also written digital football content and match-day programme pieces for Colchester United, Mansfield Town and Stockport County.