Marcus Rashford got the headlines and rightly so after Manchester United’s Carabao Cup victory against Chelsea, but it was Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s positive substitutions, which paid off.
After a first half penalty by United’s number 10, the Red Devils struggled to stamp their authority and get a grip of the game in the second half.
Solskjaer opted to go with three centre backs, which stifled Chelsea originally, but Frank Lampard’s side were much improved after the break as United struggled to get hold of the ball.
After Michy Batshuayi equalised for the hosts on the hour mark, United were becoming under increased pressure and needed fresh legs and a change of impetus.
The Norwegian made a double change five minutes later, he had seen enough, action needed to be taken.
Victor Lindelöf and Jesse Lingard were replaced by Anthony Martial and Andreas Pereira, which was a clear statement of intent from the United boss.
The substitutions brought a change of shape, with Solskjaer choosing his favoured 4-2-3-1 formation and backed his attacking trio of Dan James, Rashford and Martial to go and win the game.
Rashford’s phenomenal free-kick gave United the lead once again, but with the game becoming stretched and Chelsea committing more men forward, Solskjaer knew through his substitutions he had the players to hurt Chelsea on the counter-attack and offer an outlet.
Solskjaer quicker to react
There have been too many times this season where Solskjaer has allowed the game to drift away from United due to a lack of changes.
The Reds have dropped eight Premier League points from winning positions this season already.
There have been calls for the Norwegian to improve his in-game management, which has at times proved to be naïve and highlighted a reluctance to move away from the 4-2-3-1 formation.
However, he has shown signs of becoming bolder with his tactics, the recent decision to go with three centre backs against Liverpool, has proved the catalyst for United to go and win three straight away games.
Just like his young squad, Solskjaer is learning and evolving on the job, if he continues to make decisive in-game substitutions and tactical tweaks that he showed against Chelsea, United will continue to climb the table and head in a positive direction.
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