“It’s for other people to judge if we’re making progress. We keep on working and we have another chance on Saturday against Everton.”

Those were Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s words in the immediate aftermath to Manchester United’s defeat to Arsenal.

Football fans are a fickle audience. Their opinions are varied, ever-changing and volatile. But when a team itself is so inconsistent, so ever-changing and its results so volatile, it becomes hard to avoid the all-too-common trap of overrreaction.

United cannot afford to continue such temperamental form

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is no fraud. Clever tactics and good man-management from the Norwegian led to fantastic performances and results in mid-week European victories against PSG and RB Leipzig. United were energetic, professional, efficient and impressive in those games.

Yet they have both been followed by underwhelming, naïve and ultimately unsuccessful displays against Chelsea and Arsenal in the Premier League.

Progress is hard to define when results swing from the great to the miserable

So to judge the progress of this United side is incredibly difficult. Solskjaer has done good things for the club. He has stabilised a rapidly falling club. Recruitment has improved. The mood under a club legend is better than it was under Moyes, van Gaal or Mourinho. There are many more positives, too. But a top side cannot be this inconsistent.

 

Perhaps more frustrating than the inconsistency of results is the lack of consistency in United’s play.

Manchester United Press Conference. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer progress Arsenal defeat in Premier League.
Solskjaer has got it right on many occasions (Photo by Matthew Peters/Manchester United via Getty Images)

When Solskjaer gets it right, he deserves all the plaudits. His big-game record is quite sensational for such a criticised coach. He sets United up for specific fixtures well and it pays off. But United have no regular plan with which they can win fixtures time and again.

Identity and foundations are missing from Solskjaer’s United

Identity is a much sought after commodity in football. United don’t have one. Pragmatism can be great and the changes from a midfield diamond to a 4-2-3-1 to a five-at-the-back bring some nice unpredictability in big games. But United need some foundations.

The defeat to Arsenal was Solskjaer’s 100th game and apart from being good on the counter-attack, how can fans and pundits sum up this United side’s style?

More big games are coming up for United. Solskjaer will pull out some more good results. He will prepare well and perhaps once again tactically outdo his opponent in the dug-out.

Without providing some foundations, a regular game-plan and an attacking style, though, Solskjaer won’t see through another 100 games with the club that has defined his playing and coaching career.

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