Five reasons Solskjaer's Manchester United spell went wrong
The Ole Gunnar Solskjaer era at Manchester United is over, almost three years since he arrived at the club.
Solskjaer became the first manager in the post-Sir Alex Ferguson era to achieve back to back top four finishes.
But he failed to deliver silverware despite reaching four semi-finals and one final, before the team’s form slid off this season.
Here is a look at five reasons Solskjaer’s spell at Manchester United fell apart…
The pressure was too much
Eventually, the pressure takes its toll on players and manager. After finishing second last season, expectation was higher than ever, and United failed to deliver.
Big investment in summer signings raised expectations further, and yet, United took a backwards step.
United’s performances became more disjointed and less organised, and it became clear this was not the same United side we enjoyed at times during the past two seasons.
In truth, it has not been great for a while. Ever since United reached the top of the league back in January, the team has been wracked with inconsistency.
Earlier in Solskjaer’s reign, when in league games when the team was under pressure, the manager was able to get his team to deliver. This season the team wilted in those high-intensity moments.
Inability to control games
United chose in the summer not to sign a defensive midfielder, or a midfielder of any kind.
It showed on the pitch, with the Red Devils struggling to control games, even matches where we scraped victories, like the 1-0 win at Wolves and 2-1 win at West Ham.
United could not sustain these type of wins, nor could the team carry on coming from behind to win, like the team did last season. Eventually Solskjaer’s side were found out.
Criticism over a lack of a cohesive style of play were valid. United’s midfield in particular lack special individual qualities, with neither Fred or Scott McTominay especially strong defensively or creatively.
The City defeat was especially eye opening, with United managing just 32 per cent possession and managing only one shot on target.
Solskjaer did not help himself or the harmony within his squad by consistently selecting players who were under performing.
Bruno Fernandes has outstanding qualities, but he is on his longest goal drought in a United shirt, and was picked without question each and every match, with Jesse Lingard ignored.
Harry Maguire and Luke Shaw retained their places at all costs despite poor form and injuries. There seemed to be no accountability for poor performances for his favourites.
Players Solskjaer signed like Donny van de Beek and Alex Telles were denied opportunities, with Lingard and Eric Bailly omitted despite being convinced to stay.
Van de Beek showed how laughable his constant omissions have been with an impressive second half display after coming off the bench in the defeat to Watford.
Ronaldo signing tipped United off course
Let’s not pretend otherwise, the Cristiano Ronaldo signing had an unsettling impact on United’s displays.
Ronaldo has contributed well, and in the Champions League, he is the only reason the team have a chance to qualify for the knockout phase right now.
In the Premier League he has been more inconsistent, and it is not just about Ronaldo, but the way the team performs around him.
Fernandes’ form sliding off may be connected, and United have not found the right balance around Ronaldo, whose arrival only added to the expectation around the team.
Whatever tactical plan United had, it went out the window with Ronaldo’s addition.
Solskjaer was unable to figure out the conundrum of how to get both Ronaldo performing, and United as a whole. When you have one of the world’s best players at your disposal and you lose five league games out of seven, the sack becomes inevitable.
A broken defence
United’s disjointed attack could have sneaked a few victories had the defence not been so terrible.
In 12 Premier League games, United have conceded 21 goals. Only Norwich and Newcastle have conceded more (27 each) and they sit in 19th and 20th position in the table.
United are on course to concede more than 60 goals this season, a record worse than the one Solskjaer inherited when they conceded 54 in 2018/19.
He has spent considerably in the transfer market on the defence, upwards of £150 million, and there has been no progress.
For way of comparison, Chelsea have conceded only four goals in 12 games and City just six. United have conceded more than double their goals against record combined.
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