Wednesday night at Old Trafford was a horror show for Manchester United. Empty seats and angry chants were a backdrop to the real tragedy unfolding out on the pitch.
United lost 2-0 at home to Burnley, providing exactly the type of response which was not needed after losing by the same scoreline at Anfield days earlier.
Injuries have ravaged this United team, and that has been a combination of bad luck and mismanagement.
United’s squad is not good enough, and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has to take his share of blame for that as well as the board.
He said he was happy with this squad, quoted by the Times and Star: “The players are here now, they’ve been shown that trust and we believe in them.”
Solskajer’s trust appears to have been misplaced. Here is a look at five ways his judgement has cost Manchester United this season.
He backed Jesse Lingard to be a starter
It was infuriating that United did not sign an attacking midfielder in the summer. Solskjaer made clear that Jesse Lingard was his man.
He picked Lingard throughout pre-season, despite poor form, and a horrible end to the 2018/19 campaign.
Lingard started United’s first three games and was one of the worst players. He has not improved since. He went the entire calendar year of 2019 without scoring a Premier League goal or registering an assist and lost his place in the England squad.
United’s alternatives are no better, and Solskjaer’s faith in Lingard has been proven out as a key error from the manager.
He felt Andreas Pereira was good enough
Pereira to be fair was one of the brighter players in pre-season, but he has struggled when it counts.
The midfielder is not anything more than a squad player at best, but he has been a near ever present in Solskjaer’s line-up, making 19 starts already this season.
Solskjaer backed Pereira and was happy making him a key part of this side. It has been a mistake. He has scored one goal and has three assists. Good by Lingard’s standards, poor by what is expected of a Manchester United midfielder.
What makes Pereira worse than his output is simply watching him. He is where United attacks often go to die, with his poor decision making letting his teammates down.
He chose to rely on Pogba
United’s answer to a lack of midfielders was to increase Paul Pogba’s workload.
Considering Pogba’s apparent disinterest in being at United long-term, this was a recipe for disaster. It backfired almost straight away.
Even when he was fit, Pogba struggled. He did not have the support around him.
His December return from injury put him back in the treatment room and there is no return date. United simply don’t have an alternative player to Pogba anywhere near the same level.
Had United signed a couple of midfielders in the summer and had been able to give Pogba more support, he may never have got injured in the first place.
He backed Martial, Rashford and Greenwood to be enough
There have been brief moments where this has looked like working out. Rashford has 19 goals, Martial 11, and Greenwood nine.
But as soon as one gets injured, United’s attack looks decimated.
It was a strange choice not to add a fourth forward, considering Solskjaer enjoyed his most successful years at United as one of a striking quartet.
The failure to add an extra striker has increased the workload on those remaining, and played a part in Marcus Rashford getting a long-term injury.
Now down to just two forwards, the pressure and workload on teenager Mason Greenwood could be too much.
He was happy with United’s right wing options
Each week we run a predicted line up ahead of matches, and it is obvious that there is no natural right winger to play that role.
Solskjaer felt he could make do with a combination of Dan James, Mason Greenwood and Andreas Pereira to play that role. And it just has not worked.
James has been played to the point of exhaustion, and Pereira is no winger.
How Solskjaer has looked at this situation prior to the season and deemed it acceptable is absolutely bemusing.
All of these decisions play worse with hindsight, but it is clear Solskjaer was just too optimistic and too trusting with regard to certain players.
These mistakes have hurt Manchester United and left us in the situation we are in now, and could have a bearing on whether Solskjaer gets the opportunity this coming summer to put it right or not.
As manager, these are big decisions you have to get right. His judgement has been proven to be wrong, and he may have blown his chance.
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