Manchester United’s two Premier League home games against Chelsea and Arsenal were tightly contested matches.
The results were disappointing, with United drawing one game 0-0 and losing the latter 0-1.
Arsenal did not outplay United, they needed a penalty from a Paul Pogba mistake, but they came to Old Trafford with a plan and executed it, as did Chelsea.
That is the frustrating element. United’s plan does not appear to be good enough. Solskjaer’s United are just too easy for away teams to solve.
There has been a defensive improvement
In comparison to where we were a month ago, United’s defending is far better.
The defence was real reason to worry after a terrible opening three games in the Premier League which saw 11 goals conceded.
In the three games since, United have conceded only twice. One of these was a deflected effort and one was a penalty.
So you have to give some credit where it is due, towards the goalkeeper, back four, and coaching staff for stemming the flow of goals against.
However this has come at a cost. United’s attack has, aside from the Newcastle game, struggled to flow.
Part of this is because the two opponents at Old Trafford have arrived and set up to defend. But Solskjaer would have known this would be the case beforehand.
United have the attacking talent to break these teams down. You wouldn’t know it from watching the games, with the team devoid of ideas.
Wrong formations on wrong weeks
United used different formations against Chelsea and Arsenal and may simply have got it the wrong way round.
Solskjaer went with a 4-2-3-1 with Dan James and Juan Mata starting against Chelsea, when he would have been better off going with the 4-4-2 which started against Arsenal.
Chelsea’s weak defence could have wilted against two forwards. Instead playing with a lone striker played into their hands.
Against Arsenal meanwhile, James’ pace may actually have prevented the Gunners from using Bukayo Saka to push forward as frequently from wing-back.
Mata’s subtlety would likely have been more effective, and United looked far better after half-time when shifting to a 4-2-3-1, but the Spaniard was an unused substitute.
It is these minor tweaks which United are misjudging. It’s easy to use hindsight, but it appears clearly as though Solskjaer got it wrong.
Getting these small decisions wrong means the bad results are piling up, with potentially big consequences for Solskjaer.
Gradual improvement, still paying for Palace and Spurs games
Looking at the performances as a whole over the last two games, there is a clear improvement compared to the home games against Brighton and Tottenham.
United are more organised and appear fitter, and as such there has been a gradual step up in the level of performance.
The problem is the results are poor. And United are under pressure because of the poor start.
In isolation, a draw and defeat against Chelsea and Arsenal is just two games, and the performances have some positives on which to build, especially defensively.
But mixed in with the two home defeats to start the season and you end up with an ugly set of results.
United are 15th and you can’t really argue with that. Even winning our game in hand will only lift us to 12th.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s job is coming under more scrutiny and there may need to be some very tough decisions taken over the next few weeks if results worsen.
This has been a tough start to the season domestically and the improvements which we have seen are not large scale enough.
Going from a 3/10 to a 5/10 is not enough when United demand to be at least a 8/10 each and every week.
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