Before Manchester United’s 1-0 win against Leicester City, more than half of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s non-injury forced substitutions had come after the 80th minute. To secure the win at Old Trafford, he finally responded to the game earlier and it paid off.
It’s an important lesson for Solskjaer to learn. Mata, Greenwood and Pereira were brought on with fewer than 10 minutes left in United’s 1-1 away draw at Wolves. United couldn’t find a deserved winning goal.
This time Solskjaer made changes with a different purpose – to hold on – but they were sensible and earlier enough to make an impact.
Fred sub changed United midfield
Matic started in Pogba’s absence but was brought off for Fred in the 67th minute. Three minutes later Tahith Chong replaced Mata. Solskjaer took off two slow players and those with energy and fresh legs came on.
Fred’s arrival shoved an impressive McTominay deeper. Choudhury had been putting pressure on the Scot but Rodgers took him off and Solskjaer took charge. McTominay created less but was more assured in his deeper position.
McTominay assured after Solskjaer changes
Andreas Pereira shifted into Mata’s central position after Chong came on, and the end to his incessant pressing meant United dropped deeper. Solskjaer hoped to expose Leicester on the counter-attack. It didn’t come off, though you sense with Pogba’s vision and ability in the side it may have done.
United’s attacking play didn’t improve in the second half. They failed to build on a couple of early chances carved out by James on the left and a Wan-Bissaka-Mata combination on the right. Had United not had the injuries they do, the failure to take the game away from Leicester would be rightly criticised.
With Pogba, Martial, Shaw and others unavailable, though, Solskjaer’s selection and United’s performance had justification.
Solskjaer must continue with early changes
This writer wrote in early September that “substitutions must be made earlier and decisions must be braver during games.”
“If Solskjaer is merciless during games and puts even more faith in the young players, he’ll be backed in the stands for months no matter the results.”
That’s exactly how it panned out against Leicester. The substitutions were well-received and Tahith Chong’s arrival, in particular, awoke Old Trafford from its slumber. A minor injury crisis and the supporters can accept a poor performance. But no changes in a drab half and frustration grows.
Solskjaer insisted that “the performances have been miles better than this,” and he was right. United played better in games they have drawn, but this time Solskjaer responded to the game and, as he told reporters after the game, “we have to accept the three points and tomorrow we have to wake up with a smile.”
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