Manchester United remain unbeaten under newly-crowned Premier League Manager of the Month Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and the only game they have not won in that time was the 2-2 home draw against Burnley last week.
United went into that game on the back of the best performance and result of Solskjaer’s reign, a 3-1 away FA Cup win over Arsenal, but Solskjaer’s team selection against the Clarets slightly stunted the momentum on the back of that much.
He made changes for the visit of Sean Dyche’s side, bringing the likes of Andreas Pereira and Juan Mata into the side – who slows and narrows United’s attacking play – as well as moving Romelu Lukaku up front and shunting Marcus Rashford back out to the left.
Whether a hint of complacency set in or another factor was at play, United were punished. Burnley raced into a 2-0 lead and while the two late goals to clinch a 2-2 draw were impressive, a point against a struggling side at home should not need to be procured in such dramatic fashion.
Solskjaer has settled on a formula that works; a side packed with attacking invention and pace – and unnecessary changes took a lot of that away against Burnley, and may well have had a knock-on effect for the largely sleepy performance against Leicester on Sunday.
United travel to face another relegation-battler this afternoon – Fulham – and with a crucial clash against PSG just days away, Solskjaer may be tempted to rotate his side.
But he should resist the urge to make too many changes – Diogo Dalot and Fred in for Ashley Young and Ander Herrera, to keep the energy up – would be understandable and not too disruptive.
But bringing in the likes of Mata and Lukaku, who slow down United’s attacking play as well as interrupting the fluidity should be avoided at all costs.
United have a challenging period coming up – with Chelsea and Liverpool following the match against PSG – and the best way to prepare would be with a convincing win. The best chance of doing that will come with Solskjaer’s best, paciest side on the pitch – and he should have learned that from the Burnley mistake.