Three questions for Manchester United after derby loss

Manchester United were comprehensibly outplayed in the first half of last night’s Manchester derby.

That led to the concession of three goals, which all but ended the EFL Cup semi-final clash within 45 minutes of its 180.

There are plenty of questions now for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who is still looking for his first win of 2020 and we’ve picked out three.

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What options has Solskjaer got?

United’s already thin squad has been hit by injuries and there weren’t too many alternatives in reserve to what Solskjaer put out last night.

Against Arsenal, Wolves and now City, United have come up short against superior squads and Solskjaer has had precious little to change it with.

The dye was cast when the squad was trimmed during Solskjaer’s two previous transfer windows without suitable replacements coming in.

And for a manager with a reputation for blooding youngsters, it is only Brandon Williams who Solskjaer has been able to fully integrate into his first team from the academy during his reign.

That combination has left Solskjaer short on alternative personnel.

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Is it time to try 4-4-2?

Solskjaer has tried plenty of things to try and invoke the spirit of the club when he was a player, but not the 4-4-2 formation Sir Alex Ferguson preferred in the 1990s.

Playing Mason Greenwood up front alongside Anthony Martial would mean the Frenchman is less isolated and the youngster could get more sights of goal in central areas.

The obvious counter-argument against 4-4-2 in the modern era is losing the midfield battle, but United are often doing that anyway with three against three in there.

Solskjaer may as well have another attacking weapon up there. It worked to claw games against Sheffield United and Everton back.

United have not been able to find a number 10 who can provide guile, assists and goals, so perhaps the best approach would be to eliminate the role from the team.

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How do United beat City at home?

United have stunned City on their own patch on occasion in recent years but are frequently dominated at Old Trafford.

Conceding three goals at home in one half of football against City would disappoint a lower league side.

For United, it’s a huge failure of tactical acumen and desire, especially in a semi-final in front of the fans.

It’s a conundrum which has stumped Solskjaer’s predecessors too – although Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho did manage one win apiece against City at Old Trafford.

Being utterly dominated at Old Trafford against City is always absolutely crushing for the fans. Solskjaer’s job is to stop it happening, and for the second time in a row he has failed. He will get one more chance this season.

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Sam Preston is an NCTJ gold standard news and sports journalist who studied with the Press Association. He also has a 2:1 law with French law degree from the University of Birmingham, which included a year studying at Bordeaux Montaigne University. He is an FA Level 1 football coach who appeared on the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire show in 2018 and has also written digital football content and match-day programme pieces for Colchester United, Mansfield Town and Stockport County.