Time and time again, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has set up Manchester United to win. After an hour, the opposition has worked them out, adjusted to the game and United give away their lead. The Reds have dropped eight Premier League points from winning positions this season already.
Solskjaer’s consistent weakness is his in-game management which consistently proves to be naïve. It reared its ugly head again in the second half against Liverpool in a game United should have won following an impressive first half.
Three-man defence was inspired Solskjaer tactics
The Norwegian’s decision to start with a three-man defence was an inspired one. United’s wing-backs nullified the threat of Liverpool’s two attacking full-backs. Jurgen Klopp relies on Alexander-Arnold and Robertson to create chances more than anyone else. On Sunday, it was rare that either would get the opportunity to do so.
In attack, James and Rashford worked well and the latter looked confident playing in a two-thronged attack. They combined for the first-half goal.
But after the break, Solskjaer’s United stopped attacking, stopped winning every second ball and stopped dominating the game so much. The control, at least, of their tactics, was no longer there.
Klopp’s subs earned Liverpool a point
While Solskjaer waited and pondered, Klopp took off captain Jordan Henderson for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and two more subs in Lallana and Keita changed the match. Liverpool controlled the midfield with revived energy. They took to the ascendency and United shrivelled into half an hour of park the bus. One lapse of concentration and Lallana had an equaliser.
United can be pleased with their performance while frustrated with a draw. They will know that a win was on offer but they couldn’t quite grasp it. It’s even more frustrating considering the boost it could have given to an under-pressure manager and his squad just as they welcome back injured players.
United have lost 8 points from winning positions
Solskjaer must improve his in-game management. Completely sitting back against the top of the league European champions was never going to work. Not making a single substitute until the 84th-minute was baffling when it was clear that the game had changed after an hour. That sub was to see Anthony Martial return to the side after almost two months out injured.
The tactics at the start of the game are positive for Solskjaer and United fans. Many other Premier League teams will try to copy them in the coming weeks as they look to deny Liverpool. Perhaps Solskjaer will consider trying a three-man defence. It shows boldness and dismisses any claims of stubbornness.
The key now is for Solskjaer to improve his decisions during games or find a coach who can help him do so. Had United not thrown away leads against Wolves, Southampton, Arsenal and Liverpool, they would now be sitting third.
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