Well, the wheels are sadly coming off for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s reign at Manchester United.
After finding his team sitting at a horrible 12th place in the Premier League, the Norwegian has lost his smile. United were once cruising like a Ferrari under him but have now been reduced to a broken-down truck. What’s worse is there are no signs of improvement either. Rumours of getting the sack are getting louder.
While I can obviously sympathize with his situation as the players underperforming nature hasn’t helped, but OGS is also at fault for the tactical errors. He’s trusted upon the wrong kind of players. He’s showcasing signs of stubbornness in sticking with players who are just not good enough.
There are major changes needed for him to survive at least till January, when United can buy big and save themselves from clinging onto this relegation battle. He might not be the most experienced manager, but it’s now time for Ole to prove his grit by inspiring his players to bring back their A-game (preferably by getting a positive result against Liverpool). Here are the changes he should make to save his job.
1. Replacing the aging players with talented youngsters
At the start of the season, Solskjaer reiterated how he would give youngsters (especially Mason Greenwood) more chances over the older players. However, persisting with players past their best now makes him look like a hypocrite. He must discard the likes of Ashley Young, Juan Mata & Nemanja Matic who offer absolutely no creative edge.
They are too static, one-dimensional & frustrating with their slow, unresponsive contribution. OGS must take risks now with his back against the wall and trust upon the youngsters to offer an olive branch. Greenwood is more than capable of leading the line, being a much better finisher than the misfiring Marcus Rashford.
Even Angel Gomes has that fiery, creative eye which Mata seems to have lost. James Garner also deserves chances to light up United’s midfield with his energetic, skilfull presence. It’s a go-hard or go-home situation for Ole, who must give the popular youngsters their chances to turn things around for United.
2. Improving the set-piece style
To say that United are horrible at set-pieces would probably be an understatement. Ashley Young’s botched crosses barely help, neither do instances like Harry Maguire scuffing a free header wide against Newcastle United. It’s been nearly seven months since they last scored off a set-piece which is the longest among any other side in the Premier League. It’s not like they don’t have enough quality.
Apart from Maguire’s “slabhead,” there are resounding players like Scott McTominay, Paul Pogba to pounce in powerful headers. The delivery needs to be right. Ole must work extensively on improving this in the training ground and find a proper set-piece taker who at least gets the ball into dangerous areas.
When it comes to free-kick, they need improvement with Marcus Rashford’s attempt to imitating Cristiano Ronaldo is failing miserably. Of course, relying upon goals from scrappy set-pieces could be considered a cheap way to success. But even that’s better than not scoring at all. Ole must find a better set-piece taker(perhaps make Andreas Pereira work on his perfecting his delivery) and instruct his players to capitalize on chances in corners+free-kicks.
3. Appoint better leaders on the pitch
What was evident in United’s lifeless display against Newcastle is they’re badly lacking some strong characters in the pitch. Liverpool have Virgil Van Dijk & Jordan Henderson. Man City has got David Silva & Sergio Aguero. Arsenal have Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang. But United don’t have anyone to take games by the scruff of their necks and turn things around.
OGS has earmarked Maguire as a future captain, while also hailing Axel Tuanzebe’s efforts, but handing the captain’s armband to Young itself is a bad choice. His consistent errors in defense or frustrating crosses manage to dim down the players than charging them. United do possess players who can make their voices felt by ordering their team-mates how to deal with pressure, but Ole must give them the freedom to do so.
Indeed, the likes of Maguire, McTominay or Victor Lindelof must be given responsibility to re-energize the players with confidence or rallying them forward with their overbearing personalities. Unless they have dominant characters to inject liveliness into their performances, OGS can’t do anything about stopping this free-fall or his own potential departure.