Manchester United entered the 2021/22 season with plenty of promise. They had finally landed long-standing target Jadon Sancho, a world-class center back in Raphaël Varane, and saw the return of their prodigal son, Cristiano Ronaldo.
The optimism among fans, especially since they ended last season second in the Premier League, had reached fever pitch. It’s beyond disappointing to see the trajectory the season has taken, considering the fast start Ronaldo got off to and how they rattled off several wins. But what has gone wrong for Ole Gunnar Solskjær?
Style of Play
The Premier League is now filled with the best managers in the world. It’s no secret that some of the other top clubs have quality in the dugout. United fans are left baffled at the lack of a plan Solskjær has compared to the other top clubs. The lack of faith seems to be building momentum. When considering the next EPL manager to leave their club, betting odds have Solskjær as the favorite at -225. It appears to be an ever more likely scenario with the belief that he is capable of the job beginning to twindle entirely.
At the top of this comes a lack of a clear plan. What Solskjær was great at the beginning, and even last season, was his ability to galvanize his players. After playing under the defensive Mourinho, many felt that United needed to get back to their quick attacking identity. Solskjær brought the ability to counterattack through fast players like Marcus Rashford, Mason Greenwood, and Anthony Martial, with Bruno Fernandes being a revelation. However, when given real talent this year, he has proven indecisive and appears to change each week. He tried pressing against Liverpool, which led to an embarrassing 5-0 defeat, and he couldn’t get near a well-oiled Manchester City.
With so much talent, teams can sit back against United, which negates their ability to play on the break, but when faced against better opposition, they don’t have passing tactics to break down solid defenses. He may be a good man-manager but struggles to out-think any high-level coach out.
The absolute atrocity of the season is his persistence in sticking with one of the most incompetent midfield partnerships for any club in the top half of the table. Fred and Scott McTominay are simply not up to Manchester United’s standard. Fans and pundits may blame a lack of proper recruitment for their trouble in the middle of the park; however, with talent like Donny van de Beek left to rot on the bench, there doesn’t appear to be any real excuse for Solskjær.
Managers like Jürgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola are able to mask any deficiencies that any of their players may have in midfield. Whether they are weaker on the ball or in defending, they have built their tactics to maximize players’ potential. They always have passing options, but more importantly, they either have or offer defensive cover.
Solskjær recently switched to a 3-5-2/5-3-2 formation in the hope for defensive stability. However, the lack of cohesion in their backline has been exacerbated by the fact the midfield offers no cover and constantly puts them under pressure as they can link the back to the front with their passing.
Not Good Enough
The real issue that Solskjær faces is that he is not good enough to be the manager of Manchester United. He was brought in to uplift the spirits of the dressing room, and he initially succeeded in doing so. Nevertheless, with more talent comes greater expectations, and the fact he isn’t doing better with the squad he has at his disposal shows that Solskjær is not cut out for the job.
Before managing United, he didn’t have a glistening coaching career, and he should have remained an interim solution. United can’t waste a year in which they have Ronaldo. Despite his super-human fitness and athleticism, he is already 36 and can only remain at the top of the game for a limited amount of time. If Manchester United are to salvage their season, it appears only to be possible by changing managers.