Ole Gunnar Solksjaer has deservedly got the permanent job at Manchester United. He deserves it for transforming the fortunes of the Red Devils since his appointment. Objectively, he has not achieved anything yet. United has been eliminated from the FA Cup and Champions League qualification is still in the balance. In the Champions League, United knocked Paris Saint Germain out against all odds. However, they now face a tougher task ahead of taking on Barcelona.
I am not optimistic about United’s chances of eliminating Barcelona. In fact, I would say that it will take many miracles for United to beat them all and win the Champions League. Therefore, the most realistic target has to be to qualify for Champions League next season and that is still within reach.
Football can be a strange sport. In the defeat to Arsenal, in their last Premier League match, I felt that we didn’t deserve to lose. It is never nice to lose but I didn’t feel too bad. This Saturday, I felt United got away with a victory over Watford. Right from the start, the players looked sluggish and lethargic.
In a moment of brilliance Luke Shaw intercept the ball and lead a counterattack before playing a brilliant ball behind the defense for Marcus Rashford to run through and score. I felt after that United played better and the game was open. In that period, United could have scored maybe a second or third goal and it would not be undeserved.
In the second half, United was not in the game at all. It was probably the poorest I have seen United play since Solksjaer took over. United got a second against the run of play. The defense was the only department that was on top of its game throughout. I have my doubts on Chris Smalling and Phil Jones as individuals and as a center back pairing. They displayed on Saturday what they are truly capable of if they are on top of their game. It is just unfortunate that they lack consistency in terms of their performance and availability.
The midfield trio of Ander Herrera, Nemanja Matic, and Paul Pogba was all over the place. The midfield and attack look like they are off the pace since the injury suffered by Herrera, Matic, Martial, and Lingard. I am not sure if it’s because they have been rushed back from injury or have lost momentum from the form they showed before the injury.
Solksjaer will need to use the Watford game as a wake-up call to address the situation with the team’s midfield and attack. There isn’t much time left before the season ends and Solksjaer needs to find the solution quickly. Considering the fact that it is 1 win out of 3 matches, the form isn’t exactly great. It is not right to expect United to win all the time or to stay unbeaten. It is the reaction to losing and when out of form that matters.
The squad lacks necessary quality to be able to compete for the league title and major silverware. It’s an open secret that United are in the market for a Sporting Director to help in the recruitment on the playing front. That is someone they need to hire soon so that they can then focus on strengthening the squad.
There are current members of the squad that they need to keep and the club is negotiating with for a new contract. The negotiations might have an effect now on the performances on the pitch. There are players that need to be sold too.
As a manager, Solksjaer still needs to develop too. He isn’t by any means the finished article yet. For the moment, he needs to tweak the formation because it seems like the opponents have found its flaw and are exploiting them. He is reaping the benefits of the work done by Jose Mourinho making the team tough to beat.
The “park the bus” tactic has been well utilized with the difference that now, the team plays not just to defend but with the impetus to attack as well. This tactic is especially useful in away big games or against opponents that are clearly superior to United.