Ole Gunnar Solskjær has been Manchester United manager for more than 12 months.
The prior baby-faced assassin failed enough, picking up six consecutive wins before going 12 matches without defeat, to turn his interim position into a permanent one after substituting José Mourinho in December 2018.
In the wake, former Red Devil Rio Ferdinand did not hold back.
“Listen, Man United may not thank me gets out the contract, place it on the table. Allow him to sign it. Let him write whatever numbers he needs to wear there, given what he’s done because he has come in. Ole’s in the wheel, man. He is doing it. He is doing his thing.
Since the turn of this year, United are winless. The defeat was not the issue. The way they lost was.
In front of a home crowd, the Red Devils could not get near their neighbours. Solskjær’s United side generally perform in big ties and the former Cardiff City boss includes bespoke approaches to nullify the resistance.
He has managed to mastermind victories over Tottenham Hotspur and Town and, thus far, he is the only manager to take a point from Liverpool this year. On one hand, it’s positive. Being able to develop ways to thwart competitions is a great trait to have. However, it papers over the fact that this side lacks an identity. From the defeat to Pep Guardiola’s side, it backfired.
City had to settle for only a 3-0 lead at half-time. With better ending, it could’ve been much, much worse. From the Premier League clash between the two sides, United struck their hosts on the rest to claim a 2-1 win. And it was apparent early on that Solskjær got it wrong.
As shown in the picture above, United failed to get the fundamentals right. They were not compact and they did not cut off passing lanes. Bernardo Silva is circled between four players and, if Kevin De Bruyne wanted to, he could have been found using a simple pass.
The England right-back eventually chooses out Silva who lashes a long-range attempt beyond David de Gea for the opener.
However, the build-up could have been handled better. For example, Silva should not be allowed such distance between the lines and Raheem Sterling and İlkay Gündoğan should not be allowed such liberty in the midst of the park. They are not utilised in this movement but a fast De Bruyne pass in the German’s feet and City are assaulting Aaron Wan-Bissaka.
Silva picked up the loose ball at the centre circle. Andreas Pereira should block the middle of the pitch and force the Portuguese maestro broad where he is ready to double up with Brandon Williams, particularly with Fred not covering for the Belgian-born Brazil global.
The United No.15 neglects to do this and Fred is not in a position to respond to Silva cutting inside on his favoured left foot. With Victor Lindelöf still trying to recuperate having won the first ball, City have three attackers all exploding ahead and Mahrez is in an ideal position to exploit the distance the Swedish centre-back would ordinarily be guarding.
It was a far cry from the side that was able to conquer City in the Etihad earlier on in the season. It was like some knew they needed to shield while others simply wanted to attack. Nothing illustrates that over the screenshot below.
It’s quite remarkable really. United were 3-0 down at home to their noisy neighbors with half-time only a couple minutes away. The sensible thing is to get to the rest with the scoreline still the same. At the minimum, they had to make life hard for the visitors. However, they didn’t. As you can see in the picture, the hosts wanted to play from the trunk but had zero structures set up. Lindelöf is in possession but City have blocked off all of the passing lanes and are seeking to shut him down.
The ball is worked to a broad area for Mahrez to push in the United defence. He effortlessly breezes to the penalty box prior to picking out Sterling. When the former Liverpool man joins, he has eight yards from goal with zero strain on him. On the following day, he moves beyond De Gea and City head into half-time using a four-goal benefit.
The reigning Premier League champions are among the best teams around. When momentum is on their side, they are difficult to stop but Solskjær had the majority if the first-half to respond to this. He could have dragged Jesse Lingard into midfield so it was a three rather than a two. Alternatively, he could have made substitutions.
However, this is not a one-off. They are only six points before 13th-placed Newcastle United. In actuality, they are closer to the base of the table than they’re the top.
They regularly deliver in large games, but they still lack consistency. Of their 21 games in the Premier League this period they have won eight, drawn seven and lost six. Nobody is expecting wonders from Solskjær but the staff should at least have an identity and a clear personality. Until this occurs, they’ll stay in transition and no amount of money invested in the transport market will put a stop to that.