From elation at the weekend to dejection midweek, Jason Pettigrove looks at why it could be Ole Gunnar Solskjaer who prevents Man Utd from winning this season.
When Young Boys slid home their injury time winner in their 2021/22 Champions League group stage opener against Manchester United, no one should’ve been in the least bit surprised.
With 18 minutes still to play in the match, and the Red Devils looking for a winner, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer decided to take off Cristiano Ronaldo and Bruno Fernandes and replace them with Jesse Lingard and Nemanja Matić.
His contention was that he needed to keep some in reserve as far as Ronaldo was concerned, and he needed Matić’s experience to help see out the game.
Whilst there may be some merit to the argument if it were a bit further into the season, the fact is that Cristiano had already been rested for over a week before making his second United debut against Newcastle.
As fit as a fiddle and the one player that was keeping the opposition on the back foot, his withdrawal made no sense.
In terms of tactical acumen, frankly, a lot of decisions that the Norwegian has made are head scratchers.
13% – Manchester United have lost seven of their 11 UEFA Champions League matches under Ole Gunnar Solskjær. 13% of their total defeats in the competition have come under Solskjær (7/54), despite the Norwegian only being in charge for 4.8% of their matches (11/231). Fall. pic.twitter.com/5e49OVY63B
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) September 14, 2021
There’s a reason why United have now lost seven of their 11 Champions League fixtures under Solskjaer’s tutelage. That’s a paltry 36.36%.
At any other ‘big’ club, that would clearly be an unacceptable return, and it would appear that the only thing stopping United’s hierarchy wielding the axe is because of the manager’s long-standing association with the club.
Formational switches often don’t suit the Old Trafford outfit either, with various personnel being shoehorned into the XI even if the subsequent shape isn’t conducive to getting the right result against the opponent in front of them.
Yes, the team are top of the Premier League at present, and there has been a relatively steady improvement in results terms over the last 18 months domestically.
However, it’s arguable that it’s in spite of Solskjaer and not because of him.
Elite players will almost always raise their game when required, and that has kept the Norwegian ticking along.
His lack of nous is exposed in Europe against teams that have an elite manager as well as players that are equal to, and often better than, what United have in situ.
It’s then when Solskjaer needs to earn his corn, and it’s precisely then where he has consistently fallen short.
He has had enough opportunities to prove that he has what it takes at the highest level, but it’s embarrassing to even think about putting him in the same bracket as the likes of Jurgen Klopp, Thomas Tuchel or Pep Guardiola.