Are Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s hands tied on team selection?

by Red Billy

Ole Gunnar Solksjaer’s job at Manchester United is safe, at least for now, according to reports and despite recent results.

Somehow, United lie ahead of Manchester City in the Premier League and could be just two points off the top if they were to win their game in hand over the teams above them.

Yet the Red Devils have conceded nine goals in their last four games – three against RB Leipzig despite playing a back five with two holding midfielders.

Following the Leipzig match, United legend Paul Scholes singled out David de Gea and Harry Maguire for criticism, whilst yet another controversy surrounding Paul Pogba was doing the rounds and is continuing to undermine and humiliate the club.

Many fans believe that Solskjaer should be fired for continuing to select these three players and/or failing to manage them and/or failing to coach them well enough to bring the best out of them.

It certainly beggars belief as to why De Gea is still the first pick in goal after so many mistakes when Dean Henderson has proven himself at Premier League level (although there are those who are adamant it is right). It is confusing as to why, when everyone speaks about signing a new centre-back it is spoken of in terms of it being ‘to partner Harry Maguire’ when arguably Maguire is the weakest link of all.

Again a subject of much debate, but many fans believe it is disgraceful that Maguire was not sanctioned in any way by the club or even had the captaincy taken off him after being found guilty of aggravated assault and attempted bribery in Greece following an alleged bender. Would Sir Alex Ferguson have condoned that sort of behaviour? What kind of message does this send out?

And it is strange that Solskjaer – who watched and learned his management technique from Sir Alex – has not dealt with the Pogba issue more authoritatively either, dropping him to the Under-23’s, for example, or just selling him sooner, as the great man did with mavericks such as Dwight Yorke and Jaap Stam.

Is it a coincidence that the three players who hang around the team like a bad smell however poorly they play or behave are United’s two record transfers and their highest paid player?

Are these players undroppable or unsellable because of their investment value?

In other words, could it be that Solskjaer is not allowed by the club to drop them?

We saw José Mourino refer to Pogba as a ‘virus’ at the club and the relationship between the two broke down, yet it was Mourinho who left the club. There may not be a direct connection between those two facts, or it may be that Mourinho effectively told the board ‘it’s him or me’ and was not backed.

Journalists specialising in United such as The Athletic’s Laurie Whitwell insist that executive vice chairman Ed ‘Woodward isn’t making football decisions, as such, but he is involved in the transfer spending,’ but is this true? Would he, as a money man, allow the value of the club’s most expensive investments to be run down by a manager who wants to drop them or sell them on at a loss?

Does Solskjaer genuinely believe that in Harry Maguire, he has a world class centre-back temporarily struggling for form or is it that having spent so much money on him and made him captain, it would be too humiliating and costly to admit that a mistake was made and that the former Leicester man is simply not good enough to play for Manchester United?

If these really are 100% Solskjaer decisions, then they surely cast doubt on his man-management skills. If they are not and his hands are tied, then does that exonerate him? Or should he have the courage to speak out about it? One way or another, the club is never going to properly move forward until these issues are resolved.

Edinson Cavani has made quite an impact since his deadline day arrival at Old Trafford, but how much do you know about our other South American players, past and present? Take our quiz below to find out!

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