Manchester United’s humbling and humiliating 2-1 home loss to Sheffield United earlier tonight can only be blamed on the players, who should have had the confidence, class and momentum to beat a very poor Sheffield United team who are rooted at the bottom of the Premier League.
However, it must be said that all three of manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s substitutions during the game were somewhat questionable calls which bear further examination.
First of all, it was clear that Edinson Cavani was needed by half time and yet Solskjaer waited until the 66th minute to bring him on.
When he did bring him on, he did so at the expense of Mason Greenwood, who, whilst perhaps not having the best game of his life, was head and shoulders better than the dreadfully poor Anthony Martial.
Substituting Greenwood rather than Martial also required Marcus Rashford to switch from the left wing to the right, which blunted him as an instrument to a large extent.
The second and third substitutions of Luke Shaw and Donny van de Beek were also arguably made way too late, in the 82nd and 83rd minute. Shaw was a like-for-like sub for Alex Telles, who just seemed to be growing in confidence and getting into his stride, having got an assist for Harry Maguire’s goal and clipped the bar with a deflected shot. The substitution therefore seemed quite pointless.
Van de Beek for a defender was a reasonable call, but hauling off the young star Axel Tuanzebe seemed like a punishment from Solskjaer after Sheffield United’s second goal was deflected in off his leg. This left Nemanja Matic playing centre back alongside Harry Maguire, two players totally lacking in pace and vulnerable to Sheffield United’s long ball counters. Luckily Bruno Fernandes was on hand to act as sweeper although it would have made a little more sense for him to have been able to concentrate on matters further up the pitch.
In some ways it is very commendable that Solskjaer stands by players who are in poor form and keeps them in the team until they play their way back into a good rhythm. But when that means sacrificing the confidence of younger players who are not always the first names on the teamsheet, the pros of doing so might very well be outweighed by the cons.
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