Two more home points dropped for Manchester United against Everton in the Premier League yesterday and the pressure on manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is mounting quickly.
The press have not been slow to use United’s opponents yesterday, Everton, and their seasoned manager Rafa Benitez to demonstrate the limitations of Solskjaer’s coaching and tactical abilities.
There were some shocking individual performances and mistakes from the United side yesterday, but a recurring theme across the broadsheets as they picked apart the bones of the draw was Solskjaer’s inability to get from his expensively-assembled side any more than Benitez was able to get from his bargain basement squad.
The Telegraph’s James Ducker noted that:
‘If United are far less than the sum of their expensive parts, Everton – who were without Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Richarlison and Seamus Coleman it should be stressed – are much more than theirs.
‘Management, you see. With no backing in the transfer market this summer, Rafael Benitez had to get creative and, despite the grumblings that greeted the arrivals of Gray and Townsend, those two are doing quite the job for their manager.’
The same point was made by The Guardian’s Richard Jolly:
‘Benítez has constructed a team more than the sum of its parts, some acquired on the cheap, thrust together by circumstances, working with a determination to make Evertonians proud.
‘So did Dean Smith and David Moyes when Aston Villa and West Ham won at Old Trafford in the space of four days with what are, in essence, ambitious mid-table clubs. So, for that matter, did David Wagner when Switzerland’s Young Boys beat United. Each has been an advertisement for coaching and strategy.
‘All of which scarcely casts Ole Gunnar Solskjær in a good light when those teams display the traits his are increasingly lacking, when they overachieve while he underachieves.’
Most reports seem to agree that team selection and tactics are at the heart of Solskjaer’s underachievement.
‘This was not the time for Solskjaer to experiment with his starting XI,’ Ducker says.
‘But he did and it backfired, despite later insisting he harboured no regrets. No Ronaldo, no Paul Pogba, no Jadon Sancho in the line-up and perhaps the wrong people chosen to replace them.’
The Times’ Ian Whittell agrees.
‘Even when the United manager, approaching his third anniversary in charge, sees a sign of progress — in the case of Martial’s display and goal — the same frailties and flaws emerge.
‘In this case it was from an Everton goal scored on a counterattack that belonged in an FA “how to” coaching manual or, more accurately, a “how not to,” from a defensive perspective.
‘United have kept only one clean sheet in their past 18 matches in all competitions — an astonishingly inept statistic for a team that boasts both the world’s most expensive defender and also one of the most decorated in its ranks.’
With a much more difficult run of fixtures coming up, it really is getting to make-or-break time for Solskjaer despite the new contract he was awarded in the summer. Ever since he took over as coach, the team has gone on good runs that have saved him and bad runs that have endangered him. That same pattern continues despite the fact that he has now assembled one of the most expensive and gifted squads in the world, so there really are no more excuses.