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Five key problems Ole Gunnar Solskjaer must resolve at Manchester United

by Raj Dholakia


Manchester United stumbled to a 1-1 draw against Everton on Saturday at Old Trafford.

United managed to drop points yet again against a determined Toffees side missing some of its key stars.

The underwhelming display saw United miss another chance to capitalise on the relatively easy start to the Premier League compared to their rivals.

An early wave of positivity around the club has completely died down, with old problems coming back to haunt United.

The Red Devils go into the international break with more questions than answers.

Here are the five most important issues Solskjaer must resolve to achieve optimal results this season.

MIDFIELD

United’s midfield woes go way back to the start of Solskjaer’s tenure as manager. His persistence in playing a pivot of Scott Mctominay and Fred means that the side loses control in the middle of the park.

Though competent, none of them offer the passing ability and defensive assurance to play that role. The build-up from the back is slow, and forwards are often starved of the ball.

Moreover, Bruno Fernandes plays very high up the pitch, almost as a second striker.

Solskjaer must find a way to balance this dynamic and can opt to play Nemanja Matic and Donny Van de Beek to help recycle possession and control the midfield.

TEAM SELECTION

One of United’s key problems under Solskjaer has been the inconsistency in team selection. Many a time, players are shoehorned into the side rather than being picked on merit.

Paul Pogba constantly switches between the left-wing and central midfield, with Solskjaer trying to accommodate Marcus Rashford into the team.

Another example is Mason Greenwood being deployed on the right-wing when his natural position is that of a striker.

The manager must be brave enough to start players best suited to their respective positions, vastly enhancing United’s overall play style.

TACTICS AND SUBSTITUTIONS

United often tend to struggle against teams deploying a ‘low-block, i.e., having a low defensive line.

This was evident in the games against Villarreal and Everton. Both the games saw United unable to break down the opposition defence despite being at home.

Also, Solskjaer has to be brave enough to make bold decisions during matches.

Many a time, his substitutions are too safe and fail to impact the game significantly. The Europa League final against Villarreal was a prime example of this.

UNHAPPY PLAYERS

United’s squad contains some vastly experienced world-class players who will certainly not entertain a recurrence of underwhelming performances.

As explained by Mike McGrath of The Telegraph: “David De Gea showed his frustration at the final whistle against Everton, just after Cristiano Ronaldo stormed down the tunnel without shaking hands with his opponents.”

“De Gea threw his arms up in exasperation as he walked the full length of the pitch towards the dressing room, voicing his disappointment to his teammates.”

“Ronaldo brushed aside Andros Townsend as he stormed off the pitch, and Paul Pogba was not far behind him, according to broadcasters BT Sport.”

“Ronaldo and De Gea had rescued United against Villarreal in midweek but never threatened a winning goal against Rafa Benitez’s team.”

A video of Van de Beek showing his discontent on not being picked in the side went viral last week.

Solskjaer now must learn to manage various egos in the team to maintain squad harmony.

PRESSURE TO SUCCEED

The arrival of Cristiano Ronaldo, Jadon Sancho and Raphael Varane means that United have a squad good enough to challenge for the title.

After a shaky start to the season, United now face a difficult October and November with critical fixtures that could make or break the campaign.

Solskjaer must learn to cope with the pressure of the media and fans, who will be expecting United to win silverware this season.

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