Home » Could this Manchester United side save Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s season?

Could this Manchester United side save Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s season?

by Scott Eckersley

Manchester United’s recent struggles seem to have left under-fire manager, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, searching for a quick fix.

The Norwegian has tried – and largely failed – to find a formation that gives his side a balance between defensive solidity and attacking thrust.

It briefly appeared that reverting to a 3-5-2 in the games against Spurs and Atalanta might be a solution – only for the approach to come horribly unstuck against Manchester City.

So what next for the pressurised United coach? With another must-win game against Watford on the horizon, let’s take a look at a radical shakeup that could get the season back on track.

Although Solskjaer has tried 3-5-2, his side’s lack of confidence seemed to drag the wing-backs too deep to pose an attacking threat. With the team seeming to lack control, attackers were left to feed off scraps.

Might it be time then to rip up convention and try a formation that gives the solidity of the back three without weakening the offensive output? If so, we might be at the stage where a more freewheeling 3-4-3 could work.

Keeper: David De Gea.

The Spaniard has had a few sticky moments but has also shown signs of recovering the form that made him a fan favourite. Unless the errors creep back into his game, he deserves to keep his place. For now.

Left centre-back: Luke Shaw.

The England man was sensational last season but has had a torrid campaign thus far. Only an injury to Raphael Varane – and Eric Bailly‘s rashness – see him keeping his place. With Alex Telles (more on that shortly) chosen at left wing-back, Shaw takes up the not unfamiliar left centre-back spot.

Centre-back: Harry Maguire.

It seems a long time since ‘Slab’ead’ looked like the glue that held the Reds’ backline together. Since returning from the Euros, he’s been a shadow of the indomitable presence that captained his team to the Europa League final. As with Shaw, a lack of credible alternatives make him an undeserving pick with an awful lot to prove.

Right centre-back: Victor Lindelof.

It’s difficult to see him fully winning over the many Linde-sceptics but the Swede is a calm and occasionally classy inclusion who might just be Solskjaer’s in-form defensive pick (from an admittedly scratchy bunch).

Left Wing-back: Alex Telles.

Overshadowed last campaign by the superb Shaw, could this be Telles’ best chance to stake a claim at left wing-back? His productive performances at previous club Porto certainly suggest he’s an untapped assist machine. With the freedom to attack, this might be the perfect opportunity to see what he can really do.

Right Wing-back: Diogo Dalot.

Yes, you read that right. As with other picks, the Portuguese player’s inclusion says as much about others’ shortcomings as it does his own quality.

With Aaron Wan-Bissaka devoid of form and confidence, this might be a good time to give Dalot a fresh shot at becoming the rampaging attacking talent of past repute. It’s more hope than expectation though.

Centre midfield: Scott McTominay.

The Scot looked revitalised in front of a back 3 against Spurs and has the energy and drive to make a difference. However, he’ll need to show discipline and maturity to stop the midfield from being overrun.

Centre midfield: Bruno Fernandes.

Playing without a No.10 – allied with inconsistent form for club and country – made it touch and go whether the Portuguese star even made the cut. That said, Fernandes has played deeper before and has the intelligence and work ethic to adapt.

Ultimately, no matter how unconvincing his recent performances might have been, he remains United’s most reliable creator, so demands to be accommodated. It’s a risk, maybe, but a calculated one.

Left wide-forward: Jadon Sancho.

The former Borussia Dortmund star has so far done little to justify either the hype or £73m transfer fee. However, he’s clearly a very talented player who desperately needs a run of games and the chance to strike up a relationship with an overlapping full-back (Telles).

United need to do everything they can to provide the kind of environment that made him such a menace in the Bundesliga, starting on Saturday. If he again underwhelms, the returning Marcus Rashford is an ideal replacement.

Right wide-forward: Mason Greenwood.

Despite the toxic dumpster fire raging all around him, the exciting forward has been typically classy this season. His relative inexperience hasn’t stopped him from being one of the most consistent attackers and a constant threat.

As one of the most gifted players to come through the academy since the feted Class of ’92, he should be considered undroppable. His talent is just too great to be ignored.

Striker: Cristiano Ronaldo.

There’s a persuasive argument to be made that Ronaldo weakens the overall attack. He certainly doesn’t seem to expend the same energy as the effervescent and tireless Edinson Cavani. He doesn’t really link up the play or lead from the front.

Even so – it’s Ronaldo. If Solskjaer can form even a semi-functional unit around him, the Portuguese superstar still has the rare ability and unshakeable self-belief to be the game-changer on any stage, at any time.

He’s just too clinical to drop.

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