Coming off the back of another disappointing result for Manchester United, their new leader is bound to face the brunt of the criticism. Managers are always the first to blame. We see sacking after sacking. Dismissal after dismissal. So, it’s no surprise that Solskjaer is already facing the disapproval of some spectators.
Even when Solskjaer’s record was flawless, certain pundits still claimed that what he had achieved was nothing special. Paul Ince suggested that any former player who held a place in the fans’ hearts would have been able to do what Solskjaer had done. This being raising the mood around the club and bringing the return of that feel-good factor. Of course, Solskjaer being a United hero would have helped his cause, but such a long unbeaten record should only bring admiration, not doubt.
Now that a few results haven’t gone his way, the doubt of a few individuals is beginning to gain traction around the entire footballing community. It was a recent social media post from a major betting company that prompted me to write this article. ‘United have been s*** since Solskjaer was offered a three-year contract’ was the long and short of what had been written. But when you use a bit of logic, you soon realise that posts like this are attempting to do nothing more than provoke a reaction from anyone who is willing to listen.
This particular post, probably along with numerous others of a similar sort, was only made following the latest defeat to Barcelona, a game United were always expected to lose. Had United pulled off a similar shock to what we saw in Paris, the reaction on social media would have been entirely different. There would have been a buzz of optimism for the future to come now that United were finally able to compete with the world’s best again, much like there was following the defeat of PSG. Solskjaer’s side were on far from top form against Barcelona, this can’t be denied. Yet, it’s ridiculous that one loss, a loss which was almost inevitable, makes such a difference to spectator opinion, particularly surrounding Solskjaer.
United did not lose because of poor tactical decisions from the manager. They attempted to press high, a method which was reasonably effective in the first leg. Using this method, United looked more dangerous in the opening few minutes at the Camp Nou than they did for the entirety of the game at Old Trafford. It was this style of play that could, and should, have got United right back in the tie. Solskjaer cannot be blamed for missed opportunities and uncharacteristic errors. Rashford striking the crossbar and McTominay’s poor touch when clean through on goal were just a couple of United’s squandered opportunities. De Gea’s blunder in letting a tame strike from the little magician pass under his body also had a huge part to play.
These factors, along with some Messi magic, are why United were eliminated from the Champions League. Again, it comes down to a lack of quality in the side rather than a lack of tactical awareness from Solskjaer.