| 1°C Dublin

solskjaer worry Manchester United is just too big a club for some people - players and managers alike

Close

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer during the 3-1 win over West Ham

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer during the 3-1 win over West Ham

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer during the 3-1 win over West Ham

FOR the first time, I’m beginning to think that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is out of his depth as Manchester United manager.

He may have bought himself some time with yesterday's 3-1 win at West Ham, but his failure to get Fred off the pitch at Old Trafford last Wednesday night was inexcusable.

It should have been done one second after the Brazilian somehow got just a yellow card for his foul on PSG’s Leandro Paredes.

How Fred got a yellow for it is one thing, how Solskjaer did not act straight after is beyond me.

It’s not as though he was short of midfielders. Both Paul Pogba and Nemanja Matic were sitting on the bench, ready to play the same role.

Ole is not an inexperienced manager, just handed the reins of Manchester United through some accident.

He had two spells in charge of Molde in his native Norway and time too at Cardiff City in the Premier League.

Now he has two years done as the boss at Old Trafford. He has been a manager for quite a while now.

But not subbing Fred straight away was a rookie error. My God, I remember a match as a kid with Pearse Rovers and one of our players got away with a dreadful foul.

He got the hook seconds later. That was a manager of a kids team on a windy park pitch in south Dublin, but there was a manager who knew what to do!

Close

Manchester United's Paul Pogba scores his side's first goal at West Ham

Manchester United's Paul Pogba scores his side's first goal at West Ham

Manchester United's Paul Pogba scores his side's first goal at West Ham

Manchester United is just too big a club for some people, players and managers alike.

I’ve written here about it many times, Roy Keane has talked about it many times.

It takes a special footballer to thrive at a club where you are expected to win every single game – whether that is playing against one of Europe’s elite in the Champions League, or as part of a team full of kids in the Carabao Cup.

Real Madrid is the only other club I can think of where that pressure applies.

After that you are talking about Brazil’s national team and the All Blacks in rugby. It’s a rare group of sporting outfits.

It was a crazy call by Ole and could cost Manchester United their place in the knockout phase of the Champions League, because they are going to find a draw very hard to come by in Leipzig on Tuesday.

And that would be a shame, for I thought for long spells on Wednesday night that United were the better team.

But the finish wasn’t there. They were close, through Edinson

Cavani’s lob and Pogba’s volley.

But Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford missed much easier chances.

And when you miss your chances against a team with Neymar and Kylian Mbappe aboard, you are asking for trouble.

I want to talk about two players. It’s obvious to me Harry Maguire doesn’t have the pace to be a top-notch centre-half – by which I mean Virgil van Dijk top-notch.

Too often last Wednesday Maguire was left for dead when asked to cope with the speed of PSG’s counter-attacks.

Maybe the summer business in Greece is still playing on Harry’s mind.

However, we’ve seen Spurs and Chelsea expose the lack of speed in recovery in Premier League matches too.

If United do go on in Europe’s premier competition, how are they going to cope with some of the lightning-quick attackers still waiting for them.

Men like Antoine Griezmann of Barcelona and Serge Gnabry of Bayern Munich.

On the other side of the ledger, as someone who has given Pogba a fair bit of stick here lately, it is only fair to acknowledge that brilliant volley.

If the ball had gone into the net, we’d have been in Goal of the Season territory.

Close

Manchester United's Fred is shown a red card

Manchester United's Fred is shown a red card

Manchester United's Fred is shown a red card

That’s what Pogba can do – he just doesn’t do it often enough.

Words that sum up everything about Manchester United right now.

I commented here last week about how inconsistent they have been from game to game.

Well last Sunday, United took that to new heights by playing dreadfully in the first-half against Southampton and then brilliantly in the second.

Before finally winning the match with a goal in ‘Fergie Time.’

But United need consistency quickly as they put their Champions League fate on the line on Tuesday and then host Manchester City in the derby next Saturday.

United do play better against the big sides, almost as though they live up to the club’s traditions and those demands of game-by-game excellence placed upon any Red Devil.

Well now it is really tough, as even a glance at the Premier League table will tell you that whichever Manchester team loses next Saturday night is out of the Premier League race too.

Jurgen Klopp may bemoan his team’s schedule and their long injury list.

But Liverpool are still picking up points every weekend and they are guaranteed to top their Champions League group.

The Anfield boys are getting the job done and, frankly, the two Manchester teams are already so far behind that you have to wonder about them having the slightest chance of reeling in the leaders.

And if United and City draw on Saturday, then they don’t much help each other. Liverpool, Chelsea and Spurs will be laughing at they scoot further ahead at the top of the Premier League table.

But that is nobody’s fault but United’s. It’s only December and yet it is where the club finds itself, with two matches they dare not lose so early in their season.

They are the makers of their own misfortune and only the players and the management group can get them out of the mess.

If United do their usual thing of rising to face a top opposition they might just get away with it, in both matches.

But you won’t see me putting any money on it.

Download the Sunday World app

Now download the free app for all the latest Sunday World News, Crime, Irish Showbiz and Sport. Available on Apple and Android devices

Online Editors


Privacy