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ole questions Solskjaer's managerial mistakes in European competition are now becoming a habit

CONSERVATIVE team selection, coaching oversights and the ronaldo conundrum keep the focus on red devils manager

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Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Manager of Manchester United applauds fans after the UEFA Champions League group F match between BSC Young Boys and Manchester United at Stadion Wankdorf on September 14, 2021 in Bern, Switzerland. (Photo by Matthias Hangst/Getty Images)

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Manager of Manchester United applauds fans after the UEFA Champions League group F match between BSC Young Boys and Manchester United at Stadion Wankdorf on September 14, 2021 in Bern, Switzerland. (Photo by Matthias Hangst/Getty Images)

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Manager of Manchester United applauds fans after the UEFA Champions League group F match between BSC Young Boys and Manchester United at Stadion Wankdorf on September 14, 2021 in Bern, Switzerland. (Photo by Matthias Hangst/Getty Images)

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is not going to be fired by Manchester United any time soon.

I'm not calling for him to be fired any time soon either, but let it be clear to all United fans that as long as he is running their football team, defeats like last Tuesday's setback gainst Young Boys of Berne last week are going to happen.

As one wag said to me on Wednesday morning, 'imagine if they'd been playing the older lads from Berne as well.'

You see Ole got the United job as a club legend, when the club was in a right mess at the end of the Jose Mourinho reign.

Prior to managing United, he had been a boss in Norway and in Wales, albeit at a club playing in England. He had never managed an international side.

Would that CV have got him the Real Madrid or Juventus job if they'd been going at the time? Not on your life!

He got the Manchester United job to buy the owners a bit of time with the supporters after Mourinho's tempestuous era, but Ole's managerial mistakes in European competition are now becoming a habit.

United exited the 2020/1 Champions League in farcical fashion and they ought to have beaten nothing more than an average Villarreal side in the Europa League final last season.

Ole handed the Spanish side the tactical advantage by playing with two midfield 'sitters' in Scott McTominay and Fred.

A tactical advantage they protected all the way to the marathon penalty shoot-out and now the Berne débâcle sits on Ole's resume.

Before you point out that Ole didn't commit the stupid foul that Aaron Wan-Bissaka did, or play the daft backpass that Jesse Lingard did, those players ought to have been well coached beforehand not to make the mistake.

Neither is a 'starlet' in the Manchester United tradition. Both are experienced players who should have been well coached not to do what they did - but they went and did it. There is also the matter of substitutions.

Ole made none for so long in the Europa League final that it appeared he had come to the game with no Plan B in his back pocket.

The substitution of Cristiano Ronaldo last Tuesday falls squarely on Ole's shoulders too.

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Once the great man is on the pitch, he will have three opponents around him.

By taking Ronaldo off, Ole allowed the Young Boys coach, David Wagner in the other dugout, to tell his men to pour forward chasing goals.

I fear that substituting, or leaving Ronaldo out of games completely, is going to be an issue for as long as he plays for the club in his late 30s.

He can't go 90 minutes in every match all season - we know that.

So every time United lose or draw a match this season in which the Portuguese superstar does not start, is taken off, or is left out of the match-day squad altogether, there are going to be questions asked about the strategy.

It is why, when I wrote here a couple of months ago about the Glazer family getting back into the fans' good books after the European Super League mess, the three players I identified as a proper target for Solskjaer were Harry Kane, Kylian Mbappe and Erling Haaland.

Each was young enough that the question of 'managing the minutes' would never arise.

It will always arise with a 36-year-old, even one with the ferocious fitness ethic of Ronaldo. As will his ongoing desire to play for Portugal.

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Cristiano Ronaldo: Playing like an old-fashioned English centre-forward

Cristiano Ronaldo: Playing like an old-fashioned English centre-forward

Cristiano Ronaldo: Playing like an old-fashioned English centre-forward

One way for a seasoned player to get a rest period during a busy domestic campaign is to give up international football. To get a ten-day break four or five times a season during the international windows.

With Cristiano I suspect it is the opposite.

He surely has it written into his contract that he can be available for his country at all times.

With Lionel Messi at last leading Argentina to a Copa America triumph during the summer, the final frontier for these two magnificent footballers is to give the elusive World Cup winners' medal a last go in November and December of next year in Qatar.

No, Cristiano will not be taking any step back from his commitment to Portugal - as Ireland found out to their cost earlier this month.

Thus United have to factor that into their plans for using their returned hero.

To get back on track in their European adventure, United will now have to win all their home games against Villarreal, Atalanta and Young Boys.

To top the group they may have to amass as many as four points from the other two away games.

You have to be winning your group to ensure a good seeding in the Round of 16.

If they come second, United's Round-of-16 match will be against the likes of Real Madrid or Bayern Munich as they cannot meet a fellow English club.

And having watched Bayern dismantle Barcelona last Tuesday, if Manchester United want to have a long journey in European club competition this season, they need to avoid Bayern for as long as possible.

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