Man Utd 1-1 Everton: Back to square one for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as Duncan Ferguson’s men pick up a positive result in another big game

Following Chelsea’s defeat at home to Bournemouth on Saturday as well as Wolves and Arsenal respectively taking on Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City on Super Sunday, it gave Manchester United and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer a huge opportunity of moving towards the top four if they could beat an Everton side that looks completely revived under coach Duncan Ferguson.

Going into the game, Solskjaer would have been full focus on achieving the three points and would not have been too worried about the opposition given their injury issues, with a potential victory pushing them to just two behind fourth-place Chelsea. Meanwhile, for Duncan Ferguson, he would be taking it game by game as the coach of Everton, as he aims to help the Toffees to climb up the league title once again before they are in a good position to find the right manager for the club.

In regards to the game as a whole, the hosts had predictably controlled most of the possession and were able to convincingly attempt more than 20 shots throughout the whole game. On the other hand, the visitors were able to cause a few problems of their own through the aerial presence and pace that was offered in midfield and attack, catching out United’s defence from time to time.

United began on the front foot, and were able to produce a few good half chances but were not converted by the likes of Daniel James or Jesse Lingard. Just after those moments went begging, the game became more end-to-end, which started to favour the visitors as only David De Gea, Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelof were in their own half, allowing Everton’s attack to constantly be alert.

The Toffees shockingly took the lead in the 36th minute of the game, as a corner was sent in from Leighton Baines which was not punched away successfully by David De Gea, who was actually impeded by Dominic Calvert-Lewin, before the ball had flicked off Victor Lindelof and into the net. In all honesty, a goal was coming for the Ferguson’s men, as United were constantly giving the ball away, failing to clear the ball out from the danger areas and could not string a couple of passes.

After the half-time break, Solskjaer’s young boys continued to dominate possession of the ball and especially in the Everton’s half of the pitch, but were lacking the much needed quality to create the clear-cut chances and to get onto the end of them too. And in the meantime, it was the defensive quality of Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Harry Maguire that was on display, as they did more than enough in preventing the opposition from doubling their lead and forcing more misery on the Red Devils.

However, after bringing on Mason Greenwood from the bench for Jesse Lingard along with a couple of tactical tweaks, United began to once again pose a huge threat to Everton’s backline and to Jordan Pickford. It didn’t take long for the substitute to make an important impact, 12 minutes later in the 77th minute, as he picked up the ball from Daniel James just near the penalty box before lashing it past the goalkeeper and into the back of net, as the whole of Old Trafford wildly erupted.

In the last ten minutes of the game, neither side had the ideal urgency to look for the much needed second and winning goal, as both teams settled for a draw and with the points shared out. Looking at the Premier League table, Manchester United now drop to sixth-place with Jose Mourinho’s Spurs going ahead of them whilst Everton sit in 16th place, just three points above the relegation zone.

Here are the three valuable factors we learnt from United’s latest league fixture…

Solskjaer needs a plan to beat the mid-table teams

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has proven himself against the big teams so far this season, where his side have been able to dictate the game from deep and constantly counter-attack with full success. Though, it’s his record against the teams that are in the middle of the table that have let him down, which will prevent his team from finishing in the top four and from progressing forward as a whole.

So far this season, the Red Devils have lost to Bournemouth, Crystal Palace and Newcastle whilst drawing to teams such as Aston Villa, Everton and Southampton, the types of games which they would have won a year ago. The questions will be raised about the player’s mentality and mindset, as they were really sloppy on the ball and were not pressing the opposition constantly enough, something that would not have occurred if they played against Chelsea or Manchester City.

United are desperately in need of a creative playmaker

When looking at the games that are played against the mid-table teams, the side are missing a quality number ten, in other words a creative playmaker, someone who can link the midfield to attack and can become the heartbeat of the team. This is what the noisy neighbours have in Kevin De Bruyne, someone who is seen as one of the best players in the league and in Europe, who has the capability of creating chances from anywhere on the pitch and is right now on 10 league assists with 16 chances created.

It will not be easy for United to find a De Bruyne of their own, but the best playmaker they currently have is a 31-year-old Juan Mata, who is definitely passed his best and is not able to play on a regular basis due to his lack pace and energy. Until the board show their hunger in buying someone like Christian Eriksen or James Maddison in the January window, the side will be stuck with Fred and Scott McTominay, who do not have the intelligence and the creativity to be seen as a playmaker.

Mason Greenwood has to start in the league games soon or later

He may not have had the ideal introduction into the team and the opportunity to slowly integrate into the starting line-up, however, Mason Greenwood has delivered on nearly every occasion that Solskjaer has brought him on from the bench. From the games in the Europa League to now at home to Everton, the teenager has come up with the goods and has shown he deserves more game time.

With Anthony Martial and Daniel James being ineffective when it comes to breaking down a deep defensive block, the manager and the team could possibly have a solution in Greenwood, who has the high level of intelligence and the smooth movement on and off the ball as well as his remarkable finishing to be the game changer, which is something that United are poorly missing at the moment.

Man Utd vs Everton; three key battles to look out for ahead Sunday’s game at Old Trafford

Ahead of gameweek 17, Manchester United sit in fifth-place and five points away from the top four positions as they take on an Everton side that are looking to turnaround their season with a new coach in Duncan Ferguson. With only seven points separating one side from another, it does sum up how the Premier League has been incredibly competitive and unpredictable so far this season.

For sure, both sides will be playing with a lot energy, movement as well as with pace, as the attacking option that the hosts and visitors have are capable of deciding the outcome of the fixture. The Red Devils will be looking to improve their record at Old Trafford, having picked up 15 points out of a potential 24, whilst the Toffees have won only one game away from home in eight attempts.

It’s time to look at the three vital battles that could help to decide the fate of this fixture…

Marcus Rashford vs Djibril Sidibe

Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford just happens to be one of the most inform players and one of the top goal-scorers within the Premier League so far this season, as he continues to pose a dangerous threat from the left flank through his burst of pace and incredible movement. Despite the departure of Alexis Sanchez and Romelu Lukaku with no replacements coming in, the 22-year-old is proving a lot of his critics wrong by showing that the club and the manager can depend on him.

Rashford will be in for a close and tight encounter with Djibril Sidibe, who his currently on loan from Ligue 1 side AS Monaco and has become a regular starter for Everton in recent weeks. Given that Seamus Coleman is a huge doubt for the game at Old Trafford, there’s no doubt that the Frenchman will keep his place in the team and attempt to stamp his presence on both sides of the pitch.

Richarlison vs Harry Maguire

It’s no secret that Everton’s most deadly and influential player in the final third of the pitch is none other than Richarlison at the moment, an individual who may not be clinical and consistent against the mid-table teams but will always put on a convincing performance against the big sides. With his ability to take on two to three players with ease whilst being an aggressive predator in the box, he has the capability of hurting United on the counter or by winning the second balls in the key areas.

Richarlison has the intelligence and versatility to play on either flank or through the middle, and will be coming up against no one else but Harry Maguire, who has started to show his actual quality for the team when required and is also proving himself to be one of the main leaders within the squad. With United’s defence still conceding a few cheap goals here and there, Maguire will be hoping that they can become more stable and solid, as well as work on completing clean sheets regular basis.

Scott McTominay vs Gylfi Sigurdsson

Given the lack of quality midfield options that Solskjaer has available, as well as Paul Pogba still being on the sidelines for a couple of weeks, it means that Scott McTominay has to step up once again and be the main man for the midfield and for the team. Looking at the performances he has produced and how he commands the team around him from the middle of the pitch, he has surely been one of the United’s best players so far this season, especially given the lack of quality the team actually has.

Meanwhile for Everton, Gylfi Sigurdsson has started to play a deeper role and could be utilised in the central midfield position within Duncan Ferguson’s 4-4-2 setup, which may suit him well as he is known for his types of passing and his ability to feed the ball into the attackers. The 30-year-old has been seen as a number ten type of player throughout his time at Tottenham Hotspur and Swansea City, but with Everton’s ongoing midfield injuries, he will have to play in a role he may not be totally comfortable in, considering the defensive duties and the amount of distance he will have to cover.

Man City 1-2 Man Utd: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer comes away with the three points in the Manchester derby as Pep Guardiola’s title challenge has been hit with a massive blow

Going into gameweek 16, there was simply no game that was bigger than the Manchester derby, as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Manchester United travelled to the Eithad Stadium to take on Pep Guardiola’s men, who had to ensure they go on a winning run to try and catch up to league leaders Liverpool. However, not many would have predicted the match to go down the way it actually did.

Before the match had taken place, Guardiola would have obviously aimed for the three points and also a dominant performance, in order to show to first-place Liverpool that they may be 14 points ahead but they will be ready to pounce on their mistakes. Meanwhile, Solskjaer was looking to replicate the showing and the result they recently produced against Tottenham Hotspur, in order to show some key consistency in the big games and to keep their hopes for a top-four finish alive.

As a whole, the hosts had unsurprisingly dominated most of the possession and were able to attempt more than 20 shots throughout the whole game. On the other hand, the visitors had the pace and the movement to be dangerous in transition, through the likes of Daniel James, Jesse Lingard and Marcus Rashford, who were top notch on both sides of the pitch, on and off the ball.

United began on the front foot, as they were able to force City into making constant errors, which led them to test goalkeeper Ederson on more than one occasion within the first five to ten minutes of the game. It didn’t take long for the Reds to get their breakthrough, as Rashford was fouled in the penalty box by Bernardo Silva and went on to scoring his 10th league goal from the penalty spot.

A couple of minutes after taking the lead, Solskjaer’s young boys were able to get their second goal of the game through Anthony Martial, who linked up well with Daniel James before striking the ball with his weak foot into the front post and just past Ederson. Despite having the 2-0 lead up till the half-time break, some of the Red Devils would have wanted a further goal or two to extend their lead, as City are capable of turn anything around given their quality in the team and on the bench.

Following the half-time break, City continued to dominate possession of the ball and especially in the United’s half of the pitch, but were missing the cutting edging in the final of the third pitch, something they could have done with if their main goal-scorer in Sergio Aguero was not injured. Though, it was the brilliance of David De Gea and Aaron Wan-Bissaka that kept City’s midfield and attack at a minimum, who were continuing to pile the pressure on the visitors minute after minute.

The Citizens managed to get a goal back late in the game, where Riyaz Mahrez’s corner was met by the head of Nicolas Otamendi and into the back of the net, making sure that the last couple of minutes and the additional time would be full of nerves for both sets of supporters. However, Manchester United remained composed and held onto the lead and the important victory, taking them up to fifth-place whilst Man City remain in third-place and their title hopes are now shattered.

Here are the three valuable factors we learnt from United’s latest league fixture…

The summer signings show their quality in the derby

A lot has been mentioned about the likes of Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Daniel James and Harry Maguire, in terms of how much they were brought for over the summer window and if they are showing that they are worth every penny. They’ve had their good moments as well as their bad moments so far this season, though, they stepped up when the side and the supporters needed them the most, and will now be backed by the true fans of the club for the rest of the season and for years to come.

Starting off with Maguire, his reading of the game from the backline and his ability to lead the team has improved a lot in recent weeks, and he is no longer being out of position or getting dribbled past with ease. Focusing on Wan-Bissaka, he is able to complete the interceptions and tackles without any second thoughts, he is becoming a winger’s nightmare and had kept Sterling quiet for majority of the game. And onto Daniel James, he has proved a lot of the critics wrong, as he has shown he has more to offer than just his pace and movement, as his work rate and defensive duties are top notch.

Ole’s record in the big games continues to impress everyone

For sure, Solskjaer has had his problems in breaking down the mid-table teams and also picking up victories against them on a regular basis, but that comes down to the current squad quality and depth that is available to him. On the other hand, the side’s record in the big games under Ole has to be well appreciated, especially when they have beaten Spurs and Man City in the matter of days.

So far this season, the Red Devils are yet to suffer a loss to one of the big guns, having drawn against Arsenal and Liverpool whilst beating Chelsea, Man City and Spurs. If the side did not pick up 11 points out of a potential 15, they would have been far away from the top four positions and around the mid-table area, leaving their chances of playing in the Champions League next year very slim.

The Red Devils continue to show their effective counter-attacking football

On a lot of occasions over the last couple of months, United have proven to be more effective and dangerous when they are not dominating the possession and are focused on pouncing on the opposition’s mistakes and counter-attacking them with full effect. Given the side’s lack of creativity and with the absence of Paul Pogba, this style of play has improved them on both sides of the pitch.

When looking back at the first 15 minutes of the Manchester derby, all four of United’s attackers had good chances to score a goal for their side and make a name for themselves, but Ederson had other thoughts as he made a few good saved and kept his side in the game. Though, just from that period of the game, a lot of the United supporters would have understood the type of system that Solskjaer is attempting to successfully implement and he is just wanting them to have faith in him.

Man Utd 2-1 Spurs: Jose Mourinho takes no point back in his return to Old Trafford as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer lives to fight for another day

With the Premier League midweek games truly kicking in once again ahead of a busy December schedule, the main focus was solely on the feisty and interesting fixture between Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur, where Jose Mourinho would be making a return to take on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men. A victory for either side would help them push towards the top four positions.

Going into the game, Mourinho would have mainly wanted the three points to get his side to at least fifth-place in the league, as well as to prove himself to the United board and Ed Woodward, who actually sacked him this time last year. Meanwhile, Solskjaer’s situation was a difficult one, as it looked like his days at the club are numbered and he was on borrowed time, so a win for him was required more than ever.

Overall, the host were more effective and productive with the ball despite not dominating the possession, and were able to get attempt and complete more shots on target. On the other hand, the visitors had some good periods with the ball in United’s half, but were lacking the cutting edge and the final third quality to break down the opposition.

United were on the front foot from the start, winning the key battle in midfield whilst using their pace and movement on the flanks through the likes of Daniel James and Marcus Rashford. Fortunately enough they took the lead through the latter and his high confidence of shooting from different angles, as his quick snap shot took Paulo Gazzaniga by surprise and went into the net.

The home side continued to pile on the pressure and were looking quite determined to doubled their lead, but did not find great success in getting past the Tottenham defence. Spurs managed to complete only two shots on target in the first half, with the most important one coming from Dele Alli in 39th minute of the game, where he created a moment of brilliance by beating both Ashley Young and Fred to the ball in the penalty box before calmly slotting it passed David De Gea.

After the half-time break, it didn’t take long for the Red Devils to take the lead again, as Rashford was fouled in the penalty box Moussa Sissoko and went to confidently taking the penalty to score his ninth league goal of the season. With most of the main action being covered by the hour mark, there wasn’t much to it in the final third of the game, as both sides became sloppy and poor on the ball.

In the end, Spurs were enjoying the fair share of the ball were could not do much about it, as United were being patient defensively and were looking for some moments to counter successfully. Though, the game came to an end with Solskjaer picking up the much needed victory and also doing a number on Mourinho, allowing United to move up to fifth-place as Spurs went down to eighth-place.

Here are the three valuable factors we learnt from United’s latest league fixture…

Marcus Rashford is a man on a mission

Since the final days of Sir Alex Ferguson’s time at Old Trafford, no player has scored more goals for Manchester United than Marcus Rashford (57), which is more than impressive from the 22-year-old who was only given his official debut two years after Sir Alex had went into retirement. And both his goals were well-taken last night, with one being from a tight angle and the other from the spot.

The questions were raised about the key chances he has missed this term and his ability to be a clinical goal-scorer, which he is now proving to the critics and to those who doubted him, as he has bagged nine goals and four assists in 14 league games. Given the lack of attacking options and depth within the department, Rashford will be heavy relied on from now till the end of the campaign.

The midfield duo Fred and Scott McTominay continues to impress

When looking at Tottenham’s midfield compared to United’s quality in the middle of the pitch, one would have thought that the control and dominance in the midfield battle would have been one-sided and in the favour of the away side. However, it was the midfield duo of Fred and Scott McTominay that came out on top, as they were constantly outstanding on and off the ball.

Looking into Fred’s performance, it was arguably the best one he has completed in a United shirt as far as the Old Trafford faithful were concerned, as he was progressive with the ball at his feet and was getting into the defensive duties when required. On the other hand, the return of McTominay was huge for the side and the manager, as his physical presence and ability to protect the ball in midfield was much needed, as the United midfield in recent weeks have been poor and deficient.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer continues to fight for another day at Man Utd

For sure, the main focus has been on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and how much more longer he will be at the club for, but the credit has to be given where it’s due, as he managed to overcome a strong side in Tottenham Hotspur that is managed by Jose Mourinho. Surprisingly, Solskjaer’s record in the big games have been more positive and effective than in the games against the middle-table sides.

If he wasn’t able to recently get a result against Spurs and one potentially in the Manchester derby on the weekend, he would have surely been sacked by Ed Woodward before the December fixtures had kicked in. With the United fanbase being fairly even on if they want Ole out or not, they will want him to motivate the players to perform like they did on a more regular basis, where they play with urgency, fast tempo on and off the ball whilst having the mentality of being on the front foot.

Man Utd were unconvincing once again as they drop points to Aston Villa at Old Trafford

With Arsenal, Chelsea and Man City all dropping points in their respective games, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Manchester United had a big chance to towards the top four positions if they could beat Aston Villa, a side who have been struggling for form and are just outside of the relegation zone.

Looking at the end-to-end match as a whole, the hosts were in control of the possession but did not create many chances or complete enough shots on target as the visitors were able to defend with composure and prove to be dangerous on the counter. The Villains shockingly took the lead in the 11th minute of the game, as Jack Grealish picked up the ball in the final third of the pitch and cut through from the right to the middle before firing a shot straight into the far corner of the net.

The Red Devils did not show enough urgency and failed to provide composure on and off the ball, making it look like Villa would be more likely of doubling their lead than seeing an equaliser coming through at all. However, with just a couple of minutes away from the half-time break, Andreas Pereira was met by the head of Marcus Rashford, which got a touch off the post and Tom Heaton before going into the net. Both sides were tied at 1-1 as the first half came to a fortunate end.

After the break, United were on the front foot, utilising the ball at a higher tempo and were finding the attackers in the right areas of the pitch, but the opposition’s goalkeeper did not have much problems and nor did the backline when it came to dealing with any potential threat through the middle or the flanks. But once again, the cutting edge was missing when it was needed the most.

Though, there was an interesting turnaround just after the hour mark at Old Trafford, as Grealish had a great chance to score his second goal of the day and give Villa the lead once again, but he scuffed his shot wide off the target. A few moments later, United won a set-piece, which somehow got to Victor Lindelof at the far side of the post, who kindly headed the ball into the opposite direction and into the corner of the net, giving United the lead for the first time in the whole game.

Unfortunately, normal service was resumed for Solskjaer’s men, as they went on to conceding a goal straight after Lindelof’s goal, as Matt Targett’s perfectly-timed ball over the top was followed by a first-time finish from Tyrone Mings, who managed to get his first goal in the Premier League. In terms of the marking and the defending, United could have done much better than what they actually did, as the full team attempted to rush out from the penalty box to keep the Villa players offside, but because of the lack of communication, Brandon Williams get the opposition onside.

After the two goals for each side, not much was happening as United did not have the much needed creativity and quality whilst Aston Villa did more than enough to hold onto the well-deserved point. In the end, with the points being shared out, Manchester United now sit in ninth-place as Dean Smith’s Aston Villa find themselves in fifteen-place, just a few points above the relegation zone.

Here are the three valuable factors we learnt from United’s latest league fixture…

United’s current issues in midfield cannot get any worse

Just by having a look at the midfield options, majority of the Manchester United supporters do not feel confident or positive when they see their team play, no matter who it is against, whether it’s one of the best teams in the league or it’s a mid-table side. Even without Paul Pogba and Scott McTominay, who are currently on the sidelines, the midfield department are still not able to dominate either Aston Villa or Sheffield United, who do not have the greatest of midfields.

Even when looking at the two mentioned team, who were promoted to the top-flight half a year ago, they have the likes of Jack Grealish, John Lundstram and John McGinn, who would easily get into United’s midfield, which sums up the lack of quality and options they have at this moment of time. Given that the players can easily be injured or be suspended, the board and Ed Woodward will have to invest in the January window for a midfielder, or a lot of rising problems could occur.

The football at Old Trafford is no longer exciting or mind-blowing

Football supporters see the beauty of the sport in different ways, most see it as just winning at all costs whilst the rest would like the football played in an exciting style of play whilst being successful. At this moment of time, Manchester United are unable to do either, a team that have had their dark and gloomy days under the likes of David Moyes, Louis Van Gaal and Jose Mourinho, are still finding it difficult to see a certain style of play being placed and a range of tactics that are quite effective.

So far this season, the Red Devils have only won three out of the seven league games that have been played at Old Trafford, which is not good enough for a team that wants to finish in the top four positions. If United are looking to change their ways and make amends before it is too late, they will need to play with freedom and a more positive mind in the games at homes, in order for them to start winning the league matches on a regular basis and for them to turn Old Trafford into a fortress.

Solskjaer does not have the intelligence and in-game management to succeed

Since making that memorable comeback against Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League back in March, that arguably made him the permanent manager of the club, the rollercoaster of a ride for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has not gone the way he would have imagined as he is now seen as the next Premier League manager that could get sacked. A lot of things have not gone well for United on and off the pitch, which could leave Ed Woodward with no option but to sack the 46-year-old Norwegian.

United have only won four out of the 14 league games they have played so far this season, and despite the current lack of quality and depth, Solskjaer’s limited intelligence and lack of in-game management has been the decisive factors to the side’s poor run of results. But the board and Ed Woodward himself should have known what they were getting, from someone who has only managed Cardiff City and Molde, with his time at both clubs not ending in the ideal of ways.

The problems at the club lie deeper than the manager and the players, but there is no doubt that the sacking of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will happen once the people in charge see the value of the club is decreasing and the possibility of Champions League football is definitely ruled out. Although it hasn’t worked out for Ole as well as for the previous managers, it will surely not work out for even the best managers within Europe, as the lack of planning and required ambition from the owners and Ed Woodward is what is preventing Manchester United football club from moving forward as a whole.

Sheffield Utd 3-3 Man Utd: The points are shared out between both sides in a six-goal thriller

The main focus of gameweek 13 was the huge clash between Man City and Chelsea, two sides who are looking to catch up to the Liverpool, but Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Manchester United had a difficult trip and a crucial match away to Sheffield United. Chris Wilder’s men have been on fine form since being promoted to the Premier League and have prove themselves to the top teams, which cannot be said about the other new boys in Aston Villa and Norwich City, who are badly struggling.

Focusing on the game as a whole, the hosts without a doubt outplayed and dominated the visitors, in terms of chances created, shots completed and where most of the possession was played on the pitch. The Blades were magnificent and untouchable in the first half, importantly taken the lead through John Fleck whilst playing comfortably with the ball and with a really good level of tempo.

They managed to continue with that straight after the half-time break, in terms of winning the ball in the right areas and pressuring the opposition time and time again through their movement and intelligence. This is how they doubled their lead, as they were able to force Andreas Pereira to lose the ball in the central area with his team-mates high up the pitch, allowing John Fleck to find Lys Mousset on the quick counter attack, who perfectly placed his shot into the corner of the net.

Meanwhile for the Red Devils, they were all over the place for 70 minutes of the match, unconvincing defensively, completely anonymous in midfield and the front three were slouching around in the opponent’s half with nothing to feed from or work with. Even in the first half alone, they only completed one shot on goal, showing how they lacked the required desire and urgency.

However, after Solskjaer made a tweak to the system in the second half, the team were able to have more time and space on the ball whilst having the numbers to get into the final third of the pitch. From the 70th minute till the 80th minute, the attacking-minded and ruthless United side showed up, as United pulled out three well-worked goals from nowhere, with them coming from Brandon Williams, Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood, three players that came from the academy.

With just a couple of minutes to go, the neutral supporters of the Premier League got what they wanted for a special Sunday evening, as the substitute, Oliver McBurnie, saw his shot to be too powerful for David De Gea and went into the back of the net, leaving the points to be shared out by both teams. In the end, Sheffield United sit comfortably and proudly in sixth-place, whilst Manchester United find themselves in ninth position, nine points away from the top four spots.

Here are the three valuable factors we learnt from United’s latest league fixture…

The Red Devils do not have the foundation for a top four finish

Majority of the Old Trafford faithful would have felt that the chances of finishing in the top four would have been very slim a month or so ago, and now they would be thinking to themselves if the side are capable of finishing in the top half of the table. This is what happens when a squad is lacking the required depth and quality, something that the board and Ed Woodward have failed to repair.

Because of this unfortunate situation, the side have been forced to rely on the youngsters time and time again whilst there are not that many experienced players within the midfield and forward department to look up to. With there being no project and system put into place on and off the pitch, United are forced to work on individual quality and counter-attacking football, leaving them with a huge amount of uncertainty on if they can win games consistency and be successful at all.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is starting to show that the job is too big for him

If we are being brutally honest, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer would have been sacked by now if he wasn’t a former Manchester United player that is seen as likeable person by the club and its loyal supporters. For sure, he understands the club’s style of play and the history of the football club, but he hasn’t shown the intelligence and the tactical flexibility that he is made to manage one of the biggest clubs in the world, on top of the fact that he failed to be successful at Cardiff City and Molde previously.

With the likes of Marcelino, Mauricio Pochettino and Max Allegri available and seeking for a new club, the pressure is definitely on Solskjaer to start picking up the much needed performances or results, as the board and Ed Woodward will not be able to bare another season without Champions League football. If things do not end well with this campaign, it may be ideal for the 46-year-old Norwegian to step down from the job, in order to save his reputation as a legend of the club.

Chris Wilder’s Sheffield United continue to outdo everyone’s expectations

Sheffield United are proving to be one of the best surprises of the Premier League so far this season, as they have been able to show their quality on both sides of the pitch whilst playing in a unique system under manager Chris Wilder that involves the use of overlapping centre-backs. Within this style of play, the team are able to attack effectively and are in full control on and off the ball.

The Blades have been really successful against the big boys, having beaten Arsenal at home whilst taking one point each from the likes of Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur and now Manchester United, with their only defeat being an unfortunate one against Liverpool. If both Chris Wilder and Sheffield United are able to keep this up, it wouldn’t be a total shock to see them finishing in the top half of the table, something they would have never dreamt of at the start of the Premier League campaign.

Why Paul Pogba’s return is needed badly for both Man Utd and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

Ole Gunnar Solskajer’s Manchester United are not enjoying a good season at all so far this term, as they currently sit in tenth place and are nine full points away from the top four spots. Despite the arrivals of Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Daniel James and Harry Maguire, the side have seen quite a few players leave Old Trafford too, which leaves the squad lacking the quality and the ideal depth.

Twelve games into the season, the Red Devils have been unable to find the required form and consistency to help them fight for a Champions League position, with the likes of Chelsea, Leicester City and Sheffield United being more dominant and proactive. Both Liverpool and Manchester City have not been mentioned in comparison to any other team in the league let alone in regards to United, as the pair have enough quality and individual brilliance to guide them to the league title.

Focusing back on United, they will need to start picking up their performances and most importantly their win ratio once the international break is over, or they will fall far behind from the rest, as sides such as Arsenal, Spurs and Wolves are yet to hit their ruthless streak. With the team having eight league games to play from now till the end of the year, there are still a lot of points available to be won and lost, before the league positions shape up and become more clear of who will finish where.

However, for Solskjaer and United, the return of Paul Pogba will be badly required if they aim to dominate matches on a regular basis and are hoping to pick up three points week in and out. The Frenchman hasn’t played a match since the 1-1 draw against Arsenal at the end of September, as he has been on the sidelines with an ankle/foot injury that has kept him unavailable from playing.

Without his presence in midfield and in the team, the side’s best chances of creating and scoring happen to come on the counter-attack, which does not come quite often when playing against an opposition that prefer to sit deep and are not attacking-minded. Not only that, a midfield duo of Fred and Scott McTominay is not good enough when it comes to playing against one of the top-six sides, as an extra bit of pure quality and spark is needed from the players in the middle of the pitch.

Not only that, the other midfielders within the squad are not capable of producing the range and types of passes that Pogba is able to complete without any effort. Also, he is the type of individual that boasts with a positive mentality and does not hide or ghost away through the match, as he likes to be at the centre of each attacking movement and is always spreading out the ball with urgency, something that cannot be easily stated for the likes of Fred, Andreas Pereira or Nemanja Matic.

Also, he is the one that is coming up with the high number of goals and assists from the midfield department, completing 13 goals and nine assists as well as a number of Man of the Match awards last season, whilst the other midfielders were unable to score or assist on more than five occasions.

In the end, United have always been more dangerous and on the front foot when Pogba is in the team, and they will want him back at least before the December fixtures kick in. Whether his mind is on joining either Juventus or Real Madrid, he has always remained as a true professional and gives his all when stepping onto Old Trafford, so his intentions and mindset cannot be questioned at all.

The Red Devils will be facing Everton, Man City and Tottenham as well as a difficult away trip to Burnley next month, which means that Solskjaer will not be able to think about giving Pogba enough time to get to full fitness or perfect condition. Given the side’s current league position and recent form, the 45-year-old Norwegian will be doing everything to turn the season around sooner rather than later, or he could be sacked by the board and Ed Woodward before the campaign is over.

Manchester United have to be flexible to get the best out of Anthony Martial

There is no doubt about the scary potential that Anthony Martial has. Even if the last two to three seasons have been really difficult for him at a personal level, where he has had issues ongoing off the pitch and has not been a regular starter under either Jose Mourinho or Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

However, after receiving his number nine jersey once again and following the departure of Romelu Lukaku, he is expected to play on a more regular basis and will be hoping to reach 20-25 league goals this season. The Red Devils will be hoping for a much better season as a whole, as they failed to be constantly effective on both sides of the pitch last season, from being defensively reckless to limited and predictable on the attacking area of the game. And if they can do that, their hopes for a top four finish is surely not impossible.

Focusing more on Martial, he’s been scoring on a few occasions over the last couple of weeks, with two goals in two games against Partizan Belgrade to help United qualify for the knockout stages of the Europa League, as well as a crucial and much needed goal away at Norwich City. He’s come in at the right time with the goals as both Daniel James and Marcus Rashford have gone quiet recently.

Since his debut for the club in August 2015, he has gone on to score 50 goals for Manchester United, more than any other player within the squad from the beginning of the period. Just on that note, one can immediately understand the qualities and abilities he brings to the team, especially in the final third of the pitch and his impressive personal composure whilst having his back to goal.

It has taken some time to find out the player’s best position, given that he can be effectively and deadly either as a left-sided winger or a lone centre-forward, thanks to his movement on and off the ball and his creativity in the dangerous areas of the pitch. On top of that, he has shown what he offers to the team when he isn’t scoring, as he notched two key assists recently against Brighton.

As long as all the attackers stay fit and in fine form, Ole will need to keep a consistent and dominant attacking setup from now till the end of the campaign, with Martial as the number nine and both Daniel James and Rashford as the wide players being the ideal idea. If this does happen, it would allow Martial to be freed from his defensive duties and be utilised within the advanced areas.

The 23-year-old’s standout attribute just happens to be his one on one dribbling and his intelligence to take on two to three players within the matter of seconds, as he has the pace as well as the trickery to be the difference on the flanks. However, when he is played in this role, he can easily be marked by two players and left isolated, forcing him to remain unknown for the rest of the game.

Given that both Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez left Old Trafford in the summer, without the club bringing in a replacement at all, Martial’s qualities and potential is more required through the middle than the flanks. His goals and assists in all competitions have come from the central position, where he has the much needed licence to roam and move around to lead the side’s attack and build-up play.

Overall, Solskjaer should not use his favouritism of Rashford and push Martial back out onto the wings, as the former is not a clinical goal-scorer and is unable to bring other players into the game whilst the latter is arguably the side’s best forward in front of goal. Martial is one of the most important players in the squad and has the quality to be a game-changer or match-winner when required, and he can start or continue to be one for the Red Devils as long as he is used centrally.

Man Utd 3-1 Brighton: Ole’s men enjoyed a straightforward afternoon at Old Trafford

Although the main focus of gameweek 12 was the head-to-head clash between Liverpool and Manchester City, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Manchester United had a must-win match of they own as took on Brighton & Hove Albion, with the aim of turning their form and momentum in the league around. This was the perfect chance for the Red Devils to pick up the win with a solid display.

When looking back at the game as a whole, the hosts were without a doubt the most dominant and attacking-minded side and were on top on both sides of the pitch, whilst the visitors were sat quite deep in their own half and were unable to create enough chances or moments. Nevertheless, United played on the front foot straightaway and it allowed them to gain full control of the end outcome.

The Red Devils got the lead through a good move which went from defence to attack in the matter of seconds, as Andreas Pereira’s shot took quite a deflection before going into the back of net. And then a few minutes later, United got their second from a set-piece which was poorly defended by Brighton, with the loose ball in the penalty box being put into the wrong net by Davy Propper.

Graham Potter’s men were able to pick themselves up from the floor, as they grew in confidence and began to work well on and off the ball for the remainder of the first half. With the tactical changes being made and utilised during the half-time break, the Seagulls were able to get a goal back through Lewis Dunk, who dominantly headed Pascal Gross’ corner passed David De Gea.

Fortunately for Solskjaer and United, Marcus Rashford impressively managed to get the third and final goal for the hosts, which was once again worked well by the team to prevent the visitors from coming up with a potential comeback. Had the side been more ruthless in the final third, they could have ended the match with five to six goals, something that hasn’t happened in quite a long time.

In the end, the Red Devils picked up the much needed three points and their third league victory at home this season as they go up to seventh-place in the table. Meanwhile, Brighton and Hove Albion sit comfortably in eleventh-place, currently seven valuable points away from the relegation zone.

Here are the three valuable factors we learnt from United’s latest league fixture…

One of the best attacking displays at Old Trafford this season

For sure, the goals in the first half came down to a bit of luck and Brighton’s overall quality is not the greatest, but no one could deny the intensity and movement on and off the ball that United had showed, which had been lacking for quite some time. However, if it wasn’t for this early and positive mindset, the side wouldn’t have had the two important goals before the half-time break, something they haven’t shockingly completed for the first time at Old Trafford since the middle of January.

The Red Devils ended the match with five big chances created, 21 shots attempted and with 11 of them going on target. If the team are able to keep this up on a regular basis, especially once the injured players are back from the sidelines, then there should be no doubt that they could possibly push for a top four finish from the middle of the season as well as compete in the domestic cups.

The chemistry between Martial and Rashford is growing once again

After both Alexis Sanchez and Romelu Lukuaku had left the club in the final days of the transfer windows, majority of Manchester United supporters were quite concerned about the quality and depth available in the attacking department, as no replacements were brought in at all. Though, with Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford getting into their stride recently, the side are now able to counter-attack effectively through the pace, movement and understanding they offer to the team.

If we’re being honest, neither of Martial and Rashford have been consistent goal-scorers week in and out, but as long as they work off one another and get into good positions, there shouldn’t be a problem in both players chipping in with 30-35 goals in the league together. United’s attacking options are quite thin at the moment, but they will be hoping that the current individuals will be able to guide them till the end of the year, with the hopes of signing someone in January being high.

Brandon Williams will make the left-back position his own very soon

It had seemed like United had some rising issues in the left-back area, given the injury problems that Diogo Dalot and Luke Shaw have been having as well as Ashley Young’s time as a regular player coming to an end. On the other hand, Brandon Williams’ recent introduction has worked wonders for all parties, as he slotted into the position like a glove and is beginning to stamp his own mark.

He may not be seen as the next big thing or the finished article as of yet, but the 19-year-old has been showing his quality and potential on both sides of the pitch, being able to defend with composure, play confidently with both feet and prove to be a threat going forward. If he can continue to perform on a consistent basis and get into the good books of Solskjaer, then the Old Trafford faithful will definitely see the younger be on the team sheet more often than predicted.

Bournemouth 1-0 Man Utd: Solskjaer’s men lacked the creativity and quality to overcome the Cherries

Although the main focus of gameweek 11 was to see how the table is beginning to shape up on both sides of the league as we are only a few weeks away from the busy December period, Manchester United and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had an important fixture of their own as they faced difficult trip away to Bournemouth. This was the perfect chance for the side to show consistency in front of goal and in terms of going on a winning run, however, they were unable to overcome Eddie Howe’s men.

In terms of the game as a whole, it was quite balanced between both teams as they were able to see a good amount of possession and had a few opportunities here and there to create some decent chances. Though, most of the action came in the second half, with Joshua King’s well-taken goal just before the half-time break had allowed the game to be more open and entertaining for the neutrals.

To be fair to Solskjaer’s side, they had seem quite tired and lethargic, assuming it has been difficult in containing all the recent matches as well as the long trips in the Europa League. But focusing back onto the Bournemouth match, Ole’s in-game management will have to improve soon or later, as his timing of the substitutions are really poor and it could possibly cost him his job before he knows it.

In the end, the Cherries were able to pick up the much needed three points and their second league victory at home this season as they go up to seventh-place in the table. Meanwhile, the Red Devils drop down to the middle of the table, as they have achieved only three victories in 11 league games, leaving them closer to the relegation zone rather than the top four area of the Premier League table.

Here are the three valuable factors we learnt from United’s latest league fixture…

Andreas Pereira and Fred are simply not good enough

Given the lack of midfield quality and squad depth that is offered to Solskjaer this season, it leaves him with no choice but to utilise Andreas Pereira and Fred on a regular basis. For sure, the Brazilian duo show some work rate and passion on both sides of the pitch, but other than that, they are unable to control and dominate the midfield battle to help the team to consistently win games.

With neither of the pair having the ability to play as a box-to-box midfielder or as an advanced playmaker, it does leave the cold question of what do they bring and offer to the team week in and out. If they are not able to make a breakthrough like Scott McTominay has done so over the last 12 months, the United supporters will be desperate in wanting Paul Pogba back from injury or a new midfielder in the January window, as the quality in the middle of the pitch is not good enough.

United’s defensive issues are beginning to rise once again

In the first weeks of the season, it had seemed like United’s defence were really hard to breakthrough and difficult to get passed, thanks to the arrivals of Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Harry Maguire. However, in the recent fixtures, the feeling and presence of the backline has instantly turnaround, as the opposition have been able to be effective with their physicality and pace.

The criticism of United’s back-four has increased from time to time, as the Old Trafford faithful are starting to point out many weaknesses in each individual, such as Maguire’s decision making and lack of pace, Ashley Young’s incapability to defend and attack or even Victor Lindelof’s difficulties in facing forwards who are superior in height and acceleration. And if this begins to continue, the team may find themselves in a defensive dilemma which they have experienced over the last few years.

The lack of creativity and urgency is what had let the side down  

Manchester United finished the defeat at Bournemouth with zero big chances created, one decent counter attack and 15 shots with four of them being on target. On that note, the attacking figures produced by the Red Devils at the Vitality Stadium on Saturday afternoon were really below-par, especially for a side that are aiming for a top four finish in the league and have an expensive squad.

If the team are looking to create more chances and complete more shots on target, they will need to start getting both Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford more into the game, which they were not able to do as Daniel James had become to go-to-man in recent matches. With the attacking options being limited, United have to work around the movement, pace and the quality of the front three, who have the potential to create chances out nothing and could prove to be deadly on the counter.