Man Utd 1-2 Crystal Palace; Ole’s men suffer their first league defeat

Although the main focus of gameweek three was between Liverpool and Arsenal, Manchester United had a good opportunity to bounce back from the Wolves stalemate with the home fixture against Crystal Palace. As majority of the top-six sides have failed to be effectively convincing, it would have been ideal for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men to pick up another early win in the season.

As a whole, the match resulted in a way that not many ahead predicted before kick-off, where the hosts dominated possession and apparently had the game under control, when all of a sudden, the visitors went direct on the counter and scored through Jordan Ayew in the 32nd minute. Throughout the first half, United’s footballing style was constantly sideways and was played at a really slow place, allowing Roy Hodgson’s men to sit comfortably deep and with not much to worry about.

Things went from bad to worse for United in the second half, as a couple of big chances went down the drain and Marcus Rashford’s attempt from the penalty spot in 70th minute hit the woodwork. However, the side’s goal and equaliser finally came in 89th minute as Daniel James well-placed shot went past Vicente Guaita and into the far corner of net. In the final moments of the game, United’s overload of players allowed Crystal Palace to break brutally on the counter and to shockingly get the winner.

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

Lack of creativity and urgency

Throughout the whole game, United failed to cause a number of problems for Crystal Palace’s backline and Vicente Guaita, as they went on to complete the same amount of shots on target as the opposition. The Red Devils actually completed zero shots on goal by the half-time break, which more or less implies that the side’s lack of creativity and urgency is starting to show when they are desperately in need of it.

After the break, Solskjaer’s men did take things up a notch by raising the tempo on the ball and in terms of looking to progress more forward whilst in possession, but they were seriously in need of a playmaker that can pull the strings with ease and open up the opponent’s defence without trying. United’s main options within this position is either Jesse Lingard or Juan Mata, though, they are not the ideal individuals that can produce the final third goods on a consistent and effective basis.

Ole needs to begin experimenting more tactically

Solskjaer kept the same line-up as the one that faced Wolves last week, but majority of the Old Trafford faithful were hoping that a couple of changes were made in order for the squad to know that no one’s place in the starting line-up is guaranteed. On the other hand, the manager himself will need to experiment into new formations and tactics, in order to get the best out of his own players and work around the opposition’s system.

A potential plan B may include the back-three/five setup, which would allow Axel Tuanzebe to play more regularly and in the backline along with Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelof, giving United the defensive stability they need and the licence for the wing-backs and Paul Pogba to constantly advance high up the pitch. As Ole does not have strength in numbers within midfield and attack, they currently have no option but to focus on dominating possession on both sides of the pitch and take their limited chances.

United won’t progress far with the current midfield options

At this moment of time, it can easily be stated that United will have huge and great difficulty in finishing in the top four this season and with any intentions they have of domestic cup success. Based on the last couple of games, the side have unfortunately failed to control and dominate the game in the middle of the pitch, a department that is not filled with many talented or experienced players. And the departures of both Ander Herrera and Marouane Fellaini have not helped at all.

With the club failing to bring in a replacement for the mentioned duo or an upgrade on some of the deadwood within this area, a single injury to either Paul Pogba or Scott McTominay will ruin the manager’s balance and the side’s stability for a number of weeks. And if the side start to drop points on a more regular basis, the board will then surely regret not buying Bruno Fernandes or Thomas Partey, two well-known individuals who are seen as the missing piece to United’s broken midfield.

Will Man Utd just about snap up a centre-back this summer?

Manchester United have had an impressive pre-season at a personal level, beating the likes of Perth Glory, Leeds United, Inter Milan and Tottenham Hotspur whilst playing good possession-based football with a high pressing style. Majority of the Old Trafford faithful will be hoping that this continues into the new campaign, as the previous season was as awful one to simply forget.

Not only that, the two signings in Aaron-Wan Bissaka and Daniel James has received the required game time and the calm consultation from the rest of the squad, in order for their respective careers to get going. Since the duo have arrived, the club now have a right-back that is one of the best in the league and a natural winger that is really fast, both footed and is able to play on either of the flanks.

However, focusing on if United are going to complete anymore transfers or not, they still desperately in need of two to three additions before the season eventually begins. The main position just happens to be the centre-back area, where they are clearly lacking a vocal leader and someone to consistently pair up with Victor Lindelof, who is currently regarded as the side’s best defender.

With Eric Bailly, Marcos Rojo and Phil Jones constantly being injury prone and unavailable for when the side need them the most, the options that manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has are limited straightaway. Meanwhile, Axel Tuanzebe has quite the potential, but it is uncertain if he plays regularly or goes out on loan again, whilst Chris Smalling has been fairly good but has failed to reach the prospects he showed during his early days as a Fulham player and in his first season at United.

Although the club have recently been linked with the likes of Harry Maguire, Kalidou Koulibaly and Toby Alderweireld, there has not been enough closure from the English papers or the club’s media press to show they intend on making a third signing. There is a huge difference in the final outcome of the season if it is to happen or not, from finishing in the Europa League spots again to a top four finish and potential silverware.

After conceding over 50 league goals and keeping only a few clean sheets last season, the Red Devil supporters were seriously hoping that the people in charge and Ed Woodward himself would have seen the defence as the side’s main weakness. Given that Liverpool have Virgil van Dijk and Manchester City have Aymeric Laporte, two of the best centre-backs within England and Europe, United are yet to have someone of that calibre to lead them to a title challenge and make them defensively sound.

Had the hierarchy provided Jose Mourinho with a centre back last summer as per his request, a lot of things would have been different by now, with the club’s chances of finishing in the top four being increased instantly and also their odds in the domestic cups. Furthermore, the club’s planning for the transfer window has been below-par and absolutely atrocious, spending just under £150million and bringing in only five new additions together this summer and last summer, leaving many holes to still fill.

Overall, Manchester United will honestly not be competing with both Liverpool and Manchester City in the league anytime soon, especially when you see the difference in quality that both rival clubs have on and off the pitch. Though, if the club were to somehow bring in a centre-back within the next ten days, it would allow them to bring pure stability and protection to a dreadful defence whilst help them to a good term.

The three short-term replacements for the out-of-favour Romelu Lukaku

With only a couple of weeks left until the new Premier League season starts along with the summer transfer window comes to an end, majority of the English clubs will desperately be looking to finalise the remaining deals they have outstanding whilst looking to offload a few players out of the team.

Focusing on Manchester United, there are a lot of things ongoing, from ensuring David De Gea signs a new six-year deal over the next couple of weeks to preventing both Juventus and Real Madrid from making any convincing offers for Paul Pogba. And on top of that, Romelu Lukaku has all of a sudden become the key hot topic, someone who doesn’t fit into Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s plans and is now wanted by Inter Milan.

If he was to leave before the window closes, it would leave United with Alexis Sanchez, Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood as the options that could cover the centre-forward role. That alone would simply not be enough to guide the team to a top-four finish, as they would potentially need around 35 to 45 league goals from the four players that have been mentioned.

With no further ado, here are the three main individuals that could replace Romelu Lukaku…

Alexis Sanchez revival

If we’re being brutally honest, we could actually assume that majority of the Old Trafford faithful at times forget that Alexis Sanchez is still a Manchester United player. Unfortunately, this really sums up his rapid decline since moving from Arsenal to the Red Devils, as his injury issues have prevented him from being available on a regular basis and it has stopped him from proving his arrogant critics wrong.

However, in the minimal games he has played for the club, he has shown some bright moments when utilised in a more central role rather than playing in his usual position out on the flanks. Having lost his burst of pace and his sharpness as a winger, it would make more than sense for him to play as a false nine in the long run, especially given that his movement and linkup play is still consistent and reliable from time to time.

Mario Mandzukic

Once United allow Lukaku to go onto joining Inter Milan, whether it’s a loan deal or a permanent move, they will instantly miss the aerial ability he provides in the penalty box and how he is seen as a target man by the wingers and the full-backs. Though, it wouldn’t be a major problem in finding someone that is similar to him and maybe even more of a complete player than the Belgian forward, with the likes of Edin Dzeko, Edinson Cavani and Timo Werner regarded or seen as the perfect examples.

For the time being, Mario Mandzukic should be seen as the ideal candidate, when you remember that both Juventus and Maurizio Sarri have a list of attacking options that includes Cristiano Ronaldo, Gonzalo Higuain, the young Moise Kean and Paulo Dybala. The 33-year-old Croatian international may go on to rethink about the upcoming season and could choose to spend a year or two in a new country or league, with the English football suiting his aerial ability and his big-game mentality, as shown in recent years.

Wissam Ben Yedder

When looking for strikers who are able to run down the channels and have the quality to get the best out of their team-mates as well as themselves, it is really hard to find at this moment of time, purely because of how majority are already at the best clubs in Europe or are in the final years of their career. On the other hand, one of the most ideal options that could potentially be available for the current system and unbalanced attack, would be none other than Sevilla’s Wissam Ben Yedder.

If one is not familiar with Ben Yedder’s style of play, then you should consider him as a similar player to Liverpool’s Roberto Firmino, someone who is simply silent but deadly in the final third of the pitch. Having produced 18 goals and nine assists in 35 league appearances last season, there should be no doubts about what he can achieve on and off the ball. And given that he will become 29-years-old next month, he will surely be open to a huge move before he reaches his final years as a professional footballer.

Ed Woodward and the monumental mistakes he has made

skysports-ed-woodward-manchester-united_4488542

In order for a massive football club to be successful consistently on the pitch, it must be ran well and be intelligently proactive off it. It’s one of the few and huge reasons to why the likes of Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Juventus dominate their respective leagues whilst also convincingly challenge well in the Champions League, even if they haven’t won it for the last couple of years or so.

And then when you look at Manchester United, the money has always been there for the side to continue being ruthless time and time again. However, due to the lack of footballing knowledge of the Glazers as well as Ed Woodward, the most successful club in England have constantly gone back and forth whilst not finding the right medicine to take them back to where they used to belong.

Now, we dig deep into the mistakes that vice-chairman Ed Woodward has made…

Telling Rio Ferdinand he does not have a future at the club

At the time of the situation, the Red Devils went through a horrendous 2013-14 campaign under David Moyes. And to top it all of, Ed Woodward walked into the dressing room on the final day of the season and told Rio Ferdinand that his services are no longer required. The worst thing about it, the experienced individuals such as Nemanja Vidic, Patrice Evra and Ryan Giggs left in the same summer, meaning that the United squad were missing the crucial veterans they looked up to.

For sure, he wasn’t going to remain as a regular starter at 35-years-old, but his incredible experience and likeable personality would have been something that the young defenders as well as the whole squad would have benefited from. United’s defensive issues unfortunately continued and were ongoing for the next few seasons, meanwhile, Rio Ferdinand went on to play his last year as a professional footballer at Queens Park Rangers in the next campaign, before eventually retiring.

Bragging to the media that the side can buy anyone in the world

One of the most uncomfortable statements made by Ed Woodward himself was back in 2014, where he had stated how financially dominant the club were, how the club’s strategy in the transfer window was well planned and how good the scouting department are. Five years on, United are in the same position, and have not been able to evidently prove these as a fact or a statement.

The club have never been the type to brag and publicise about their financial prowess or their ability to spend around £200million to £250million each summer window. However, since the interview was conducted by Woodward, other clubs have been able to poach extra money for when their respective players moved to Old Trafford, with Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Fred and Romelu Lukaku is the best examples, three individuals who are certainly not worth the figure they were brought for.

Hiring Ole Gunnar Solskjaer without keeping an eye out for other coaches

If we are being brutally honest, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer wouldn’t have got the job on an interim-basis nor as the permanent manager of the club hadn’t it been for his previous success as a United football player. Otherwise, it would have been a similar situation of when the board had brought in David Moyes, someone who lacked the required intelligence and qualifications for the job. Looking quickly into Solskjaer’s managerial experience, he has managed only two small sides in Cardiff and Molde, which isn’t enough to warrant him a coaching position at a mid-table team such as Everton, Leicester City or Wolverhampton Wanderers, let alone a massive club like Manchester United.

On the other hand, the likes of Antonio Conte, Mauricio Pochettino and Zinedine Zidane were quietly available before the 46-year-old Norwegian international had officially got the job, which does raise the questions of how Woodward had analysed the coaches before coming to a final outcome. Given that the proven managers in Jose Mourinho and Louis Van Gaal were not able to lead the team to a title challenge, it does seem like the hierarchy opted to change their ways by bringing in someone that really understood the club’s style and mentality on and off the pitch.

Targeting/signing players by their reputation rather than by their quality

Going back to United’s recruitment and scouting process, it doesn’t seem like they actually have a plan in place and they prefer to do more business if they finish out of the Champions League spots. During the time where the club were preparing for Europa League football, they had still managed to bring in the top quality players such as Henrikh Mkhitaryan Paul Pogba and Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Not only that, but Woodward has evidently shown his love for a marquee signing over the last couple of years, where he attempted to bring in either of Gareth Bale, Kaldiou Koulibaly or Neymar, but the end outcome itself was purely expected. With how much time and focus is wasted on trying to lure players into Old Trafford through the lucrative contracts rather than the club’s ambition, it’s a must for the recruiters to find individuals through their quality and the rising potential they have.

Sleeping giant Man Utd have to plan for a make or break summer window

Woodward

After going out of the Champions League the other night to Barcelona whilst currently sitting outside of the Premier League top four, the questions are being raised on which way Manchester United Football Club are heading. As they look to finish another season without any trophies, it may lead the Glazers and Ed Woodward to dive into the summer window with around £200-£250million to spend.

For sure, since the last time they had won the league title, which was under Sir Alex Ferguson during the 2012-13 campaign, the club have incredibly spent just over £800million on 24 new players over the last six years. The evidence and proof is here, that the capability of splashing the cash is simply there, but the lack of planning and recruiting shows why no actual success has followed from it.

United’s Champions League exit to a dominant and ruthless Barcelona sums up that the team needs badly refreshing. The rebuilding job was expected to be completed by now, with both Jose Mourinho and Louis Van Gaal spending a lot of money in their first season at the club, but have failed to take the team back to the top of the league and have not turned Old Trafford into a fortress once again.

From the defensive problems, midfield lack of quality and depth to the inconsistent and attack, the team has its holes that will need covering before they can start to challenge in each competition. The likes of Ashley Young, Chris Smalling and Phil Jones should no longer be seen as regular starters, three individuals who are seen as loyal servants but are holding the side back to quite an extent.

Meanwhile, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has hit a poor run of games since being appointed as the permanent manager, where he has suffered defeat to teams such as Arsenal, Everton and Wolves whilst unconvincingly beating both Watford and West Ham in recent weeks. In all honesty, Solskjaer inherited a team that is mixed with deadwood players and individuals with potential, rather than a complete squad that is filled with the needed proven stars and are really hungry to be successful.

With the local reports advising of a possible director of football arriving, whether it is either Edwin Van der Sar or Mike Phelan, the hierarchy need to forget about saving costs and appoint an individual that has experience and practice within this demanding role. Once this matter is sorted out, the club can organise a list of players to target before going guns blazing in the transfer market.

On the other hand, as majority of the Old Trafford faithful will fear, the group of transfer targets as well as which players should be bought and sold may not be crystal clear until the end of the season, when it is finalised if Manchester United finish in the top four or not. A concerning factor that leaves them behind the likes of Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Juventus and Manchester City, the best teams within Europe who have the winning mentality to remain ahead of the rest in and out of the season.

Overall, the only way the Red Devils can bounce back from this decline and prevent themselves from experiencing what AC Milan, Inter Milan and Liverpool have experienced over the last five to seven years, is by making a statement in the summer and by meaning total business. With both Bayern Munich and Real Madrid expected to go all out in the 2019 summer transfer window, things may become real interesting if Manchester United do the same and target similar players as one another.

Manchester United 2-1 Watford: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer wins his first game as permanent manager

RashToto

Manchester United had the chance to re-enter the top four positions for the first time in recent weeks, with their next fixture being at home to Watford, a side that have won five league games away from home and are sat in the middle of the table. With Arsenal playing on Monday and Tottenham facing Liverpool on Sunday afternoon, it was a massive must for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men to achieve the much needed three points as well as the victory itself in a dominant manner.

As a whole, the visitors were the ones who surprisingly started the game and ended the game on a high note, where they forced the hosts to sit deep for majority of the first half but failed to create the clear chances to test the goalkeeper David De Gea. However, the first goal of the match actually came from United, as Marcus Rashford latched onto Luke Shaw’s perfect through ball and swept it passed Ben Foster, who had rushed out from his line to do his best to put the centre forward off.

Following the Rashford goal, the Red Devils completed the first half in the ideal way, but could have done more to complete the win with the number of shots they had on goal. The two main attempts that will be remembered the most by the Old Trafford faithful at the half time break would be, Anthony Martial’s chance from a corner which was literally hit straight at Foster, and the other one being Rashford’s dribble from the right into the middle but the shot not causing any problems at all as the defenders had it covered.

The second half was the same as the first, with Watford dominating the possession of the ball and grew in more confidence by the minute whilst United were not sure whether to sit deep or to press high up the pitch. United thought the game was set and match with Martial scoring for the home team in the 72nd minute, though, the side faced a huge scare towards the end of the match as Abdoulaye Doucoure pulled a goal back for Javi Garcia’s men, who were simply not ready to give up till the final whistle.

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

Midfield were ineffective and sloppy

As the usual midfield trio of Ander Herrera, Nemanja Matic and Paul Pogba came out to play at Old Trafford against Watford, it felt like the three players had not played for a long time or were not familiar of one another. The balance on both sides of the pitch was not there, as they looked out of their depth in the opposition’s half and could not defend consistently enough when required.

Both Matic and Pogba had quite a few poor moments throughout the match, where they lost possession of the ball easily and were unable to pick out the simplest of passes. Meanwhile, Herrera was alright to some extent but failed to influence the game as a whole. Given the performances in midfield, it wouldn’t be a total surprise to see Fred or Scott McTominay return into the team for the Wolves fixture on Tuesday night.

Watford will surely end the season on a high note

It’s been quite some time where a team from outside of the Premier League top-six had dominated and overrun the hosts at Old Trafford whilst looking like they are going onto to win the match. If Watford had an attacking midfielder with pace and trickery and a much more complete forward, they would have surely converted one of the eight shots they had on target before Doucoure had scored in the final minutes of the game.

Although the current focus is on who will win the league, who will finish in the top four and who will be relegated to the Championship, Javi Garcia’s Watford deserve more appreciation and credit for the type of football they are playing and how well they have done against the bigger teams. Leicester City and Wolves have received a lot of gratitude in recent months for their desire and results in the huge games, but it’s time for Watford to get their fair share of recognition of how they have managed to do it their way.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer showed when and how to make changes

The questions were raised during the matches against Arsenal and Wolves a few weeks ago, on if Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has the intelligence to understand when to make the substitutions and how to change the game around. In the first game after the international break, the 46-year-old Norwegian international proved the critics wrong with the two changes that helped his side to win the game.

Solskjaer showed off his cleverness in the second half of the match, where he brought on both Andreas Pereira and Jesse Lingard for Ander Herrera and Juan Mata, two players that went on to inject more energy and pace into the side’s midfield and attack. Ten minutes after that, Ole was forced into bringing Martial off due to a minor knock he picked up, but was smart in adding Marcos Rojo into the team and went to a back-three setup, as Watford started to pile on the pressure and were looking for the equaliser.

The international break came at a good time for Manchester United

Man-Utd-Ole-Gunnar-Solskjaer-Mike-Phelan-1104485

If you ask a football fan of one of the things they hate the most during an ongoing season, it’s an international break, which tends to last for 10 to 14 days. In that time, a number of negative factors tend to pop up, such as injury problems and being distanced away from the club squad for some time, but without these matches, there wouldn’t be a European Championship or a World Cup.

Now, focusing on Manchester United and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, it can be straightforward to mention that the break away from club football has come at a good time. With the side suffering back to back defeats away at Arsenal and Wolves for the first since the departure of Jose Mourinho, the team are in need of a required rest whilst the interim coach plans well for the final two months of the season.

Although the side are currently just outside of Premier League top-four and have recently been knocked out from the FA Cup, the work that Solskjaer has done to revive the club’s style of play whilst enjoying a good run in the Champions League deserves a lot of credit. Not only that, he has reinstalled confidence into the Old Trafford faithful with the belief that the club are close to bouncing back.

Looking at the recent news, the likes of Anthony Martial, Luke Shaw, Nemanja Matic, Romelu Lukaku and Victor Lindelof have either been withdrawn from international duty or have not joined due to personal reasons. With how it is being seen, if the individuals have actually returned to focus more on league football, it will mean that Solskjaer has taken a huge page out of Sir Alex Ferguson’s book.

Meanwhile, players such as Ander Herrera, Chris Smalling and Jesse Lingard are not involved at all with the international fixtures, allowing them to regain instantly to full fitness whilst also training in hotter conditions abroad to reach a higher level. If they can use this spare time effectively and professionally, they could be the perfect players to lead the charge to return into the top four.

Both Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur had their fair share of injuries in recent months, so this factor should not be used as an excuse if the side go on to missing out on a Champions League spot for next season. On top of that, United’s results in the home fixtures have not been dominant enough, where they have suffered draws in the hands of Arsenal, Burnley, Crystal Palace and Wolves.

Analysing the league table as a whole, Arsenal and Chelsea seem to have the ideal list of fixtures compared to Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur, but will have to be aware of rotating the team around if they are to seriously compete for the Europa League. On the other hand, the Red Devils still have to face Chelsea and Manchester City at home in April, which could potentially play a huge part or role in whether the team will go on to finishing inside or outside of the top four.

Overall, winning the Champions League is very unlikely, but the main aim for Manchester United is to make sure they are featuring in the competition once again next season. This will allow them to prepare for a successful summer transfer window and have a clear understanding of who to buy and sell. If they fail to do so, the 2019-20 campaign would be the third year where they failed to qualify for the biggest competition in Europe, since Sir Alex Ferguson’s final year at the club in 2014.

Manchester United 3-2 Southampton: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men bounce back in some fashion

Rom

Manchester United had a big chance to re-enter the top four positions for the first time in recent weeks, with their next fixture being at home to Southampton, a side that have only won six league games and are just above the relegation zone. With Arsenal and Tottenham facing one another in the early kick off, it was important for the team to pick up the three points and in a secure manner.

Overall, United dominated majority of the game from the first second of the match till the final whistle, where they could have even scored a further couple of goals to pile on the misery. Though, the much needed wakeup call came through a screamer from Yan Valery and a peach of a free-kick from James Ward-Prowse, which led Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to make some vital tactical adjustments.

The first half was quite good despite the poor finishing, as the front three failed to make an instant statement and did not help the side’s cause of a magical comeback. Despite the side’s list of injuries and lack of depth available to them and the manager, a brace from Romelu Lukaku as well as an incredible goal from Andreas Pereira allowed the hosts to pick the victory over the hostile visitors in the end.

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

Romelu Lukaku came up with the luxury goods

With the likes of Anthony Martial, Jesse Lingard and Juan Mata missing due to injury issues, United were limited with their attacking options for the fixtures against Crystal Palace and Southampton. However, Romelu Lukaku showed up for when his side needed him the most, scoring four goals in United’s last two games and is now the side’s top goal scorer in the Premier League this season. Recent form of the Belgian striker could mean that it’s time to put him back into your Fantasy Premier League Team. To see which other players you should look at including in your selections for Fantasy Premier League take a look at Footy Accumulators.

On top of that, Alexis Sanchez failed to take this massive opportunity to prove to the coach and the critics that he is still a quality player. Focusing back onto Lukaku, he may not be the fan’s favourite player or a clinical forward, but he is showing huge signs that he has improved since the managerial change. The Belgian international may have done enough to remain in the club’s long-term plans.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer showed off his in-game management

Week after week, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is proving that he has the intelligence to make the much needed changes to the team or the system, whether it’s to increase the amount of chances the side are creating or to see out the game until the final whistle. Some of his decisions maybe seen as bizarre and questionable, but in the end, he is yet to suffer a league defeat since taking on the job.

Solskjaer showed off his flexibility in the second half of the match, where he went to a back-three setup to match Southampton’s style, placing Ashley Young at right centre-back, whilst allowing both Luke Shaw and Diogo Dalot to play as the advanced wing-backs. Due to this fine tweak, it allowed United to have an advantage on the opposition, letting them to turn around the game for the win.

The Red Devils are evidently missing a world beater of a centre back

At this moment of time, it can easily be stated that Victor Lindelof is United’s best centre-back, but he is in need of a partner that is vastly experienced and that has the presence to lift the mentality and spirits of the defence. Until this hole is filled within the backline, the side will constantly have grey patches and dark moments, where they will lapse in concentration and are bound to suffer from this setback.

If the board and Ed Woodward want to fix the ongoing defensive issues the side are facing, they should look to relentlessly target either of Jose Gimenez, Kalidou Koulibaly or Toby Alderweireld. These three centre-backs should be seen as the perfect and most realistic candidates, especially when you consider the incredible defensive contributions they have produced for their respective teams.

Why Manchester United’s main issues lie in midfield, where they lack quality and depth

Midfield

When looking at Manchester United’s squad, one can easily see the many options available in defence and attack, whilst the midfield looks completely thin and barely existent. It’s no secret to why the Old Trafford faithful are always nervous for when they see Ander Herrera or Paul Pogba suffer a knock or a minor injury, two midfielders who play a huge role for the side on and off the ball.

Also, the departure of Marouane Fellani half way through the season made very little sense, especially when a replacement did not come in and nor did someone get promoted from the youth academy. For sure, he wasn’t seen as a United type of player and may not suit the club’s style of play, but letting him go when the side are still in the Champions League and the FA Cup was a huge mistake.

The Belgian international clearly wasn’t the fastest, most intelligent or complete midfielder available within the squad, though, his aerial dominance and presence in the penalty box allowed the side to pose further danger to the opposition. Not only that, he has always got on with his job no matter what position he played in, whether it was as a defensive-midfielder or as an attacking one.

Focusing back onto the midfield department, Pogba is the only one that can influence the side’s midfield and attack to drive on forward, which is slightly down to the lack of tactics implemented by the manager but also the limited amount of midfielders to choose from. Due to this, the Red Devils do not have the total freedom to rotate around like Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City can.

Both Herrera and Nemanja Matic should be praised for how they constantly assist the defence and help to retain and recycle the ball, something that the duo complete at a high level and importantly when the full-backs are high up the pitch and out of position. Though, the former is not known to unlock the opposition’s defence from a deep position whilst the latter does not have the intelligence or pace to play as a box-to-box midfielder, which leaves everything to be done by Pogba himself.

Andreas Pereira and Fred have had their moments here and there to prove themselves, but did not make the most out of the limited opportunities they had so far, as they failed to take the game by the scruff of their neck and were unable to dominate the match and the opposition. On a serious note, the Brazilians should surely receive another match or two to potentially win over Solskjaer soon or later.

Having a quick look back at recent years, United did not do enough to replace the veteran Michael Carrick, an individual who had spent 12 years at Old Trafford and had gone on to become one of the most decorated English players of all time. When you deep the crucial experience and presence he brought to the side on and off the pitch, nearly everyone knew of how much he would be missed once he was gone.

Overall, Manchester United have decent quality and depth when it comes to defence and attacks, which can be easily reflected on when you see the likes of Alexis Sanchez Diogo Dalot, Eric Bailly and Romelu Lukaku on the bench. Meanwhile, in the defeats to Manchester City away and Tottenham Hotspur at home, the side only had young Scott McTominay and summer signing Fred on the bench.

In the end, if United are aiming to compete in all competitions they take part in, they will need quality midfielders in the starting line-up and on the bench. The last time they had a good number of options to choose from, it was during the 2007-08 season under Sir Alex Ferguson, where they amazingly had Anderson, Darren Fletcher, Ji-Sung Park, Michael Carrick, Paul Scholes and Owen Hargreaves.

What did Manchester United learn from loss against PSG?

lQvktktTURBXy8yN2Q5YmQwNC0wNmIyLTQ2ZDAtYmM0ZS1iMDQ5OTVhNTU5OTYuanBnkpMFzQMUzQG8lQfZMi9wdWxzY21zL01EQV8vMjMzN2M5ZmQ2YjkzMWVlNmNiMGQyM2RjYmEyNThhOWQucG5nAMIA

Manchester United headed into the first leg of the Champions League tie against Paris Saint-Germain with full confidence, given their fine form in recent weeks and the fact that Edinson Cavani and Neymar would be missing both legs of the Champions League tie. Though, all did not end well, as the visitors gave the host a football lesson and showed that they are levels ahead of the Red Devils.

Despite the questionable refereeing and the fact that the side lost Anthony Martial and Jesse Lingard by the half-time break, Thomas Tuchel had his side setup in the most perfect way whist Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is now showing that he is beginning to lack a Plan B. With how the first leg had come to an end, United’s chances of qualifying for the next round are very slim as PSG take two away goals and a win back to France.

Here are three valuable lessons that can be taken from the Champions League defeat…

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer needs to desperately find a Plan B

For sure, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is enjoying the dream of managing Manchester United and has got the fans of Old Trafford bouncing again. However, he needs to come up with a backup idea or a different system for when things don’t go according to plan, especially with how Tuchel made some clever choices with his starting line-up and made sure to make tactical tweaks during the game.

It’s more or less obvious that the injuries to Lingard and Martial badly affected to how the side normally attempt to break on the counter through pure pace and movement, which led the full-backs and the midfielders to then take part in a more direct approach. Given the injury issues and the lack of midfield options, it may be ideal for Solskjaer to consider using the back-three/five setup, to restore balance from defence to attack.

In regards to a back-three/five formation, it would allow both Luke Shaw and Diogo Dalot to push high up the pitch as the wing-backs whilst Paul Pogba potentially playing in an attacking role with freedom will do the side real good. As long as United’s main players in Ander Herrera, Marcus Rashford and Victor Lindelof are in high confidence and spirits, they should be able to play effectively and smartly within this style.

The midfield battle is where the match was won and lost

Without a doubt, Marco Verratti and Marquinhos stole the headlines at Old Trafford on Tuesday night, as the midfield duo controlled and dictated the game like it was a walk in the park. From keeping it simple with the short passes and the through balls into the wide players, to silencing each attack United could offer, they truly gave Gianluigi Buffon and Thiago Silva a quiet night at the back.

Meanwhile, for the hosts, it had seemed like only Pogba was attempting to guide the midfield and attack whilst the rest were waiting in the opposition’s half for something to happen. Herrera and Nemanja Matic provided assistance defensively and were able to support the backline when required, though, they struggled a lot when it came down to helping them push forward and to create constant chances.

The midfield department is an area that the hierarchy should look to aggressively strengthen, especially when the only options are Andreas Pereira, Fred and the young Scott McTominay from the bench. If one of the current midfield trio were to be injured or suspended for a number of games, then it can easily be stated that the backup choices would not be able to come up with the needed displays without any issues.

United’s board need to have a good look at the strength and quality between both squads

Majority of football supporters would have thought that the absence of Cavani and Neymar would make the fixture more balanced and would make the hosts the favourites, on the other hand, the visitors still had the likes of Angel Di Maria, Kylian Mbappe and surprisingly Dani Alves utilised as the front three. Straightaway, one can gain the understanding that PSG’s squad depth is no joke at all.

Though, when United’s two main attackers were forced off a half-time, Solskjaer could only bring on Alexis Sanchez and Juan Mata, two players that are clearly past their best and are not able to take the side’s attack to the next level. On top of that, PSG’s quality in the starting line-up was incredibly outstanding, leaving Tuchel with no reasons for them to complete their third and final substitution.

Overall, PSG have the perfect squad to allow them to convincingly challenge in every competition they take place in, whilst United’s current team is just about enough to challenge for the top four spots as well as the Carabao Cup or FA Cup. If the board want to improve instantly, they will need to bring in a director of football, someone who can help when it comes to recruiting and scouting.