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Wednesday, December 8, 2021

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Man City break Old Trafford passing record as pressure mounts on Solskjaer

Manchester United were awful against Manchester City. I could probably sit here and pinpoint everything bad about the performance but we would quite literally be here all day.

Of course, there really isn’t much shame in being beaten by a side like City, but when you consider the fact United were unbeaten in their previous four league outings against the noisy neighbours prior to Saturday’s 2-0 defeat, you get a sense of the rut the club are in right now.

Lack of desire, lack of effort, lack of direction, the list goes on and on, but one statistic really underlines how badly wrong Ole Gunnar Solskjaer got his game plan.

Since Opta started recording such statistics back in the 2003/04 season, no team has registered more passes at Old Trafford in a Premier League game than City did on Saturday (832).

City are undoubtedly at their best when they’re allowed to dictate the tempo of a game and can wear teams down, so for United to allow them to do this and apply no pressure whatsoever while registering just 400 passes themselves is quite frankly shocking.

United were passive and more focused on retaining a defensive shape than actually pressing their opponents and trying to force them into making mistakes.

Kevin De Bruyne was hailed by pundits as looking back to his best, yet I think the main reason for this wasn’t a sudden resurgence in form but the time and space United gave the Belgian playmaker.

Kevin de Bruyne registered four key passes on Saturday – more than the whole United squad It’s hard to misplace a pass when no one is forcing you to make it earlier than you want and the opposition aren’t marking any of your possible passing outlets.

It’s like if Tom Brady was playing in the Super Bowl but the defensive team decided to stand on the endzone line and not defend the wide receivers.

Fred and Scott McTominay might as well not have been on the pitch. The pair basically acted as auxiliary centre-backs in a shambolic backline and it was clear from very early on that Solskjaer had got his game plan completely wrong.

Just like you, we can’t get enough of Manchester United! That’s why we’ve decided to supplement our expansive United coverage on the Manchester Evening News with a more fan-oriented platform catered specifically to United fans – United On My Mind.

Writers and presenters who share your passion for the red side of Manchester will be producing written, visual and audio content to reflect the mood in the stands as well as the press box.

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Last season United drew 0-0 with City at Old Trafford and then won 2-0 in the return fixture at the Etihad. To secure those results Solskjaer went with a 4-2-3-1, he gave City no time on the ball and forced them into multiple errors and the team actually created a number of chances.

Compare those performances to the one we saw on Saturday and it’s basically night and day. In a season where United were meant to be continuing their ‘project’ and building on last season’s work, it feels like the club is going backwards.

It’s unclear what’s next for Solskjaer but if he does remain at the helm of United he’s going to have to use the upcoming international break to solve some massive issues within the squad or the team could risk regressing even further.

Do you think Solskjaer can find a way to solve United’s problems? Follow our United On My Mind writer Casey Evans on Twitter and get involved in the discussion in the comment section below.

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