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Friday, December 3, 2021

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Man United international break to-do list: Solskjaer, Van de Beek and formation

Solskjaer’s future

Manchester United’s biggest decision for the international break already looks like it had been made with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer still backed by the club despite humiliating home defeats to Liverpool and Man City.

It already looks like United have thrown away their chance to win the Premier League title this season, but as things stand the board are behind the manager and he looks set to take charge of the next match against Watford at least.

The November international break is the ideal opportunity to make a managerial switch given there is not another one until March, while an early appointment can give any new manager the best part of two weeks to get to work in their new role.

United figures will likely argue Solskjaer was only handed a new deal back in the summer, is only five points off Liverpool and could yet win the Champions League and FA Cup this season. On the other hand, many fans have been quick to point out things could also get much worse.

If a change is to be made it needs to happen early this week rather than any later. The fact Solskjaer travelled back to Norway on Monday suggests he has a return ticket to resume his job very soon.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is back under pressure as Manchester United manager. The Reds’ victory at Tottenham was soon forgotten as they fell to a dire 2-0 defeat in the Manchester derby, and saw the vultures circling around the Norwegian once again.

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Restoring confidence

Perhaps the most damning aspect of United’s dismal defeat to Man City at the weekend was the confession from club captain Harry Maguire that his side ‘lacked belief’ they could win the match.

Solskjaer was visibly shocked when alerted to his comments post-match and the frank admission was a damning indictment of both the manager and the man he appointed captain of the club.

During his success as caretaker manager in 2019, Solskjaer managed to instil the very thing that seems to be missing right now — confidence and belief. And ahead of facing Watford he needs to find a way to get the United players believing in themselves again.

Maguire and Shaw form

Speaking of Maguire, there is also a big decision to make in regards to the under performing individuals who still start every match despite a clear drop in standards.

Maguire and England teammate Luke Shaw have both struggled in the opening months of the season while talisman midfielder Bruno Fernandes was also really poor in the Manchester derby outing.

The trio have formed a key part of the United squad since Solskjaer took charge, but right now his blind loyalty is backfiring and there is a clear need for change to be made. There are other optinos.

Harry Maguire has been blasted for his Manchester derby reaction. (Image: Michael Regan/Getty Images) Van de Beek

While we are on the subject of changes, Donny van de Beek is once again front and centre of attention after coming off the bench twice in the last week.

The Dutchman was praised for his contribution against Atalanta in the Champions League and his introduction was demanded at the weekend by fans inside Old Trafford who wanted to see something different.

Reports in recent weeks have shed light on the claim that some United players believe Van de Beek deserves more playing time and, after his two recent cameos, it is hard to disagree.

Solskjaer might not have wanted to sign Van de Beek last year but his refusal to utilise the former Ajax midfielder properly only reflects badly on his own management, when other midfielders who are being picked are under-performing.


United’s plan of attack might be rather simple for the Watford match after the international break, but there will be plenty of intrigue regarding how they approach the following matches against Chelsea and Arsenal.

A switch to a back three in recent weeks was supposed to solidify United’s shaky defence though it also emphasised their weakness in midfield and offered limited creativity against the biggest sides.

Throughout the reign of Solskjaer wins against top teams have often come playing on the counter-attack and picking off their opponents, rather than by dominating encounters with their own imposing style of play.

United are not only expected to win at Vicarage Road, but to do it in style. Right now they aren’t doing either.

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