No matter how bad things get at Manchester United it is hard to envisage a situation where the majority of match going supporters voice their displeasure at Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as first-team manager.
While there can be no ignoring the clear frustration Old Trafford regulars have towards recent performances on the pitch, there is a clear understanding that issues stem deeper than the Norwegian, even if he is a key part of a wider problem.
United were booed off in successive home defeats to Liverpool and Man City, but those sounds of disapproval were directed equally so at the star-studded squad that had failed to deliver as they were at the coach who looks to have run out of ideas.
Perhaps the clearest signal of disagreement between the fans and the manager came last weekend when supporters chanted in unison for the introduction of Donny van de Beek, their first action of rebellion against the current managerial regime.
The Stretford End are yet to turn against Solskjaer with chants in opposition to his tenure — they probably never will — however their vocal protest on Saturday lunchtime showed the United boss what fans really think of Van de Beek’s situation and the lack of playing time he has received since joining last year.
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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“It’s been the strangest situation watching Donny van de Beek’s Manchester United career, almost disrespectful really,” Gary Neville stated during his commentary of the match.
“Signed for £40million-odd and not given a chance.
“You can be given a chance and you don’t do well but the boy has hardly played.”
When Van de Beek finally entered the field against City with 10 minutes to go, he received a rapturous round of applause. It was a response which Solskjaer can’t afford to ignore.
The Norwegian had publicly praised Van de Beek for his cameo against Atalanta a week ago and, while the 24-year-old didn’t have quite the same impact against City, his involvement could prove to be a valuable asset for the manager in the coming weeks.
As long as Solskjaer continues to overlook the players at his disposal, the focus will remain on his shortcomings as a manager — rather than the failings of his squad on the pitch. It is harder to sympathise with him when he has a £40million wasted talent watching on.
Axed from the international set-up under Louis van Gaal the Dutch midfielder knows he needs to be playing regularly if he is have any chance of going to the World Cup in Qatar late next year. It’s why he recently appointed a new agent in order to bolster those hopes of finally putting his nightmare to end.
Yet news of an injury setback suffered by Paul Pogba on international duty this week could hand him an unlikely lifeline and give him the chance of regular first-team football that he craves in the weeks ahead.
Initial reports state Pogba could be out for the rest of 2021 with the thigh injury he suffered in France training and his absence leaves an obvious void for Van de Beek to fill.
Donny van de Beek of Manchester United. (Image: 2021 Manchester United FC) There is no way Solskjaer can stick with the controversial Fred and Scott McTominay axis after the international break and, with nothing else to lose but his job, it might be time for the Norwegian to go gung-ho by adopting the 4-3-3 formation he wanted to implement in pre-season.
During those summer trials Van de Beek played in front of Nemanja Matic in a dynamic box-to-box role with Bruno Fernandes offering the attacking threat with his position at No.10, it is a switch which surely has to be considered.
Even if Solskjaer decides to play it safe by sticking with the more defensive 4-2-3-1 or 3-5-2 formations Van de Beek warrants an inclusion either as part of a midfield two or being given the chance to replace the out-of-form Fernandes in attacking midfield.
Pogba’s injury might be viewed as another blow at a time of desperation but for Solskjaer and Van de Beek it could provide the pathway to solve their problems.
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