In a miserable evening of football, Manchester United were beaten 2-1 by Istanbul Basaksehir.
Manchester United’s have won just one of their last four Premier League games, losing two and drawing one (and that draw was intensely underwhelming). They’ve not won at home in domestic competition and two of their four wins in England have come in the EFL Cup.
They have looked utterly clueless in the vast majority of their games this season. In the Premier League you could only really say they looked the part in the win over Newcastle, in every other game including their win away to Brighton they have been thoroughly outplayed.
The pressure should be mounting on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer right now, as the Norwegian appears to have capped out as a first-team coach. His usual remedy of good vibes and counter-attacks is no long sufficient to drive United forward and Solskjaer just plain doesn’t have any other ideas. However there hasn’t been too much talk of Solskjaer getting the sack because of the Champions League.
In Europe, Manchester United had made light work of their so-called “group of death” beating PSG in Paris and then dropping five goals on the much-hyped RB Leipzig. They were brave, they were dynamic, and they were well worth their victories. So, hey, trust in Solskjaer, right?
Well, today against Istanbul Basaksehir, a side who had lost both their first two games, a side who had never even scored in the Champions League before, a side who looked for all the world like they would exit the group with zero points… against that side Manchester United lost.
And in doing so, they made plain why Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has to go. He has to be sacked immediately.
Because Manchester United simply aren’t good enough.
Not in terms of talent, although many will argue that Solskjaer was denied the players he needed to improve the team (United didn’t sign Jadon Sancho this summer nor did they get a centre-back or a defensive midfielder when all were needed). But that should not have made a difference on the night. United had more than enough talent on the field to dominate Istanbul Basaksehir. With the greatest of respect a team fielding Martin Skrtel in 2020 should not be holding Manchester United to just 2 shots on target. Rafael Da Silva should not be the best defender on the pitch.
Rafael's game by numbers vs. Man Utd:
10 duels won (most)
6 tackles made (most)
6 ball recoveries
3 fouls won
2 blocks (most)
Still got it. ? pic.twitter.com/OXq6Gu3Rbf
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) November 4, 2020
United are not good enough in terms of tactical structure and organisation. Not even close. Both offensively and defensively United played Basaksehir like a team from the 90’s would, albeit with none of the urgency that United used to show in that same decade. It was so slow and ponderous as the United creatives were constantly trying to conjure up chances out of nothing. No organised movement, no consistent runs, no positional switching that actually made sense.
Sure, when opponents are better than United, when The Red Devils are forced into a rearguard and to play on the counter-attack, then Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is right at home. But he’s managing Manchester United. The vast majority of games will not shape out like those handful of monster clashes against brilliant sides. United have to be able to play as the ball-dominant side, and they simply cannot.
Solskjaer has had ample time to show that he can handle these kinds of teams, and bar one run in Spring when Bruno Fernandes was out of his mind and United were getting penalties at an absurd rate, he simply hasn’t managed it.
United don’t look organised, they don’t look serious. They’re a joke. Istanbul’s two goals were almost comedic. Demba Ba’s was the kind of goal you concede in the 93rd minute of a game when you’ve thrown everyone forward. And the slackness of the marking for Edin Visca’s strike was utterly appalling.
Worse still, Solskjaer’s substitutions showed no understanding of how to get United back into it. He kept on throwing attacking players on, but with no real plan. Basaksehir were hardly attacking in the second-half yet Solskjaer left three defensive players on (four if we consider than Wan-Bissaka isn’t much of a creator) and took off both of his “connective” creators in Donny van de Beek and Juan Mata.
Without them, United’s passing became predictably stilted. Hell, the Norwegian didn’t even do anything as obvious as play Paul Pogba in defence to launch the ball forward as a “quarter-back” – it was all so ponderous. So pointless.
This is not going to get better. This is Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s ceiling as a manager. And it’s far too low for a club with the ambitions of Manchester United. A change is needed. He’s a club legend, and the fans adore him, but let his legacy remain intact. Don’t taint it by allowing the fans to resent him for his failures (which have been numerous this season and will only become more frequent in the future). Let the fans remember him as a baby-faced assassin, not a dour-faced simpleton.