Manchester United’s win over Brighton showed that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has learned nothing from his time at the club.
There was little to suggest that the club are not improving compared to last year, but the fact that victory was quite so hard to secure suggests that the club will continue to struggle to match their potential under the Norwegian.
All the familiar failings were there. The result was put in jeopardy because despite having far better players and dominating without ruthlessly threatening, defensive calamities allowed Brighton to take the lead. United’s spirit shows that they are capable of recovering from being a goal down - or more - but the problem is that this trouble hits them even against lesser teams. With the Europa League on the horizon and important league games still to come, the problem for United is that when they go behind against the best sides, they will not be given the chance to come back.
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Just as bad as the defensive weaknesses is the fact that they are so sterile in attack. This is a team that can field Paul Pogba - one of Europe’s most talented midfielders - and Bruno Fernandes - one of Europe’s most effective midfielders - and still remain remarkably ineffective. There are problems when United can't make the most of some of the best talent in the Premier League, and instead decide to huff and puff to victory, when they should be trained to make light work of Brighton.
Brighton offer little in attack and their league position demonstrates that they suffer in defence, too. This is a side that should offer few problems, and it should be the case that a team with the resources of United can essentially use a game against Brighton as a day off, a chance to rest on the ball, as Jose Mourinho perfected at his first spell with Chelsea. United have not yet secured a Champions League spot and Granada are no worse than some of the sides destined for Premier League relegation. They need to improve if they are to set themselves up for an optimistic summer rather than give themselves anxiety.
United are due to offer Solskjaer a new contract, one that should reward him to the tune of £9 million a year. For that sum, a club should get a manager with tactical nous and insight, and who can improve the young players at his disposal, and get together the tools at his disposal in order to produce a team that is more than the sum of its parts.
This summer there is much work to be done. David de Gea looks set to leave, along with Sergio Romero, and Solskjaer needs to be alive to the requirements of bringing in a senior back-up who can provide cover for Dean Henderson without cramping his room to grow into his potential. United also need to add at least one central defender while also giving a new, attacking right-back a chance.
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Pogba, too, will probably leave which means the manager will have to rehabilitate Donny van de Beek after apparently sacrificing his confidence. Anthony Martial and Edinson Cavani should depart too, while Mason Greenwood will need to be given proper instruction, and a new senior striker will have to take a place without taking too much spotlight from Marcus Rashford. With United needing to sign Jadon Sancho from Borussia Dortmund in the same transfer window they probably also let Erling Haaland go, Solskjaer will probably have to put the pressure on Ed Woodward to deliver his number-one target, or properly oversee the transfer department to make sure that they have an alternative ready to go. Don’t forget that in a summer that he wanted a right winger, central defender and striker, he got Cavani for one season, a left-back and Van de Beek. Solskjaer is rarely in control for matters on the pitch, and even less so away from matches.
United’s late win on Sunday night had almost nothing to do with their manager, but they will be stuck with him for at least the current season. Unfortunately it seems that he has learned almost nothing that is needed to help them kick on.
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