Manchester United’s shambolic defeat brutally exposes Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s shortcomings
The gap in the scoreline – to go with the massive gaps in the pitch that allowed it – illustrated that this goes way beyond any recruitment issues. It is about how this team is coached.
But the decision to appoint him was just another bad move from above. They have really made four bad managerial decisions in a row: two that were past it, two that were never going to get there.
It was damning for United that a manager like Mourinho, who would usually be so calculatedly constrained in such games, had his team tearing at United; urging them on. Solskjaer’s side were that easy to get at.
There was chaos any time Spurs ran at them. Son Heung-min was regularly causing meltdowns. And that in a defence, let’s not forget, that Solskjaer has sanctioned spending of over £120m on.
It had been one of the few issues he had seemed to get right. That, like so much with this regime and this club right now, was illustrated to be a mirage. That is also why the arguments about recruitment and dysfunction at the club only go so far.
Basically, United still spend enough that a top manager could succeed. They just haven’t appointed one who is actually at the top of the game since Sir Alex Ferguson left. Solskjaer certainly isn’t that.
Individuals should not escape criticism here. Anthony Martial was stupid in letting Erik Lamela get to him, and became responsible for an act of petulance that was never going to go unpunished with VAR.
But even if Lamela should have gone too, and even if playing 10 men at 3-1 down was always going to be impossible, Spurs were already hammering United before that. The incident came before a corner, that was a consequence of Mourinho’s players just queuing up to take shots. They knew how vulnerable United were. They knew there were goals here. They knew United were there for the taking, and the humiliating.
Maguire looked much less like an £80m centre-half than another example of the club’s bad recruitment. Some defenders who have previously played with the captain have complained that they have to compensate for his lack of pace. That lack of pace has now become a real and live problem for United.
But, even if Maguire was never worth £80m, he is still a centre-half whose flaws can be worked around. He can still be commanding alongside the right partner.
United just don’t have the modern system – or any kind of system – that best suits him. The same goes for so many players.
It is why it has to go beyond single players. Regardless of what people think of Paul Pogba’s listlessness, when this many individuals have this many problems, it points to a collective issue.
Let’s lay out the reality.
United have designs on competing with Liverpool, or at least closing the gap. Their ample resources as the game’s wealthiest club means they should be regularly challenging for the titles.
But can anyone in football realistically say that Solskjaer is a good enough coach to match someone like Jurgen Klopp? Can anyone genuinely make that argument? It is why this is no more than illogical experiment.
Solskjaer got away with it last week against Brighton because of United’s superior quality of player. That’s what happens when you can spend so much more. But Brighton just looked a much better coached side, with a greater identity.
So, consider this. If Solskjaer had never been United manager, would he even have been on Brighton’s short-list? The brutal answer is no.
It means the next step for United should be obvious. They need to dispense with this experiment, and get in a top-level manager befitting the club.
That does not necessarily have to be Pochettino. He is just one of many, many, many managers who are superior to Solskjaer. This was one of those games that should make that all too clear.
It is not just Solskjaer that shouldn’t be able to survive this. So should any idea that he is anywhere near able for this job.
It was a day that should be a lot more important than Monday’s transfer pantomime. United have gone beyond a pantomime. This was just a farce.
Mourinho, symbolically, sat there laughing.
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