Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s comments after Manchester United’s 5-0 win over RB Leipzig, a second-successive decisive Champions League defeat of a top five league leader, will be sure to spark some questions amongst fans.
Donny van de Beek and Paul Pogba were among the players who came into the squad and absolutely bossed one of last season’s UCL semifinalists.
[ MORE: Three things learned from Man Utd – RBL ]
Julian Nagelsmann is perhaps the most promising young coach in the world. His team had no answers, perhaps because United has played a 4-2-3-1 for the vast majority of its 2020 matches under Solksjaer.
Leipzig has allowed three goals in five Bundesliga outings this season. United could’ve doubled that.
Solksjaer, reputed more for his man management than his tactics, went with what looked like either a 4-4-2 diamond or 4-3-1-2. Mason Greenwood and Anthony Martial were relentless up top and Van de Beek was more than able underneath him.
Playing Pogba as an active left center midfielder with feisty Fred on the other side of staid Nemanja Matic, Leipzig was confused at times.
So how does Solskjaer respond on a week he’s had to explain to people why he wasn’t playing Van de Beek?
“It was a case of using the squad,” Solksjaer said. “We had to rest a few players and the ones who came in did brilliant. … It’s very good to know for the players that we have a strong squad to pick from. We are very happy with the start. We have played against two very good teams, two difficult games, and we have performed fantastic. We showed our own quality and if we focus on the next job and the next job and the next job who knows how far they are going to go. We go to Istanbul next week wanting three points there as well.”
All of that is well and good and of course Bruno Fernandes and Marcus Rashford will be back in the Starting XI against Arsenal given both their reputations and super sub roles on Wednesday.
But Solskjaer would be remiss not to largely try the same personnel and it will be interesting to see if he can resist starting Pogba instead of returning to Scott McTominay. Will he go back to the 4-2-3-1 and remove Van de Beek, too, in order to get Daniel James back in the lineup?
Frankly, I don’t know how he can, especially when you consider that the other time he went away from the 4-2-3-1, he beat PSG in Paris (again).
Premier League teams have largely figured out Solskjaer’s usual formation, with only Bruno Fernandes’ wizardry and the occasional Marcus Rashford chip-in prodding wins. Their 1W-2L start to the league season should’ve been 0-3 according to the xG stats, which say only the 4-1 win over Newcastle was a decisive performance.
I guess what I’m saying is I hope this match opened his eyes a bit because it was a brilliant plan and who knows if it would’ve been even more decisive with Fernandes and Rashford in there from the start!? And the diamond, should he pursue it, would make it a bit harder for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to find his favorite pockets on the left (a blueprint in philosophy that Liverpool laid down for the rest of the league this year and has probably contributed to the Gabonese star’s slump).
Cause Ole, my man, that United team was really fun to watch today. That can’t really be said for any PL performance this season aside from the final moments against Newcastle (The Brighton win was entertaining but the Seagulls deserved three points and didn’t get one).