Following Manchester United’s 2-0 loss to Paris Saint Germain Tuesday night Ole Gunnar Solskjaer seemed to conjure up the same soundtrack that’s been heard after every loss at Old Trafford this season. Our squad isn’t good enough, we need to improve it.
This sentiment used to be heard almost weekly under Jose Mourinho. It’s telling that it’s the first time Solskjaer has said. It’s also Solskjaer’s first loss, nearly two months after he got the job.
The Jose Mourinho stans, who somehow still exist, were quick to take to twitter to defend their man. “Jose knew the squad wasn’t good enough and everyone yelled at him, now Ole is saying the same thing.” Or, “if the board would have just supported him United would have been better.”
Anyone who can’t see the difference between the two situations lacks a full brain. Mourinho signed Eric Bailly and Victor Lindelof, then complained that the center backs he picked weren’t good enough. Mourinho signed Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez, then complained that his attackers weren’t good enough. Mourinho signed Paul Pogba, then tried to run him out of town. Mourinho strong armed the board into giving Marouanne Fellaini a new contract, then complained that his squad wasn’t good enough.
Mourinho and his fans seemed to forget that United did spend more money for him than every club besides Manchester City and PSG. The two clubs who are owned by literal countries and who openly don’t follow UEFA Financial Fair Play rules.
All the while Mourinho had no idea what his best team is. He never had a set staring XI. He wildly misplayed Paul Pogba. He never dropped Romelu Lukaku, meaning the team had to play in a way that wasn’t suited to the strengths of their best players.
Mourinho always said United needed to spend spend spend. This makes it all the more interestingthat his stans are saying Solskjaer said the same thing, when in fact he didn’t.
“It’s a reality check,” Solskjaer said of the PSG defeat. “You can see the strength they have when they put those players in as you talk about but that’s the level we want to get to, and we are looking to strengthen the squad.
“And then again we have so many young players to take a step up for next season.”
United want to improve, but improving doesn’t necessarily mean going out and signing new players. The improvements may already be at the club.
How many times did Mourinho start a front six of Pogba, Matic, Herrera, Rashford, Martial, and Lingard? Zero. His best team was right in front of him and he didn’t use it. How can you complain your team isn’t good enough when you don’t even know what the best team is?
Solskjaer came into United and was quick to praise the squad he inherited. He immediately identified what his best team was and what their best style of play is. Once that’s established, you can now accurately judge the team. We already knew Pogba was irreplaceable but after two months the rest is clear.
Their best front three is Lingard, Rashford, and Martial. None of Alexis Sanchez, Romelu Lukaku, or Juan Mata can do the things that they do, and when one of them goes down, the entire style of the team has to change. They don’t have a deputy for Ander Herrera, when he’s out of the team, the midfield is significantly worse.
Having to change the team because one player is missing makes the team worse, and let’s you know exactly what needs to change. Juan Mata is a fantastic player, someone who is so under appreciated by the fans, but the reality is his skill-set doesn’t fit the rest of the team anymore. He shouldn’t be offered a new contract. Alexis Sanchez needs to go, as does Lukaku.
United have their front three, they need depth, players that can step into the team and play the same system. That doesn’t need to be the most expensive player. It could be a young up and coming winger. It could be Angel Gomes or Tahith Chong.
At this point, Ole should look the future. Include one of the youngsters on the bench every game out. If Lingard or Martial are out long term, go for broke and play the kids. We know what Alexis and Mata can, or rather can’t, do, let’s find out if the youngsters can be solutions. We won’t know if the improvements are already here until we give them a chance right?