Losing to Inferior Opposition With a Well-Drilled Defence - This Is the Manchester United Way

Nov 4, 2020, 9:30 PM GMT
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
'Is this the way out of the door, lads?' | DeFodi Images/Getty Images

Beat PSG in Paris. Put five past Leipzig. Lose to a team littered with Premier League has beens, founded in 2014, totally devoid of ideas. This is The Manchester United Way.

For every high under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, there's a low. A stinking, horrible low. The home defeat to Arsenal at the weekend was bad enough, but this expensively assembled squad of players truly managed to outdo themselves in Istanbul on Wednesday night.

A quite incredible first goal for the hosts, which saw Demba Ba given three quarters of the pitch all to himself, was barely believable - perhaps it actually is when you've watched enough of this United team, mind you - and the second goal (see below) was not much better in a defensive sense. Check out that solid wall of warriors.

The defending was terrible. Let's make no bones about it.

Though as serious a problem as it is, there's a bigger concern which has dogged Solskjaer's near two-year reign as United manager, his 101 matches in charge. Still, even at this point, they do not have the capability of breaking down a deep and well drilled defence - especially one that's clinging on to a lead.

Defeat to Arsenal was written from the first minute. Mikel Arteta's team knew their jobs, were well disciplined and defended from the front, with an energy throughout the team to continually starve United of possession or keep them from breaking the lines when they did have it. This match may have been different if not for the shambles that was Ba's opener, but that happened. And United were faced with much the same task.

They failed to deliver, again. This is a team who have only shown a streak of being able to win games on the counter attack or against opponents who leave them enough space to do damage. If a team isn't so generous, United struggle.

This is why you've seen United beat the likes of Manchester City home and away in the Premier League last season, Frank Lampard's Chelsea 4-0 as they chased the game, and why their opening two Champions League fixtures in this campaign have resulted in victory. But they have still, after two years, not shown themselves capable of being clever enough to carve out chances with little space to work in. They had one shot on target all night following Anthony Martial's 43rd minute reply. One.

Donny van de Beek, Berkay Oezcan
'Not sure where to pass here lads, I'll be honest, can we score in the other net where Hendo is? Looks easier' | DeFodi Images/Getty Images

United possess a lot of attacking talent. All of them featured in Turkey; Edinson Cavani, Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford, Bruno Fernandes, Paul Pogba, Donny Van de Beek, and yet they could not muster a clear chance between them. These players are evidently not getting enough direction on the training pitch of how to work space when it's tight. They lack the ability to forge a lot out of little.

They look ponderous and off the cuff, unsure of the next pass to make, so it goes to the side or backwards. You only need to watch the advanced players closely, their movement, when a player in midfield positions has the ball, to realise there's something missing.

Questions, serious questions, must now be asked of the manager and his team, and they have an upcoming international break which would be the perfect time to take action. This season is still young. There is time to put things right. But Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's had more than enough time by now to establish a style and pattern to his play. It does not exist.

There was a manager with lovely flowing locks and brilliant stories to tell on British TV on Monday night, confirming again that he's ready to get back into management. And while he's not perfect himself, he has a proven track record of making a team believe in themselves and elevating them to heights they've never reached. Pochettino's his name, I think.

United risk spending the rest of this season playing catch up, again, if they don't make this change soon, and run the risk of losing one of the best managers available to a rival club if they keep telling themselves the story that it'll all be okay under Ole. We've got enough evidence to prove it won't.

For more from Scott Saunders, follow him on Twitter.