Atalanta 2-2 Manchester United: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer review
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Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s decision to not sign a defensive midfielder in the summer transfer window continues to be a problem as Manchester United suffered a 2-0 defeat to rivals Manchester City at Old Trafford on Saturday. Solskjaer again went with his newfound 3-4-1-2 formation, which saw Fred partner Scott McTominay in the centre of midfield.
But United once again looked weak and vulnerable in the middle of the park, with the defensive duo unable to cope with City’s attacking threat. The tempo was flat and there was no creative spark coming from either of them.
United were lucky it was only two at half-time, as it could have been a whole lot worse had City been more clinical. And on another day, they would have been out of sight in the first half.
Solskjaer opted against signing a defensive midfielder in the summer transfer window in favouring of strengthening in other positions. That decision is harming the Norwegian with every game they lose.
Jadon Sancho was brought in from Borussia Dortmund in a move worth £70million, centre-back Raphael Varane arrived from Real Madrid for £40m, while Cristiano Ronaldo completed his sensational return to the club on deadline day.
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But United were, and still are, crying out for a defensive midfielder to command the midfield and dictate the pace of play.
And for as long as the current duo are starting alongside one another, that’s not going to happen.
Solskjaer’s alternative options are 33-year-old Nemanja Matic – who’s best years as a Premier League player are behind him – and Donny van de Beek, who has been completely ostracised and has featured for less than five minutes in the league this season.
United were heavily linked with a move to sign long-term transfer target Declan Rice in the summer, but the move failed to materialise after the Hammers slapped a £100m price tag on him.
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The Red Devils could make a move for Rice in January, but it is highly unlikely the Hammers would be willing to let their star man leave midway through the season.
In fact, trying to attract any household name in January would be difficult for any club, given the nature of the modern market, with clubs reluctant to weaken their squads across the busiest time of the season.
City opened the scoring when Joao Cancelo’s cross was diverted into his own net by Eric Bailly in the eighth minute.
The Premier League champions then doubled their lead on the stroke of half-time when Cancelo’s looping ball was met at the back post by Bernardo Silva, who squeezed the ball past David De Gea.
The defeat leaves United in fifth place with 17 points after 11 matches, three behind fourth place West Ham having played a game more.
The international break can’t come soon enough for United, who will be hoping to regroup upon their return.
Next up for United is a trip to Watford at Vicarage Road in the Premier League on in two week’s time following the international break.
Whether Solskjaer is still in charge by then remains to be seen, but if something doesn’t change drastically, then he won’t be for much longer.
But if the board continue to back him until January, the first priority on his shopping list must be a midfielder who can control the play. Without one, United may struggle to secure Champions League football for next season at this rate.
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