Solskjaer’s defence is shaky as future hangs in the balance
Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer may have dismissed Roy Keane’s suggestion this week that the players would cost him his job but the manner of Wednesday’s Champions League defeat supported the former United great’s claim.
The Daily Mirror’s headline “Dumb and Demba” summed up the embarrassment of the United defence.
They allowed 35-year-old Demba Ba the freedom of the pitch to score Istanbul Basaksehir’s opening goal as the minnows of the Champions League group ran out 2-1 winners.
The expensively-assembled defence were exposed again before half-time for Basaksehir’s second handing United their first defeat in this season’s competition and leaving Solskjaer in deep trouble.
“You wouldn’t see this on Hackney Marshes (in amateur football),” said Solskjaer’s former United team-mate Rio Ferdinand on BT Sport.
“Where is the defending? There is zero organisation. Where is the person organising that?
“I hope Ole is telling them they are embarrassing him.
“I hope he is very animated in the dressing room because those players need a rocket.”
The Champions League had prior to Wednesday provided respite for Solskjaer from a desperate start to the Premier League campaign.
United are languishing in 15th spot after making their worst start to a league campaign in 48 years and face a tricky trip to Everton on Saturday.
Defeat there might persuade executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward — the great survivor despite being blamed by the supporters for much of what has gone wrong at the club — it is time for a change.
Tempting for Woodward is the availability of former Tottenham Hotspur manager Mauricio Pochettino, who he is a known admirer of.
Solskjaer conceded the opening goal was indefensible and accepted he shared responsibility.
However, unlike his predecessor Jose Mourinho who enjoyed playing to the press gallery Solskjaer is never one to respond directly to speculation over his future.
“I decline to comment on such a thing,” he said.
“It is early on. Opinions are there all the time. We have to stay strong.
“I am employed by the club to do a job and I’m doing that to the best of my ability with my staff.”
‘The goal is comical’
Solskjaer may still have some currency in his favour with Woodward after signs of improvement in the team last term.
United finished third in the league — only the second time that has happened since Alex Ferguson retired at the end of the 2012/13 season — and reached the semi-finals in three cup competitions.
If there is any room for optimism ahead of the Everton clash for Solskjaer it is that prior to Wednesday United have been far better away from home than at Old Trafford.
They have failed to win their first four home league games whereas Basaksehir’s victory ended Manchester United’s longest away winning run in all competitions in their history (10 straight wins).
It was their first away defeat in 19 matches since losing in January at Liverpool in the Premier League.
Solskjaer will be looking for the same type of character the team showed after the traumatic 6-1 home defeat by Mourinho’s Spurs earlier in the season.
Excellent wins over last season’s Champions League finalists Paris Saint Germain, Newcastle in the league and a 5-0 annihilation of Champions League semi-finalists Leipzig have shown the quality of the side.
However, as good as they are in attack at times it does not hide the fact the once reliable Harry Maguire is a shadow of the player he was before his legal difficulties in Mykonos.
Confidence appears to have drained from him and with it the defence has lost it’s one true leader.
Quite how Solskjaer can remedy that may prove pivotal in reviving the defence and retaining his job.
He will want the brutal assessment of the back four provided by former team-mate Paul Scholes to mark the moment the defence pulled themselves together.
“It’s like under-10s football,” said Scholes on BT Sport.
“Embarrassing. What the defence were doing I have no idea.
“The goal is comical, laughable. That can only be a player’s fault — that’s not down to the staff or the coaches.”
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