The Norwegian’s game management has come in for considerable criticism after heartbreak for Manchester United in the Europa League final.
United lost 11-10 on penalties against Villarreal, with goalkeeper David De Gea the only one of 22 players to miss in the shootout that followed the 1-1 draw and while there were question marks over Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s match management, he has defended his decision to wait until the 100th minute to make his first substitution, when Fred replaced Mason Greenwood.
Some were shocked that Marcus Rashford lasted the whole 120 minutes, while Solskjaer reserved four substitutions until the final moments of extra time.
Solskjaer brought on Axel Tuanzebe, Daniel James, Juan Mata and Alex Telles prior to the penalty shootout and after the defeat, he was quizzed on his decision to hold off so long to make changes despite United appearing fatigued at stages.
“We felt the players out there – you’ve got Mason and Marcus, matchwinners in their own right,” Solskjaer said, via Manchester Evening News. “Bruno [Fernandes], Edi [Cavani], can create anything, Scott [McTominay] I felt was the best player on the pitch, and Paul [Pogba].
Solskjaer on substitutions
“It’s difficult to make that change, especially when Fred has been injured for a week, but he came on and did well, the boy. We just couldn’t create enough chances to win the game.
“When they’ve got [Pau] Torres and [Raul] Albiol in there on crosses it’s always going to be difficult. We needed to play our way into the box quicker.
“You’ve got players with high quality there. We started with loads of goalscorers, matchwinners and we hoped that was going to give us the upper hand. We just couldn’t get the first goal.
“Disappointed we conceded with their only shot on target. After we scored it looked like the game was there for us. Scott McTominay was absolutely outstanding out there. For me, the best player on the pitch.”
Solskjaer’s wait for his first trophy as United manager continues but the Norwegian insists his side will learn from their experience in Gdansk on Wednesday night.
Solskjaer admitted that his team is still not where they need to be but he predicted that his players will return stronger after the summer.
“You’ve got to be strong. You’ve got to learn from failure. You’ve got to learn from disappointment, because it’s a lesson,” Solskjaer told BT Sport.
“It’s a lesson that we’re not still where we want to be. We’re still not at the quality we want to be.
“We go away now. Some have the Euros, some have the holidays. The one thing that’s definite is that everyone has to come back with a desire to improve and I’m sure they will have this feeling for a couple of days and come back stronger.”