“It was a bit of a throw of the dice.”
Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer revealed the reason why he substituted midfielder Bruno Fernandes during his side’s goalless draw against Liverpool on Sunday.
The two teams were probing for a late winner but with just a minute left on the clock, the fourth official announced that Fernandes was being substituted with Mason Greenwood.
The Portuguese midfielder initially refused to leave the pitch even as Liverpool’s Gini Wijnaldum urged him to hurry up.
Fernandes was visibly angered at Solskjaer’s decision to take him off and sat sulking in his chair.
After playing Liverpool at Anfield last season, Man Utd were 30 points off the top of the Premier League.
After playing Liverpool at Anfield this season, Man Utd are on top of the Premier League.
Progress. 📈📈📈 pic.twitter.com/jyxzL0xcpw
— Statman Dave (@StatmanDave) January 17, 2021
Following the match, Solskjaer spoke to Sky Sports and explained the reasoning behind his decision.
“It was a tactical decision, Bruno has been running his socks off every single game,” Solskjaer said.
“Towards the end, we thought Paul’s physical presence might be a chance and Mason can score in a blink of a second. It was a bit of a throw of the dice.”
The result leaves the Red Devils atop the league table with 37 points — three points clear of Liverpool. Despite keeping a clean sheet and avoiding defeat, Solskjaer was unhappy with the result.
“It was an opportunity missed with the chances we had,” he said.
🗣️ "We didn't play well enough…"
— Sky Sports (@SkySports) January 17, 2021
“We didn’t impose ourselves on the game, especially first half. We grew into the game and towards the end, you felt it was there for us to win. We created two massive chances and there were two brilliant saves by the keeper.
“We didn’t play well enough but then again we were playing a very good side. I’m disappointed but still, a point is okay if you win the next one.”
Solskjaer felt that his team were capable of better performances than this and rued his side’s lacklustre decision-making.
“We can play better than this, we know that,” he continued.
“We can be more composed, we can have the ball more. We had to defend too often and we gave the ball away too easily.
“Some moments we missed: when Marcus makes his runs in behind, maybe don’t pass it every time he runs, and sometimes we missed the opportunity when he should have been given the ball.”
The Norwegian also singled out midfielder Paul Pogba for his impressive performance on the night.
“I thought Paul was absolutely brilliant today,” he said.
“We knew he had to do a job defensively and help us with Robertson, and I thought he was excellent. He should have got the goal his performance deserved.
Positives from the game.
Despite the disappointing result, Solskjaer felt there were positives to be gleaned from the match.
“I’ve got to be honest and say I’m a bit disappointed at the moment,” he explained.
Harry Maguire won 100% of his duels (5/5) and won 100% of his aerial duels (2/2) against Liverpool.
He also made more blocks (5) and more interceptions than any other United player. 💪 pic.twitter.com/vZMXU41Pmp
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) January 17, 2021
“You’re playing against a fantastic team and they had more of the possession. With the injuries they’ve had, you think you might be able to go here and get a result. We didn’t.
“I know we can play better but we’ve come here away from here with a point, which shows how far we’ve come in a year or even six months.
“It’s a positive, you take your point, but you want to win every game. We go again and we know we can do better than this, which is the big positive.”