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Solskjaer cannot afford to be exposed again by Man United’s weak link

Solskjaer Wan-Bissaka

Solskjaer’s game management was exposed after Wan-Bissaka was sent off.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has come under scrutiny following Manchester United’s 2-1 defeat to Young Boys in the Champions League, and rightly so. Solskjaer displayed poor game management after Aaron Wan-Bissaka was sent off 35 minutes into the match.

Until that point, Man United were cruising. They had taken the lead through Cristiano Ronaldo, who combined brilliantly with Bruno Fernandes. After Wan-Bissaka’s red card, the Red Devils didn’t have another shot on target against the Swiss side.

Despite the haphazard nature of the defeat, similar failings were on show for Man United. Some of these shortcomings cannot be covered up by Ronaldo or any individual brilliance.

Man United’s shortcomings and weak link.

Even before Young Boys equalised, Man United’s midfield looked uncertain, as it had against Newcastle United. The club could suffer for not signing an elite holding midfielder. The balance just hasn’t looked right, no matter who starts in the position.

Solskjaer’s poor tactical decisions were also on show as he shuffled the United team in an attempt to see out the game. Almost every decision he made – from the formation when they had 10 players, to the choice of substitutions, backfired. Solskjaer is not an elite coach. There is little merit to be gained from pointing this out – it’s glaringly obvious.

Solskjaer’s position and Wan-Bissaka.

Man United, however, probably won’t sack him before the season ends. Or rather, the Glazer family and Ed Woodward – neither of whom are endowed with a wealth of football knowledge – will make such a decision that could anger the club’s fans. They may not have the stomach for it, and there is no evidence to suggest that they would make the correct appointment for the club’s next manager anyway.

Yet, can Solskjaer take that risk? Can he really be complacent and believe, like some of his predecessors, that his job is secure?

How many more games can he allow his limitations to be exposed in? Solskjaer must hope that Man United’s individual talent can paper over the cracks, and they will in most matches.

To ensure this happens, the Man United manager needs to pick the most talented players available to him and not take any more risks on players who could jeopardise his position with bad decisions in key games.

That means the limited Aaron Wan-Bissaka should drop out of the team for the foreseeable future. His display against Young Boys showed the full-back is the weak link in a team built around individual talent.

Solskjaer Wan-Bissaka

Wan-Bissaka’s red card against Young Boys.

Wan-Bissaka’s limitations were exposed in the sequence that resulted in him getting a red card. Firstly, he collected the ball with 10 yards of space all around him. He was under zero pressure from the opposition and had no reason whatsoever to charge forward.

Yet, after receiving a pass in space by Donny van de Beek, he took a heavy touch and ran forward. Where was he running to? What was the idea behind his touch? Why was he going forward with the ball?

Solskjaer Wan-Bissaka

Wan-Bissaka’s red card against Young Boys.

If he lifted his head for a split second, the defender would have spotted Paul Pogba in space for a pass 15 yards away from him. Pogba was on his own on the edge of the penalty area, with Ronaldo nearby. This was a straightforward pass. Why is a technically limited footballer, who shares the field with such brilliant players, not immediately thinking, before he even receives the ball, ‘How can I give this ball to more talented footballers than me?’

After two seasons playing with Pogba, and two weeks of training with Ronaldo, and why is Wan-Bissaka still not lifting his head to look for either player?

Why, in general, is a professional footballer not lifting his head before he gains possession? Why hasn’t he scanned the pitch for possible passes and decided on his next move before he receives the ball?

Wan-Bissaka’s errors.

That was his first error in the passage of play but it got much worse for the full-back. Wan-Bissaka then took an extremely heavy touch and lost control of the ball.

He also tried to control the ball with his left foot, his weaker foot. Why would Wan-Bissaka needlessly make his job more difficult by using his weaker foot? Every aspect of this sequence is extremely difficult to understand.

And why does a professional footballer have such a bad touch? He doesn’t have to be Zinedine Zidane, but he shouldn’t lose the ball under no pressure because he can’t adequately control it.

Wan-Bissaka’s errors.

It is difficult to fathom how Wan-Bissaka has reached this stage of his career, and 23-years of age, with such a crude first touch. It is even more incomprehensible to understand why Man United felt it was wise to spend £50m on a player who seemingly cannot control basic passes. This isn’t an isolated incident either, Wan-Bissaka has never looked comfortable on the ball for Man United, and the team’s opponents have figured this out.

The counter-argument is that he is still relatively young, and can improve this area of his game. However, there is no basis in reality for this argument. Ball control is a fundamental skill that must be developed long before reaching adulthood. Wan-Bissaka might marginally improve his first touch, but never to the level required to shine at full-back for Man United. He also may be strong defensively in one-v-one situations, but that doesn’t even begin to compensate for the other shortcomings in his game.

Yet, still, it got even worse for Wan-Bissaka after he decided to lunge at Christopher Martins. He could have potentially won the ball back, but the risk of potentially injuring his opponent, or being sent off as he was, meant it wasn’t worth it. It was a split-second decision and he got it wrong. One might argue that this happens all the time. But the best footballers excel because they are capable of making the right decision in fractions of a second.

Wan-Bissaka, Man United’s weak link, helps to expose Solskjaer’s shortcomings.

Man United were cruising in the game. Wan-Bissaka lost the ball in a position that didn’t put his team under any threat to concede. Why lunge and try to retrieve the ball and take such an unnecessary risk? His lack of composure was staggering and he was correctly red-carded. But why was he so rushed? He was playing against Young Boys, not the 2011 Barcelona team. Luckily, Martins’s ankle wasn’t broken.

In this three-second sequence, Wan-Bissaka made four bad decisions and showed the limitations to his game. He displayed a lack of awareness and didn’t lift his head to look for a pass. He took an awful first touch with his weaker foot and then made a terrible decision to try to retrieve the ball with a lunge.

Poor technique, questionable game intelligence, bad decision-making and no composure, Wan-Bissaka is surely not of the level required to play such an important position for Man United.

Solskjaer cannot afford more poor results like the defeat against Young Boys and must drop Wan-Bissaka.

Is this harsh? Some would say it is. But just bear in mind that football at this level is unforgiving and you can be sure some of his teammates, who train with him every day, would probably say something similar if they were being honest. How do you think Ronaldo felt watching it unfold?

The pressure is on Solskjaer now, and he cannot afford any more slip-ups in winnable games. If the team is to be built around individual star quality, rather than the manager’s coaching or tactics, then fair enough. It’s not ideal, but go for it and apply that principle across the pitch.

The weakest link will undo the work of the best players in some games so Solskjaer must reduce the risk. Otherwise, his own limitations will be exposed again, and he cannot afford many more results like this for the rest of the season.

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