With reports beginning to circle about the future of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer at Manchester United, it seems the right time to ask how did we get to this point when everything seemed to be progressing well under the Norwegian manager?
The MEN understands that the United players are not happy with how Solskjaer's tactic and how he has managed his team so far this season and the 5-0 loss to Liverpool seems to be the final nail in the coffin for fans as well.
The issues on the pitch have included an inability to solve the midfield pivot issue or control games when they have more possession, a weakness in creating high-quality chances and also the absence of clean sheets despite the signing of Raphael Varane.
Personally, I believe the problem stems from the fact that Solskjaer when he joined the club, set out to emulate Sir Alex Ferguson in both how the team played and also their success on the pitch, but in the end, it is looking like his United team is just a poor imitation.
When he first joined the club, he said about how he wanted to play football; “Pace and power, that's what we are. When you have players like we have, with the pace – Paul [Pogba], Anthony [Martial], Alexis [Sanchez], Romelu [Lukaku], [Marcus] Rashford – that's how we played with Andy [Cole], Yorkie [Dwight Yorke], with Giggsy [Ryan Giggs] and Becks [David Beckham] down the sides.
"We attack quickly when you can. Get the ball up in their half as soon as you can, as quickly as you can. If you score, fantastic, if not then you've got to have patient build-up play. But, attack quickly.”
Ferguson's United was fast and free-flowing, with attacking wingers who liked to cut in and a number 10 who pressed with the front line but then dropped back to defend. Over the three year spell between 2006/07 and 2008/09, he deployed the 4-2-4 formation which allowed him to defend from the front and win back possession.
However, in recent games, though listed as a 4-2-3-1 on the teamsheet, Solskjaer has deployed the 4-2-4 in-game and tried to use the same sorts of players in the roles and it has been mute and ineffective.
He has also tried to force all of his best players such as Cristiano Ronaldo, Bruno Fernandes, Marcus Rashford, Mason Greenwood and Paul Pogba onto the pitch with no regard for how that affects the balance of the team.
He has great players but he doesn't have the personnel to play this formation, and furthermore, with the likes of Fred and Scott McTominay he doesn't have the ability to get the performances out of players like Ferguson did (no other manager would have won with Tom Cleverley and Anderson in midfield).
But most importantly, Solskaer doesn't have the eye for innovation that Ferguson had, as he would have realised that maybe the formation is outdated for the time. There was a reason Ferguson kept United relevant for so long and that is because he evolved his tactics to suit the state of the game.
There is a reason no other club uses 4-2-4, it has been phased out of the modern game, bar when you're trying to get a last-minute equaliser on FIFA Ultimate team. The midfielders become isolated and with the level of fitness and pressing in the modern game, your midfield is overrun.
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Ferguson used to dominate teams high up the pitch with the 4-2-4 but if he was still United manager he would have moved away from this formation years ago, but in a bid to desperately find form, it seems Solskjaer has opted for it in his hour of need and completely missed the point of everything his mentor taught him.
The United we have seen over the past few games, hasn't been dynamic in attack, it hasn't completely dominated teams and in fact, more often than not it has been completely picked apart and Solskjaer's in-game management hasn't been good enough to solve issues as they've arisen.
Solskjaer has tried to revel in the light created by his former manager but instead has been completely overwhelmed by his shadow and it is possibly going to cost him his job at United.
What are your overall opinions of Solskjaer's tenure so far as United manager? Follow our United On My Mind writer Casey Evans on Twitter to get involved in the discussion in the comment section below.
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