Man Utd were handed a 1-0 loss to Arsenal at Old Trafford on Sunday, their third Premier League defeat already this campaign.
A Paul Pogba error inside the box led to the Red Devils conceding a penalty and Arsenal took home the win with great ease via Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang’s spot-kick.
Ole Gunnar Solskjær certainly won’t be happy with the result, particularly given how well Man Utd had done in their other difficult outings of this stretch, pegging convincing wins against PSG and RB Leipzig.
In fact, the Norwegian gaffer made three distinct errors in team selection and tactics alone that assuredly cost him the game.
1. Absence of a Natural Striker
The game’s attacking potential fizzled out before the kick-off whistle itself as no natural striker populated the lineup for United. While Mason Greenwood and Marcus Rashford are lethal attackers in their own regard, they lacked the holding ability that Anthony Martial brings to the top of the pitch. The Frenchman fulfilled that role excellently against Leipzig and wasn’t able to start this one due to suspension.
Rather than field the two fluid attackers who are incapable of bringing the midfielders into the game, Solskjær ought to have taken the risk and given the experienced feet of Edinson Cavani a full start.
The relative hype of the game would have been the perfect tactical avenue for the Uruguayan international to display his skills, giving Gabriel a tougher time than his youthful teammates.
2. Paul Pogba’s Lethargy
After spending several games on the bench, it is a real surprise that Solskjær elected to give Pogba the start in this fixture.
When brought on as a substitute in recent times, the World Cup winner has had an exquisite impact, a real shade of what he used to do a season or two ago. In painful contrast, this outing was lethargic and deeply flawed from the 27-year-old. In fact, his clumsy error singlehandedly cost the game for the Old Trafford outfit in what would otherwise been a well-deserved point.
As fans have been lobbying from so long now, it is obvious that Donny van de Beek was the natural choice to be given a start, as evidenced by his excellent antics in the Champions League. The absence of van de Beek was perhaps best felt in just how toothless Bruno Fernandes was on the night. The erstwhile creative midfielder truly did not have much to work with and Pogba’s lethargy did not help matters one bit.
3. Fred as DM
Fred’s brilliance stems from his attacking work-rate. To have him function from a deep role was a gross muddling up of his abilities. While Arsenal’s attack did not exactly challenge the absence of a natural holding midfielder, it did fizzle out Man Utd’s ability to be creative from the midfield itself.
Specifically, the absence of composure and the sheer number of mistakes he made ended up being a real drain on the potential chances to create from deep. In contrast, Solskjær ought to have gone for a reliable formula and given Nemanja Matic the start, balancing the ethos and making the most out of his capable defending.
This is something Solskjær will definitely have to rethink, especially since next week in Carlo Ancelotti’s Everton, he will find another tactical genius to tackle.