Whether you think Ole Gunnar Solskjaer should still be in a job or not — and whatever the reasons for him retaining his position at Manchester United — there’s no escaping the pressure he’s under.
United have a whole heap of problems, with Solskjaer’s job under more scrutiny than ever before — even more than following last season’s 6-1 shellacking by Tottenham at home.
A similar defeat, by another five-goal deficit, 12 months later at the hands of Liverpool has had some describing Solskjaer as on borrowed time.
Yet the situation could yet turn around in his favour. A United win over Spurs this weekend would certainly alter the mood and change the debate around Solskjaer, even if many gripes about the Norwegian’s tactical acumen will not go away.
He needs to pick the players he trusts at Tottenham, a team bound to work its socks off for their manager. United’s performance against Nuno Espirito Santo’s side will be revealing.
Here’s the 11 Solskjaer should pick:
GK: De Gea
David De Gea is the one player with credit in the bank for his performances this season. Even in the 5-0 defeat to Liverpool, he made a couple of excellent saves and was mostly blameless for the goals. As a long-term custodian at United, the Spaniard will be eager to put things right.
Back four: Wan-Bissaka, Varane/Bailly, Maguire, Shaw
Harry Maguire and Luke Shaw might well consider themselves fortunate if they remain in the United line-up after horror-show performances against Liverpool. But ultimately, they are senior players and trusted lieutenants of Solskjaer. The other issue is that United hardly have any convincing alternatives.
Solskjaer will be desperate to get Raphael Varane back fit to bolster his back-line, though if not there could be a recall for Eric Bailly. He’s arguably United’s most naturally gifted defender.
Midfield: Fred, Van de Beek, Fernandes
With Paul Pogba suspended following his red card against Liverpool, Solskjaer is very likely to stick with the Fred and Scott McTominay axis that he’s tended to favour throughout his tenure.
However, those two playing together could leave United looking limited and devoid of creativity in the middle, so surely it’s time to throw Donny van de Beek in and see what he can do?
There is an argument to play Jesse Lingard, who will add energy and dynamism to a side that was lacking in both against Liverpool, but Bruno Fernandes is the obvious pick in the No.10 role. Solskjaer must encourage the Portuguese and Van de Beek to work together.
Who would you pick on Saturday? Choose your United XI to face Spurs below and in the comments here :
Front three: Sancho, Ronaldo, Rashford
As with Van de Beek, you have to think Solskjaer will give Jadon Sancho — another new signing who’s struggled for game-time this season — a chance to stamp his authority on the Spurs game.
Mason Greenwood was withdrawn against Liverpool, and although Edinson Cavani will be given consideration as a starter this Saturday, Cristiano Ronaldo and Marcus Rashford are two players who Solskjaer can rely upon.
He desperately needs a response, and this team ought to be keen to prove a point on Saturday evening.
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