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Problems to be Addressed by Manchester United’s Interim Manager

After almost three years in charge, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer bid farewell to United. The 4-1 defeat at Vicarage Road was the nail in the coffin for Ole who has been under intense scrutiny for the past two months. The United squad Ole leaves behind is much better than the one he inherited. This also means that United’s interim manager will be under pressure to deliver results quickly. In this article, we will take a look at the problems that the new manager must address in order to be successful.

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To press or not to press

This is arguably one of the main reasons for the fall of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. United have a pressing issue (quite literally) and they must solve it swiftly as the Premier League is unforgiving. Mourinho’s United never pressed and Ole took it upon himself to ensure that his team played in a different way. Last season, there were signs of United’s press yielding dividends but Ole took a more conservative approach against top teams.

In 20/21, Bruno Fernandes always seemed intent on pressing but he looks fatigued this season. Rashford and Sancho do not have great pressing stats but both are young enough to run and spend energy in the field. The least interested of the lot when it comes to pressing are Greenwood and Ronaldo. United’s interim manager will be forced to field both of them amidst a busy schedule. Hence, he must find a viable pressing strategy that suits a United’s diverse range of forwards.

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The obvious solution to this problem is to stop pressing and defend with a low block. West Ham United is a good example of a team that do not press high yet have a distinct pattern of play. Like West Ham, Manchester United too possess lots of quality in counter-attack. But defending deep has gone out of fashion and supporters might consider it a step back in United’s progress.

Picking a stable midfield

If United’s interim manager continues to entrust a 4-2-3-1 formation, he has a real problem in his hands. Ole’s preferred double pivot of Fred and McTominay have come under a lot of criticism from fans and pundits alike. Both are box-to-box midfielders who naturally struggle as holding midfielders. Only Nemanja Matic has the qualities of a central defensive midfielder but he is past his peak.

Donny Van de Beek is also a number 8 but he could be a better option than Fred and McTominay. Van de Beek is technically gifted and has occasionally played in a double pivot for Ajax. But it is very clear that United need a young, energetic central defensive midfielder if they are to compete for the title.

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Managing Cristiano Ronaldo

After signing for United, Ronaldo proclaimed that it is the best decision he has ever made. But things have not gone according to plan and many have pointed fingers at Ronaldo. His work rate has dipped steadily in recent seasons and United were well aware of this fact when they bought him. While it is true that he does not run as much as he used to, it is silly to ask him to become a pressing machine at 36.

Even Ronaldo’s biggest critics have to admit that he has scored some sensational goals since joining United. It is very clear he can still perform at the highest level and he is an automatic selection in the starting eleven. But the problem lies in the fact that Ronaldo likes playing alongside traditional strikers who work hard such as Cavani. Accommodating both and Bruno Fernandes means United’s flashy wingers must warm the bench. Such a decision might not board well with the fans as it will impact the development of Greenwood, Sancho and Rashford.

Hence, the new manager must make some bold decisions and rotate his forwards to ensure peace in the dressing room.

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