Is Manchester United’s revival already over?
For a moment it looked like Manchester United’s nightmare was over. With Jose Mourinho long gone, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer reigning supreme, and a dazzling record in the Premier League, many fans would have thought that the Red Devils were back to their best.
But Manchester United’s recent Champions League defeat by Paris Saint Germain shows us that things are still far from perfect at Old Trafford. Solskjaer’s side was woefully outclassed by the French team, and was lucky to walk away with just a 0-2 defeat.
It was a sobering moment for the Old Trafford faithful who had started to believe that their beloved team were finally back on the right track. Manchester United had an atrocious 2018 with much of the blame levelled at the old manager, Jose Mourinho, who was charged with making bad team decisions and ruining the morale within the already shaky United camp.
But with the appointment of caretaker manager, Solskjaer, it seemed that a miracle was occurring. Whilst the Norwegian coach had very little experience in the manager’s role, he somehow was able to motivate the team and make Manchester United look like the team that they once were.
United had previously been slumped perilously close to an embarrassing mid-table position after Mourinho guided them to their worst Premier League start in decades. But with Solskjaer in charge, the Red Devils commanded an incredible playing record of 10 wins and one draw in just eleven games.
As a result, we’ve seen Manchester United rampaging up the Premier League table, where they now sit in the top four ahead of close rivals like Chelsea and Arsenal. And with a very real chance of playing European football again next season, it seemed that things were looking very promising at Old Trafford.
A sobering moment from Paris Saint Germain
Whilst Manchester United had put in some commendable performances in the Premier League, including a well-deserved 0-1 away victory against a tough Tottenham, it was their Champions League clash against Paris Saint Germain that gave them their first real test under Solskjaer.
For a while, it seemed as though many United supporters were fairly optimistic about their chances. With star Paris Saint Germain players like Neymar and Edinson Cavani out of the picture due to injury, it looked like the match was the perfect opportunity for the rejuvenated Manchester United team to make their presence felt in European football.
But as soon as the match kicked off, it quickly became clear that there was still plenty of work to do in the Old Trafford camp. With important players like Jesse Lingard and Anthony Martial out of action, the rest of the team seemed to fall flat in comparison with the sheer dynamism of the French side.
Whilst stars like Paul Pogba and David de Gea briefly managed to hold back the ferocious Paris Saint Germain attack, United were eventually outclassed in the second half and two quick goals from Presnel Kimpembe and man-of-the-moment Kylian Mbappe put the Red Devils’ dreams to rest.
Although United teams in the past might have managed to gather their spirits to deliver a late comeback, there was little resistance evident. In fact, Pogba was eventually sent off for a second bookable offence, and with the sight of the hundreds of gradually emptying seats in Old Trafford, it looked like many United fans had given up too.
How can Manchester United learn from this?
There will be many big questions asked of Solskjaer’s first defeat as Manchester United head coach. Whilst the Norwegian manager was more than willing to accept his share of the responsibility, it seems as though the problem is more deeply rooted than this.
Manchester United have been in a worrying state of decline for more than a few years. There have been many complaints made that a bizarre transfer policy by the executive vice-chairman, Ed Woodward, has hampered the team who ruled European football just a few years ago.
Multi-million pound signings such as Alexis Sanchez once again failed to deliver the goods against Paris Saint Germain. Plus the fact that Solskjaer decided to leave the £75 million striker, Romelu Lukaku, on the bench meant that United couldn’t break down the watertight Paris Saint Germain defence.
Whilst United’s defence has proven to be more than capable of handling top Premier League teams recently, when faced with the fearsome French side, they seemed to be completely outshone. As a result, Manchester United will face an almost impossible task when they travel to Paris for the Champions League second leg next month. Be sure to go to the blog at footyon.com to get the latest news and opinion about this pivotal clash.
Who will get the permanent Manchester United manager job?
The defeat by Paris Saint Germain marked the first black spot on Solskjaer’s managerial record at Manchester United. Whilst losing against this formidable French team isn’t too much to be ashamed about, it marked the first time that the Norwegian coach has looked out of his depth.
There were plenty of questions raised when Solskjaer first got the job as interim manager of Manchester United. Having to come from the Norwegian team, Molde FK, to Old Trafford was no easy task, but for a while it looked like Solskjaer could handle the pressure.
The next few matches will be hugely important in how the Manchester United board see the permanent managerial position being filled. Previously, we have seen no end of star power in the head coach role with the likes of Louis Van Gaal and Mourinho promising a lot but delivering very little.
Already there are plenty of whispers that Manchester United could try and tempt the Argentinian manager, Mauricio Pochettino, away from Tottenham. But if Solskjaer can improve upon his already impressive performances, there’s hope that the Norwegian might be able to convince the board to give him a permanent job.