Does Ole Gunnar Solskjaer have it in himself to be ruthless? I hope the answer is yes. He is being fed to the lions right now and needs to show a nastier side to save himself.
Solskjaer was brought in two years ago to provide stability and give Manchester United a feel-good factor again. There have undoubtedly been flashes of that, like at the end of last season, but too many more performances like the one in Wednesday’s match in Turkey may make some United fans fear he’s taken them as far as he can.
The game in Istanbul was dispiriting and the first goal they conceded embarrassing. It should be impossible for United to concede in that manner and I’d love to know how it happened. It’s not even as if the stadium was full of 60,000 screaming fans making it impossible for players to hear one another.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer needs to ram home some hard truths to his Manchester United side
They were abject against Istanbul Basaksehir and the boss needs to show some ruthlessness
I’ve been in situations when things are not going for you but, really, the way United capitulated showed them to be a team lacking leadership. I have spoken to Roy Keane about this and he made the point that when this team goes 1-0 down, nobody knows what they are going to do next.
When I look at United now, in some ways it takes me back to Manchester City during Mark Hughes’ time as manager. Mark is a great person and with his coaches Mark Bowen and Eddie Niedzwiecki, training was always superb.
Mark is someone I have tremendous respect for. He was a brilliant striker in his playing days and, as a coach, wanted to attack. If anything, I felt I let him down as I didn’t play as well as I could have done in spells during his reign.
City had a promising team then, full of talent. The Abu Dhabi era was getting into full swing and we wanted to get to the big places quickly but we kept coming up short in games that really mattered, such as when we lost at Old Trafford in 2009 to a last-minute winner from Michael Owen.
The club, however, decided they needed to move Mark on.
Roberto Mancini drilled his tactical plans into the Manchester City team when he was in charge
In came Roberto Mancini. The first thing he did was ask the club to install floodlights at our Carrington training base. We had been happy doing one session a day with Hughes but things were going to be different under Mancini.
We’d train in the morning, then again at 5pm. The players hated it, they hated how much Mancini concentrated on drills and team shape, dragging people into the positions he wanted them. Everything was about being spot on tactically and he was huge on discipline.
Mancini wasn’t bothered about p****** people off or making unpopular calls. He used to tell us: ‘You may not like what I say, you may not like what I do but I’m doing it to make you better.’
He wanted to win and within two-and-a-half years of his appointment, we had become Premier League champions.
Solskjaer cut a dejected figure on the touchline and too many of his players are coasting
Some people will feel that United need a similar character to Mancini now. I’m most certainly not saying they need to get rid of Solskjaer because I would never advocate a manager being sacked. I’ve seen it happen too often and I know the upset it causes. But my hope is that Solskjaer delivers home truths to some of the squad.
Watching United in Istanbul, I once again felt that too many players were operating within themselves. Take Nemanja Matic, a former Premier League winner at Chelsea. Isn’t a player of his calibre and experience the one who should be setting standards?
How, then, did United concede a goal like the one Demba Ba helped himself to with a clear run from the halfway line? I’ll say it again: no competent team should ever concede in that manner.
But that is too often the thing about United now — it is just too easy to play against them. Yes, they have shown flashes when they look brilliant, such as how they took RB Leipzig apart, but it is the tough matches, such as Saturday’s trip to Everton, when you know they are vulnerable.
Nemanja Matic is among the senior stars who need to step up and take authority
A team with the quality of Paul Pogba should be doing far better than United are at the moment
That never used to be the case when I used to face Manchester United. You used to struggled to breathe in games against United because the pressure was so intense. I think back to derbies when I had Patrice Evra running at me, Ryan Giggs coming over to help, Wayne Rooney dropping into spaces, Cristiano Ronaldo wreaking havoc.
If you led against United, there was an expectation that they would always create one more chance. They had this relentless mentality that wore you down and I remember a spell when they scored three last-minute winners against City, in 2009-10, in four matches.
Everything goes through transitions but now you get the impression that too many people are coasting. United shouldn’t be 15th with Paul Pogba, Marcus Rashford, Bruno Fernandes, Mason Greenwood and a goalkeeper of David de Gea’s quality.
If Solskjaer has been trying to keep them happy and keep positivity around the place, it has to stop. He needs to do something to shock everyone and he needs to do it now. If the drift continues, it will, sadly, you fear it will go only one way.
A ruthless decision will be made — and he will be on the end of it.
If United fail to spark an upturn in fortunes then Solskjaer is likely to lose his job
It has been another tough week as we get to grips with the latest lockdown.
I know I’m in a privileged position but I appreciate there are many others whose situation is uncertain. There will be issues of depression, loneliness and financial stress and I want to try to help people in some small way, if I can.
Last Saturday night. I put out a tweet saying I would give £25,000 to a charity or business in Manchester and the same amount to a charity or business in Leeds that I feel need it the most.
Both cities have been nothing but good to me through my life and I’d like to give something back. Inevitably, some people took to social media, criticising me and suggesting I was doing this as a publicity stunt but let me be clear: it is nothing of the sort. There is no hidden agenda.
I’ve heard from numerous worthy causes this week but I’d like to hear from more of you. You can continue to tweet me or, if you would prefer, send an email to: email@example.com — I look forward to hearing from you and I will be putting this into action soon.
MICAH’S MATCH OF THE WEEK
There is so much intrigue around Manchester City’s showdown with Liverpool and I can’t wait to see it unfold. The champions had seemed to be just doing enough until they spectacularly beat Atalanta on Tuesday and they will head to the Etihad Stadium full of confidence.
Many believe Jurgen Klopp will take Roberto Firmino out to start Diogo Jota but I wouldn’t dismiss Firmino. I’m a huge fan of the Brazilian. He doesn’t score the goals many people would like but he gives so much to this Liverpool team. There is a way for both him and Jota to play.
City have turned a corner in terms of having Aymeric Laporte and Ruben Dias as a central defensive partnership, while Gabriel Jesus is back. Both teams are coming into form and the confidence the winners will take will be huge. The game will not decide the title but a statement will be made.
Roberto Firmino gives plenty to the Liverpool team and should not simply be dismissed
Diogo Jota has been on fire for the Reds and could play in the same team as Firmino