Man United are less cohesive, need a defensive midfielder and their backline is shaky, but there’s progress and they’re entertaining again… so are they heading in the right direction under Solskjaer?

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  • Rio Ferdinand and Paul Scholes express conflicting moods at Man United
  • The former was upbeat after United came down with two goals to beat Atalanta
  • But the latter was less upbeat and feared for them against Liverpool on Sunday
  • So is the winning paper on crack or are United moving in the right direction?

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Nothing explains the conflicting mood at Manchester United better than Paul Scholes and Rio Ferdinand debating the merits of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s wildly precarious team after their dramatic Champions League return against Atlanta.

In the red corner, Ferdinand was upbeat after watching United go down two goals for a 3-2 win ahead of Sunday’s performance with Liverpool at Old Trafford.

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‘You have to capture the spirit of that kind of outcome,’ he said. ‘I’m not going away, but you have to enjoy it.’

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Cristiano Ronaldo (R) scored another winner as Manchester United bounce back to beat Atalanta

Nothing explains the conflicting mood at the club better than Paul Scholes (L) and Rio Ferdinand (R)

Nothing explains the conflicting mood at the club better than Paul Scholes (L) and Rio Ferdinand (R)

In the other red corner, Scholes was less excited. ‘People say I’m sad, but I watched that game thinking about Liverpool,’ he told BT Sport.

‘I kept going back in that first half, and if we play like this against Liverpool it will be disastrous.

‘United will look at this game and think they have recovered, but they are not.’

Was United’s win at Leicester last Saturday only paper on the crack after a fourth loss in seven games, or are they really headed in the right direction under Solskjaer?

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's wildly uncertain squad will face Liverpool at Old Trafford

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s wildly uncertain squad will face Liverpool at Old Trafford

identity crisis

Much has been said and written about the importance of United’s DNA since Solskjaer’s return to the club, yet it is ironic that almost three years later, his team still lacks a clear identity.

Even if the manager knew his best team – and this is debatable – he would not know which United would change from game to game.

It appears as though Solskjaer is struggling to piece together the various components of his squad, and the new signings this summer only complicate the picture.

As a result, United looks less cohesive than last season. A team that is not playing as a team.

They were meant to be capable of dominating games from a counter-attack side, but it’s hard to identify a particular style or shape right now. Too often, United have to rely on individual talent to get them out of a hole and it will only take them so far.

Jesper Blomqvist, who won the Champions League with Solskjaer in 1999, said on Thursday: “United are a bit lacking in overall strategy.”

‘It takes some time to organize all the players on the team and find the right way to play. They have to find a pattern, a tactical way of playing.

United have recently struggled with injuries to Harry Maguire (left) and Rafael Varane

United have recently struggled with injuries to Harry Maguire (left) and Rafael Varane

United front

Despite criticism from Solskjaer, support for the manager has remained stagnant within Old Trafford.

No manager is bullet proof, but United will now need a calamitous race to turn their path.

At a time when it has been painful to watch the slow demise of Steve Bruce at Newcastle, that kind of reassurance cannot be overstated.

There is a lot of goodwill towards Norwegian and Executive Vice President Ed Woodward will be reluctant to rock the boat in his remaining months in office.

United will face Liverpool, Manchester City, Tottenham, Chelsea and Arsenal in five of their next six league games, but Solskjaer has a knack for navigating his way through tough times like these.

What his future holds if he fails to hand the trophy again this season remains to be seen.

disorganized

United targeted a center back and right winger in the summer, and there were no complaints when they signed Rafael Varane from Real Madrid and Jadon Sancho from Borussia Dortmund.

However, there is a strong argument that the need for a defensive midfielder was even greater and that no one was coming forward.

Those concerns are confirmed in the early part of the season as Solskjaer struggles to strike a balance between his attack and defense, which appears to have become disconnected. It is clear he cannot rely on Paul Pogba in a defensive midfield role, but using the Frenchman wide on the left means dropping a winger.

There is no shortage of those at Old Trafford following Sancho’s arrival, leaving Solskjaer with the embarrassment of attacking money – and the problem of fitting in without making his team top-heavy.

It is clear that Norwegian bosses cannot rely on Paul Pogba (above) in a defensive midfield role

It is clear that Norwegian bosses cannot rely on Paul Pogba (above) in a defensive midfield role

Sancho hasn’t done nearly enough to justify his £73million price tag. Meanwhile, the return of Cristiano Ronaldo has created problems of its own.

After scoring six goals in eight matches against Atalanta for the second consecutive Champions League winner, it may seem odd, but at the age of 36, he is never as high pressure or ready to back down as his teammates. are not going to be.

Edison Cavani has also benefited from the unexpected arrival of Ronaldo. The Uruguay striker had to be persuaded to sign on for a second season at United, but starting only one game so far, he has lost his No. 7 shirt and his place in the team.

getting better

Even Solskjaer’s harshest critics will not dispute the progress the club has made under him.

A lot of dead wood has been removed and better players have been brought in. The team – and squad – are strong, even though United are yet to sum up their share.

Ronaldo’s return has largely been a success and has energized the club despite the odd setbacks.

David de Gea has re-established himself as the No. 1 goalkeeper with good performances, Luke Shaw playing his best football for United, and Marcus Rashford on his return to kicks after scoring two goals in as many matches. are ready for. from injury.

Overall, the club is in a better position than when Solskjaer took over from Jose Mourinho.

David de Gea has re-established himself as the No. 1 goalkeeper with good performances

David de Gea has re-established himself as the No. 1 goalkeeper with good performances

back trouble

Just a clean sheet in the last 20 matches we need to know about United’s defensive instability.

Despite Eric Ramsay being brought in from Chelsea to join an ever-increasing coaching staff over the summer for the same specific purpose, the number of set-piece goals is equally worrying.

Leicester’s two goals came from set-pieces and Merih Demiral scored Atalanta’s second goal from a corner.

United need to defend better as a team, as Bruno Fernandes pointed out on Wednesday

United need to defend better as a team, as Bruno Fernandes pointed out on Wednesday

Varane is a fine signing and his back injury has come at a bad time. It was also said that Harry Maguire was battling an ankle injury he suffered before picking up a calf strain at the end of last season.

But United need to defend better as a team, Bruno Fernandes pointed out on Thursday.

“We have to accept less and score more,” Fernandes said. ‘We can’t just blame the defenders. We train as a team to attack and defend.

‘Individual mistakes happen, we just have to try to understand what is wrong and do it better.’

swindle

Part of that problem is United’s failure to suppress opponents the way Liverpool have successfully done under Jurgen Klopp and City under Pep Guardiola.

Only three teams – Norwich, Newcastle and Brighton – have put less pressure as a team than United this season, and it was shocking how easily Leicester passed between them.

Solskjaer was all about working hard when it came to work, but his players are not putting enough pressure on opponents, raising concerns that he is being too soft on them.

‘If Pep and Klopp were in charge of this team, I think the front four would work very hard,’ sportsmail Columnist Peter Crouch. ‘There’s no way they’ll get away with it. I don’t think Ole will trouble the players.

Meanwhile, Marcus Rashford is ready to kick after scoring two goals in as many games

Meanwhile, Marcus Rashford is ready to kick after scoring two goals in as many games

great entertainer

If nothing else, Old Trafford is certainly not sluggish these days and it was more than you could say for life under Mourinho and Louis van Gaal.

Husky nights like Wednesday have become a thing of the past and Solskjaer’s United cannot be blamed for the entertainment value – even a depressed Scholes has to admit.

He said, ‘We saw the boring van Gaal and Mourinho teams, who were sending you to sleep.’ ‘So it’s great to go from that to this.’

.

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