W with about 10 minutes to get to Wankdorf Stadion, there was a sudden uproar over the Manchester United bench . The referee, François Letexier, had not spotted a fault on Paul Pogba and on the touchline Ole Gunnar Solskjær was joined by Bruno Fernandes and Cristiano Ronaldo, gesturing wildly with all the just indignation of the men who had put their 50p at the edge of the pool table and now watching someone else pile up the balls.
If ever there was a suitable motive for United 's surprise 2-1 defeat by Young Boys , maybe it was this: United manager and maybe to be their two most famous players blasting on the sidelines, unable to influence anything. Instead, it will be Jesse Lingard and Jordan Siebatcheu who will make the decisive contributions, the former with his shocking back pass, the latter with his grateful end in the fifth minute of the add time.itional.
Solskjær sought to shine the spotlight on the 32 referee years for failing to award Ronaldo a penalty at the start of the second half. "Sometimes you get it with young umpires," he said casually. While there are some areas where Solskjær can legitimately be challenged, when it comes to promoting people to important positions in football with only negligible experience, it is probably best to get over it. in his judgment.
As is customary in these scenarios, the captain, Harry Maguire, courageously took on the post-match duties, looking grave and repentant, like a NASA scientist patiently explaining to world media how they accidentally managed to lose Saturn. "No footballer likes to make mistakes, but we are humans " he said of the comment.Lingard's error, and to be fair, there was not much to dispute in both parts of this statement.
But the most interesting part of Maguire's analysis was when he assessed the tactical changes that took place across the half-time. Immediately after Aaron Wan-Bissaka's sacking, United were in a messy makeshift 4-4-1 with Fernandes and Pogba awkwardly patrolling the wings. After half-time Solskjær moved up to a 5-3-1, and for 20 minutes after the break United were relatively safe at the back.
"The majority of their chances came late in the first half as we were playing against four backs and couldn't get out to stop their crosses with the number of bodies they were throwing into the box," said declared Maguire. “In the second half we were pretty comfortable.
"We could have done more with the ball, but in terms of form without the ball, I felt it was a lot better when we went three back. They didn't create much. 'occasions. "
The problem was, neither was United. From the 25th minute, Young Boys managed 15 shots on goal against United. Even for a United at 10 it was hopelessly thin against the weaker side in their group and for all of their domestic progress under Solskjær a pattern is starting to emerge. Its folder in the Champions League won four, lost seven, and in most of those losses United weren't just fooled but dominated, foiled, dominated.
Had Lingard kicked the ball in touch rather than recklessly returning it to David de Gea, the questionss may have seemed less pressing, but they should still be asked. How does one of the most impressive attacking sets in world football manage to show this little ambition against limited opponents? Why does this keep happening to Solskjær in Europe? Is this really the best that a club like United can do?
Certainly Solskjær tried to make his mark in the proceedings, but pretty much every decisions he made seemed to make United less of a threat. Removing Jadon Sancho for Diogo Dalot was a forced change, but replacing Donny van de Beek with Raphael Varane deprived United of outlets in the midfield and set them up for a defensive rearguard. Ronaldo and Fernandes were missing from the game by the time they were pulled, but replacing them with Lingard and Nemanja Matic was an absurdly backward move with Mason Greenwood and Anthony Martial inReserve. "We wanted Jesse's legs " Solskjær said.
In the end, United were essentially unrecognizable from the team that started with such a promise : four of their five forwards took off, shape changed at least three times, players buzzing with the slightest idea what they were supposed to do. It's all well and good to blame individual mistakes, but at some point you also have to look at the bigger picture and against a mid-range opposition United have produced maybe 100 minutes of decent football in their first five matches.
This all brings us back to Solskjær. Beat teams like like Leeds and Newcastle is nice , but thisThis is not the reason why Ronaldo and Varane signed up. One key ub of United ambition should probably aim to win around 70-75% of their games, which generally means these days having a solid formula that works against most oppositions in most conditions, at home. and in Europe. Almost three years after the start of the Solskjær era, the formula is still not entirely clear.
These may just be early start problems. Maybe Solskjær is still in the lever pull stage of the season, figuring out how to get the most out of Ronaldo and Fernandes and Pogba and Sancho (and Greenwood and Marcus Rashford). Or maybe that's all there is and what looks like a master strategist seeking elite solutions is simply a man, standing in a painted box, waving his arms.