RANKED! The 5 biggest mistakes that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer made at Manchester United

RANKED! The 5 biggest mistakes that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer made at Manchester United

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is no more at Manchester United – and while no fan is surprised to see him go, things seemed a lot rosier over the summer.

The Norwegian was rewarded with a new contract, while the Red Devils had just finished second to Manchester City with arguably their strongest team post-Sir Alex. With a Europa League final too, this was the season that they were supposed to challenge for a title.

Yet with one win in seven, things reached a breaking point as soon as November. Just where did it all go wrong? And what should he have done differently?

5. Not bringing on Dean Henderson in the Europa League final

Manchester United goalkeeper David de Gea appears dejected after they concede a second goal during the Premier League match at Old Trafford, Manchester.

(Image credit: PA Images)

It’s easy to say it with hindsight, isn’t it? David De Gea conceded a whopping 11 penalties in the Europa League shootout against Villarreal, as Manchester United lost to the Spanish minnows late in the night in Gdansk.

While that kind of thing is difficult to see coming, De Gea hadn’t saved a penalty since 2016. That’s a stat that your analysts are paid to know and surely, Henderson would have been a better shot between the sticks that evening.

If United had have won, it would’ve given Ole a little more breathing space. It wasn’t the obvious decision to make until we saw just how bad De Gea was that night – but if he’d have made it, he might still be in a job now.

4. Not selling Jesse Lingard and Donny van de Beek

When Sir Alex Ferguson managed Manchester United, he had a squad packed full of quality. Players like Ji-Sung Park and Darren Fletcher to bring off the bench. Strikers like Louis Saha – who would’ve scored 15+ at a midtable side – coming in to do a job when needed.

Perhaps that was Solskjaer’s thinking when he kept both Lingard and van de Beek in the squad ahead of the new season. But this isn’t Fergie’s day anymore. Players this good want game-time and having them rotting on the bench couldn’t have been good for morale.

Furthermore, the more big players you have on the sidelines, the more calls you hear for your underperforming players to be replaced by them. If anything, the manager made a rod for his own back by keeping squad fodder he didn’t fully trust.

3. Not prioritising a defensive midfielder

Declan Rice

(Image credit: PA)

The defensive midfielder was the biggest area that Manchester United needed quality. And it’s not as if they didn’t have the money to fix the problem in the summer.

United chose to keep Paul Pogba around too, instead of selling him to raise funds. The inadequacy in the centre of midfield has been highlighted so often this season and yet Solskjaer didn’t address the need, resigning Ronaldo before getting in a top defensive midfielder.

It’s come back to bite them. It’s the first priority of the next man in charge.

2. Rushing Harry Maguire back too soon

Harry Maguire’s poor form has been as big a reason as any as to why United have started this season so poorly. And he was magnificent last year – he’s not usually this poor.

On the blue side of Manchester, Pep Guardiola has chosen to fully rest John Stones after a long season and hectic summer with very little break. Maguire, meanwhile, was rushed back to first-team duties after Euro 2020 – despite the fact that he was rushed into England’s line-up as soon as he was fit. When Maguire inevitably picked up a knock for United this season, he was rushed back again.

Solskjaer found out the hard way that no Maguire is better than an unfit Maguire. Even keeping Axel Tuanzebe might have been preferable to playing a defender who so obviously needed a break.

1. Re-signing Cristiano Ronaldo

Jesse Lingard and Cristiano Ronaldo

(Image credit: Getty)

From the team’s perspective, Cristiano Ronaldo has upset the balance. It’s put Edinson Cavani onto the bench, it’s limited Mason Greenwood appearing up front and it’s made the entire team weaker as a pressing unit.

But from Solskjaer’s own personal viewpoint, this is the transfer that broke his authority and everything he was building. This was a long-term project until Ronaldo arrived – suddenly, they had to match CR7’s expectations. The question of whether an ex-Molde manager could handle the ego of the Portuguese also reared its head – and reports that Ronaldo’s agent recommended swift action after the Watford defeat only adds the drama.

Given his chance again, it’s unlikely Ole would go for Ronaldo. Even if they were great teammates.

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