Man United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said he doesn’t need trophies to massage his ego but he has failed again after limping out of the FA Cup… no wonder fans are angry and Gary Neville is ‘demoralised’
- Manchester United lost 3-1 at Leicester in the FA Cup quarter-finals on Sunday
- The wait for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to deliver silverware as United boss continues
- The Red Devils just have the Europa League to play for now this season
Like night follows day, a cup competition exit follows a frustrating Manchester United performance.
On Sunday evening an insipid Red Devils were weakly dumped out of the FA Cup by a dominant Leicester City side.
This was at the quarter-final stage. Beforehand United’s four previous competition exits – excluding the Champions League – have come a round further in the semis.
Manchester United tumbled out of the FA Cup with a 3-1 defeat at Leicester City on Sunday
United were abject at the King Power Stadium as they were outplayed in the quarter-final clash
Pressure is growing on United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to deliver silverware at the club
Four semi-final losses and now a quarter-final defeat in two seasons is not a great look for the club of Manchester United’s size, nor for their manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
The Norwegian has been scrutinised throughout his tenure in the Old Trafford hotseat and just when you think the club are turning corners – such as Thursday’s last-16 Europa League win at AC Milan – they decide to do a U-turn and head back in the direction they came from.
It has been a recurring theme of the 48-year-old’s reign and United supporters must have woken up incredibly frustrated on Monday morning after their emphatic 3-1 loss at Leicester.
United legend Gary Neville said he felt ‘demoralised’ by the result and was surprised by the number of changes Solskjaer made from the side that beat Milan just days prior.
‘Been a good week, not surprising they go to Milan and do what they did because they are good away from home,’ he told the Gary Neville podcast with Sky Sports.
‘Beating West Ham last week, and then I’m surprised that the team has been rotated so much.
Gary Neville said he was left ‘demoralised’ by the Red Devils after they exited out of the FA Cup
‘I know he has been doing that, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, but this was a real chance. You think about the semi-final draw that occurred at half time in that game, which meant the winner played Southampton.
‘It’s not a gimmy against Southampton in the semi final by any stretch of the imagination but what an opportunity. And I do think believe that group of players need to win a trophy under Solskjaer.
‘Yes, of course, finishing second would be the priority at the start of the season and winning a trophy will now be the priority with that, they only have the Europa League left but that was a real good one today.
‘They have a decent record at Leicester and I was in the car listening to the game, get back from behind and think “here we go” not surprised with United away from home – but then that second and third goes in and it’s a massive missed opportunity.
‘I am demoralised a little bit tonight as a United fan because I do feel that was a really good one to go for this season.’
Just three days prior, United had won 1-0 at AC Milan to reach the Europa League quarters
Of the Leicester loss, Neville hits it perfectly on the head. Off the back of a midweek 1-0 win at Milan, Solskjaer opted against continuity with his starting XI and was made to pay the price. This was even with an international break immediately following. Then they had the half-time motivation of knowing Southampton await in the next round – a side they thrashed 9-0 in the Premier League just a month ago.
Five changes were made from that memorable night in Milan – with only Marcus Rashford ruled out through injury. Thursday’s matchwinner Paul Pogba made his first start since February 6, while it was Donny van de Beek’s first since Valentine’s Day. Both, and in particular Van de Beek – bar a clever dummy, were ineffective as their lack of match sharpness told. Leicester’s midfield won that battle and rather connivingly.
In turn though it wasn’t the duo’s fault, Solskjaer’s omission of talisman Bruno Fernandes and Scott McTominay was questionable. Fernandes has been below his brilliant best for a while now and while he needs a rest from time-to-time a FA Cup quarter-final isn’t the place for that.
In addition too, a midfield tandem of Fred and Nemanja Matic isn’t effective but yet again Solskjaer opted for this pairing rather than the industry of McTominay. Fred, as Troy Deeney infamously noted on talkSPORT last year, was at fault for Leicester’s opener after giving possession away, while Youri Tielemans glided past him and Matic with too much ease en route to scoring the Foxes’ second.
Twelve minutes after going 2-1 down, thanks to Tielemans’ strike, Solskjaer made four substitutions in one block. On came McTominay, Fernandes, Edinson Cavani and the in-form Luke Shaw – telling you all you need to know what he thought about that performance.
Paul Pogba (left) and Donny van de Beek started for United for the first time in over a month
Resting Bruno Fernandes (centre) was a gamble that didn’t pay off for Solskjaer on Sunday
There is a worrying trend with the Red Devils in the latter stages of a competition in that they have the inability to perform to the best of their talents. Aside from Sunday, you can look back to this season’s Carabao Cup semi-final against Manchester City.
Usually a two-legged affair, this was just a one-tie clash this term due to the coronavirus pandemic. The tie was played at Old Trafford after United were drawn first. However, it was City who were more at ease at the Theatre of Dreams as they won 2-0. That was Solskjaer’s fourth semi-final defeat in a year, by comparison legendary Red Devils manager Sir Alex Ferguson only lost six in his entire 26 years there.
These two teams met in last season’s Carabao Cup semi-final – which went City’s way too. United were very much in a different space then and were blitzed 3-1 in the first leg. At the time Solskjaer said it was ‘the worst we have played this season’. United won the second leg 1-0 but the damage had already been done and they bowed out 3-2 on aggregate.
A semi-final exit also occurred in the FA Cup last season with a 3-1 defeat by Chelsea. Solskjaer chose to cruelly dump cup keeper Sergio Romero for David de Gea, just like he did in the Carabao Cup semi-finals, and this gamble didn’t pay off as the Spaniard produced two horrendous errors. Despite going into that tie off the back of a 19-game unbeaten run in all competitions United were abject – just like they were against Leicester. Solskjaer chose a 3-4-1-2 formation that day rotating his squad again, but it was Chelsea who were more dynamic and deserving to go through.
Against Sevilla in the Europa League, the blame would fall on Solskjaer’s players as they failed to build upon an early lead. Fernandes fired them ahead from the penalty spot on nine minutes and then they squandered numerous chances – with Anthony Martial the main guilty party. Meanwhile, Sevilla’s equaliser and winner were courtesy of defensive mistakes.
John Stones scored as Manchester City beat United 2-0 in the Carabao Cup semis this season
City beat United in the Carabao Cup semis last season – winning the first leg 3-1 at Old Trafford
David de Gea made two huge errors as United lost 3-1 to Chelsea in the FA Cup semis last term
The Red Devils blew a 1-0 lead to Sevilla in last season’s Europa League semi-finals to lose 2-1
The culmination of all five Cup exits has angered United’s fanbase who haven’t celebrated a piece of silverware since their Europa League success in 2017.
‘Brendan Rodgers has absolutely schooled Solskjaer they’re a point behind us in league yet our fans continue to celebrate the fact we’re 2nd,’ wrote one user.
This view was echoed by another who put: ‘Manchester United football club will not win a trophy with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as manager. It will never happen.’
The account Tactical Role tweeted: ‘Manchester United won’t win any major titles while Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is in charge. It’s as simple as that. Ole took United from A to B, now it’s time to take that next step.’
Many United fans took to social media to vent their frustration about Solskjaer after the defeat
Speaking last week Solskjaer said: ‘We’re all aiming to win trophies at this club, but sometimes the trophy can hide other things that are happening at the club.
‘It’s in the league positions that you see whether you’re progressing, really. The cups you can be lucky or unlucky. Of course we’re aiming to win, that’s why you play football.
‘I felt a big rebuild had to be made. The league is always the bread and butter and that’s when you see how capable you are.
‘The cups are sometimes an ego thing for managers and clubs. It’s not like a trophy will say ‘we are back’, no. It’s gradual progression at the top of the league. Sometimes the cup competitions can hide your progress a bit.’
With the Premier League out of reach and just the Europa League to play for, Solskjaer must win that tournament now to show progress is truly being made under his helm. They’re the competition favourites and having been demoted from the Champions League, after winning their opening two group-stage games against Paris Saint-Germain and RB Leipzig, there really isn’t any excuses.
Solskjaer just has the Europa League left this season to deliver silverware for the Red Devils
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