When you get on to a Roller Coaster, you know you are in for a topsy-turvy ride. You will go through a phase where you will have your heart almost popping out of your body. Well, isn’t that a life of a Man United fan as well? If, fans are seated at the back of the roller coaster ride, every manager who’s managing the club is seated in the front seat. That’s how the life of Man United manager is, since Sir Alex retired.
While Ole has been managing the club since 2018 now, he is now facing the sack according to many news outlets & fans uproar on social media. He’s been facing an uphill task this season largely due to the topsy-turvy results.
Ole has had definite highs this season with wins in Champions League (CL) away at PSG….
… as well as at home to RB Leipzig who are considered to be a strong team as well & doing well in Bundesliga
But with defeats to Arsenal, Istanbul Basaksehir in a week & a cagey match vs Chelsea, Ole is looking at finding another job, if he loses to Everton this weekend.
So what can Ole do to stop the slide & course correct, let me list down 5 things he can do :
1. Get the squad selection right, stick to a formation & bench players out of form: Ole has been playing defensive football, which is not natural for many of the players. To play defensive football, the defense needs to be water-tight, which isn’t the case. United had a mean defense last season but we are anything but mean this season, shipping away 2.17 goals on an average per match. With Lindelof not fit to start the CL game vs Basaksehir, it all the more dents the chances of United keeping a clean sheet vs Everton who have had a flying start to their season.
Ole has also been afraid to bench players like Pogba, Maguire who have had an awful season. He needs to remember that – “Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.”. The light in this case can be players who are being benched like Van De Beek & Tuanzebe.
2. Don’t get out-thought in the game – One of the bigger issues with Ole managing United has been that he’s not a great tactician, even though he’s beaten managers like Pep, Jose, Tuchel, Nagelsmann & Lampard. But the bigger issue isn’t the renowned managers that he’s failed to beat, its the unknown or less reputed ones.
Ole has struggled against low block teams, who usually park the bus. Bruno has been the key to open such team, however, with teams marking Bruno, someone else needs to step up to unlock such teams.
Another issue with Ole’s teams have been opposition’s aggressive press & not utilizing the width of the pitch, while attacking the opponent, which essentially creates spaces behind defenders. We are not able to provide width & depend on our wing-back because we don’t have genuine wingers. Most of United’s attacks are from the left or center, which becomes one-dimensional. United needed a genuine world-class right winger in the transfer window, which the club couldn’t get & now we are struggling to offer width & penetration.
3. Go hard, go aggressive across the pitch – Istanbul Basaksehir is not known to be an aggressive side, even then our players couldn’t cope with them physically.
Neither did Basaksehir press United across the pitch, it was only the defensive third that United were pressed.
Lets look at Liverpool, who are typically known to press their opponents across the pitch. Jota created 6.31 successful pressures per 90 vs Atlanta in the recent CL game.
To benchmark against a top side, lets look at Liverpool’s Fabinho with 42.6% successful pressure percentage, followed by Salah who has 39.8% successful pressure percentage.
Compare that with United, Mctominay is the most successful player for United with 42% successful pressure percentage followed by Luke Shaw at 40.6%.
It shows that Liverpool press the opponents right from front to back. I am not saying Liverpool’s system is right or wrong, but it shows that the players are willing to put in a shift, are aggressive off the ball, which is missing for United.
4. Progressive passing – The movement of the ball sideways has also been criticized of late, with the focus more on retaining possession, back to the days of Van Gaal, slow movement of the ball with no off the ball movements. To get an idea of top teams passing progressively, I compared Liverpool’s top passing players to United’s.
Across all competitions, Henderson is the player who progressively covers more yards than any of the Liverpool players, followed by Jota. The distance covered by them is 190 yards & 186.6 yards per 90 mins respectively.
Compare that with United and Matic moves the ball 214.7 yards, followed by Shaw at 182.3 yards.
However, only progressive distance covered isn’t enough but progressive passing is needed too. Henderson has 59 progressive passes, 6 key passes, 65 passes in the final third, 9 passes into the penalty area & 0 assists this season. While Jota has delivered 19 progressive passes, 3 key passes, 15 passes in the final third, 3 passes into the penalty area, 0 assists & 7 goals this season.
If we compare that to Matic 32 progressive passes, 1 key pass, 23 passes in the final third, 3 passes into the penalty area, 0 assists this season, while Shaw has 54 progressive passes, 11 key passes, 40 passes in the final third, 9 passes into the penalty area & 1 assist this season. (Source: fbref.com)
The stats portray the true story where United’s players are lacking, progressive passing, which will create opportunities for their forwards!
5. Get Consistent & build momentum – Ole has been criticized by a lot of pundits since he’s not developed any identity for United and rightly so. He needs to stick to a consistent style of play, build momentum & go on a winning run of games. There’s nothing like winning games, as it will bring back confidence within the team.
Conclusion – Irrespective of whether Ole follows the some or all of the above, I hope he improves United tactically as well as in performance. He may not be getting the results now, but we had a similar start last season, but picked up pace in the second half of the season.
Chopping & Changing managers isn’t ideal for the club, we as fans need to stick with the manager & back him! Glazers & Woodward haven’t backed Ole in the transfer market, he never got his top targets including Sancho, Upamayenco & Grealish but instead we have got players he may not have wanted.
Remember, while you may blame Ole like you blamed Jose, LVG or Moyes, but both Jose & Moyes are doing much better at a different club. So the buck doesn’t always stop with a manager. Think about it.
Do let me know your views in the comments below.