Monday 16 September 2019

Draw at Southampton tells us plenty about Solskjaer's United

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. Photo: John Sibley/Reuters
Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. Photo: John Sibley/Reuters

Tom Prentki

Reasons to be cheerful

Daniel James

"Fantastic" was the word Ole Gunnar Solskjaer used to describe the young winger's impact at St Mary's in the 1-1 draw. His 10th-minute strike, cutting in from the left and thumping the ball into the top corner, was devastating. James has the same number of goals in four appearances as Alexis Sanchez managed in 18 months. Perhaps signed with the future in mind, James, 21, is already indispensable.

Promise of youth

The long-term future may be bright for United given the form and promise of their younger players, but no manager can look too far ahead. Mason Greenwood in just the eight minutes he was given, did more than both Juan Mata and Andreas Pereira, who started. Aaron Wan-Bissaka was again impressive. It was a less impressive showing from Marcus Rashford, but Scott McTominay was busy and industrious.

Solidity in defence

Though they failed to win, the fault lay much more with the lack of ruthlessness in attack than any deficiencies in defence - just as in the previous games against Wolves and Crystal Palace. "I feel like we've been fairly solid defensively, but the fine margins are the set plays and they're punishing us and we're not being clinical at the other end," said defender Harry Maguire.

Reasons to be fearful

Lack of strength in depth

The ruthlessness with which Manchester City and Liverpool are swatting away the smaller clubs is only highlighting the yawning chasm between them and United. One only has to glance at the respective substitutes' benches of City and United from the weekend to see how much more menace Pep Guardiola has at his disposal than Solskjaer and, though United exerted greater pressure following the dismissal of Southampton defender Kevin Danso in the 73rd minute, they failed to find a winner.

Pogba uncertainty

With the European transfer window closing tonight, stories linking Paul Pogba with a move to Real Madrid will still not go away. His performance at St Mary's was in many ways a microcosm of his longer-term impression. There were moments of brilliance, notably an outrageous turn away from two players in the second half to set up a chance on the edge of the Southampton box. Equally, there were pieces of carelessness and an unwillingness to seize hold of the game when it was most needed. The Frenchman limped off the field and onto the team coach. His short and long-term future remain far from certain.

Form away from home

United are winless in eight away matches, their worst such run since 2014.

"We should have won. Wolves, clearly we should have won. We do create chances, we do create pressure. It's about those scrappy goals now," Solskjaer said.

Rashford was tasked with that responsibility on Saturday.

"He's getting there. We keep practising those finishes and crosses," Solskjaer added. (© The Daily Telegraph, London)

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