Manchester United have had a poor season overall, but Ole Gunnar Solskjaer continues to come up with the goods in the big matches, as the Red Devils beat Manchester City 2-1 at the Etihad.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s tenure as permanent Manchester United manager has been rocky to say the least, and vastly different from his tenure as interim manager. For the most part, his team has been rather weak, struggling to take control of matches.
However, their performances in big matches under Solskjaer have been ridiculously impressive, which was once again highlighted with their win over Manchester City at the Etihad on Saturday, and it certainly gives a glimpse of hope that Solskjaer might just be able to turn things around.
Manchester United’s tactical gameplan in the big fixtures has been pretty much the same, at least from a general standpoint. They sit back, soak up the pressure, and then hit teams on the counter.
This works well since they have plenty of well-drilled defenders like Maguire and Wan-Bissaka, and some pacey, direct attackers that can feed off of transitions, such as James, Rashford, and Martial. In big games, they tend to concede possession, and it allows them to play to their strengths.
This season, Manchester United haven’t lost a single match against a ‘top 6 side’, as they’ve beaten Manchester City, Spurs, and Chelsea while drawing Arsenal and Liverpool. Compare this with some of their other results, including losses to Bournemouth, Newcastle, Crystal Palace, and West Ham, and you can see the vast difference.
However, in matches against smaller sides, Manchester United are expected to keep more of the possession since smaller teams tend to avoid maintaining possession themselves – this is when Solskjaer’s team struggles, and this is why they’ve been so much better in big games than small games. They struggle when the game is played in compressed spaces, and they can’t seem to “pick the lock” against teams that sit back against them.
If Solskjaer can find a way to get his team firing when maintaining more of the possession, then they could be able to emulate the results they tend to find against the big sides.