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Ole Gunnar Solskjaer shown to be the manger he really is

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Make or break month

December was a make or break month for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer at Manchester United and as we approached January, we finally got a taste of what the Norwegian can bring to the club.

In December, Solskjaer perfected the United-esque counter-attack against Manchester City and executed a well-drilled performance against Tottenham Hotspur. This came at a time where the United boss was well and truly being questioned by the fans, and Solskjaer replied by outwitting Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola in the same week.

These performances showed what the hero of ‘99 could bring to the helm. Speed, tenacity, more speed, counter-attacking brilliance and even more speed in the attack; these performances were as great as a United fan could have hoped for.

Plastering over the cracks

However, a month on and with just seven points from the next 15 available, Solskjaer has once again been thrown into the crosshairs. And now, this is starting to look like a worthless, dreadful cycle.

On Tuesday, the 46-year-old could not keep up with Guardiola, nor could he adjust to anything the Spaniard brought to Old Trafford. Ultimately, it was a masterclass from the City boss and a disasterclass from the home manager.

After the game, Solskjaer expressed to reporters how the first half was the worst they have played all season. It was. But it was also largely down to his mediocre tactics and predictable approach. Did Solskjaer really think the great Guardiola would fall for the same trick twice? 

City add a nail in the coffin

This time, the counter-attack was simply not working. Daniel James and Marcus Rashford were starved up top, whilst Andreas Periera and Jesse Lingard could barely breathe before the City midfield pounced on them.

Eventually, Solskjaer acted and brought off Lingard to throw in Nemanja Matic for the second half, which instantly changed things for United. The home team were well in the game after the Serbian’s introduction and even won the second 45 thanks to a Rashford goal. So, why did it take the United boss so long to change something? Why did Solskjaer think he could just turn up and do the same against one of the best? Why do United keep thinking he will change?

'The United way'

It is all well and good that Solskjaer knows ‘the United way’, but implementing it is an entirely different subject. Adjusting and bringing something different to the table is what separates the good from the great. The winners from the losers. And, the Guardiola from the Solskjaer.

Too many times has the former Cardiff boss been predictable and easy to play against, and against City was the most honest showing of his managerial capabilities to date. Previously, if there was anything he has been able to cling onto, it was the points picked up against the ‘Big Six’. Chelsea, Spurs, Leicester City and their neighbours have all fallen to defeats against the Norwegian this season, and they remain the only team in the country to take points off Liverpool so far.

But, as Guardiola proved, if you adjust and suffocate their counter-attack, the Red Devils quickly show their true colours and become what they are – tactically inept.

Pochettino in?

At the end of the day, can United afford to keep this ‘plan’ continuing, whilst Mauricio Pochettino is sat at home twiddling his thumbs? The Argentine rebuilt Spurs into genuine title contenders and Champions League regulars from a Europa League standard. Ultimately, Pochettino took the Lilywhites from a similar position to where United are now.

It’s time for him to do the same at Old Trafford. Solskjaer has been found out too many times and now that he has lost to a ‘Big Six’ side twice within a week, the United manager has nothing else to cling onto.