Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has laid down the gauntlet to his Manchester United players after Tuesday’s defeat to Barcelona, insisting some of them needed a ‘reality check’.
Man United began brightly in the Nou Camp, creating two big chances inside ten minutes, before two big mistakes from Ashley Young and then David de Gea took the game away from the visitors, who were roundly dominated by a Lionel Messi inspired Barcelona.
The club now has five defeats from seven games, prompting widespread calls from supporters for a number of players to be dispensed with over the summer.
Speaking at a press conference ahead of Sunday’s meeting with Everton, Solskjaer stressed how several players needed to improve their standards.
“I’ve learnt a lot about them over the months I’ve been here now,” he said. “And you get to know them. Most of them – I have to say – have really impressed in their attitude and there’s some that need to get a reality check of where they’re at but most of these know that they can improve if they keep working as they do.”
It was asked of Solskjaer whether Anthony Martial, whose performances of late have been below par, was one of those players.
“I’ve spoken to individuals and they know and Anthony is one I’ve spoken to. I’ve spoken to them all individually, what we expect from them. Anthony’s got a massive talent, he signed a new contract, he knows we believe in him, so just keep on working.”
To focus on Martial – a player viewed with skepticism from the moment he arrived in Manchester – is a typical move from the media.
It must be noted that the likes of Marcus Rashford, Jesse Lingard, Alexis Sanchez, Romelu Lukaku, Juan Mata and Paul Pogba have all likewise failed to bring enough personality and efficiency into their final third play in recent times. The problem lies not with individuals; this current group, which played to its potential from December to March, has faltered in its temperament on a collective scale – especially since Paris.
Solskjaer must make it clear to them: perform to the level demanded of every United player, or expect to be pushed to the sidelines. It’s that simple.