‘The glass is always half-full with me. That’s just the way you have to look at it. In my time against Man City, that’s the best performance we’ve had. Not the best result but it’s the best performance.’
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s words after yesterday’s dour 0-0 draw in the Manchester derby had a hollow ring to them and left you wondering whether he really meant them, or whether he has become some sort of football spin doctor.
‘Two good teams. We beat them a few times last season but those were different games and we counter-attacked. Today was the most we’ve been in the game as in possession-wise and control.’
If we compare yesterday’s match with the same fixture from last season, it is true that United had more possession (46.2% yesterday vs. 27.7% last season). But is this a sign of improvement or one that both teams just didn’t have the oomph to attack the game and try to win as they did a year ago?
The fact is that for all that extra possession, United had fewer shots this season than last (11 yesterday vs 12 last season), and a third as many on target (two yesterday vs. six last season).
Solskjaer also said ‘we kept them away from our box more than we’ve done in those games but they had a few big moments,’ but the stat comparison tells a different story: City had more shots yesterday (nine) than they did last season (seven). Their problem yesterday was wayward shooting rather than United’s defending (only two on target vs. four last season).
|United shots on target||6||2|
|City shots on target||4||2|
‘David has made a fantastic save from Mahrez, Harry made two great blocks from Sterling and De Bruyne,’ Solskjaer continued. It is like a lower league manager talking about his team’s heroics against vastly superior opposition. City had two shots on target and United’s goalkeeper is being singled out for praise. This is Manchester United, but the words coming out of the manager’s mouth are embarrassing.
His assessment of United’s attacking threat was equally painful. ‘From corner-kicks, Harry had a header, Scott could have tapped one in at the back post and Victor had a couple of headers, Marcus had a couple of decent moments. We could have won it but it wasn’t to be.’ It is almost as if he has to clutch at the straw of every single attacking moment his side has. Remember: United had two shots on target in the whole match. This was not a ‘we had so many chances, but it wasn’t to be’ kind of occasion.
Before the Champions League tie with RB Leipzig on Tuesday, Solskjaer said ‘you can’t sit back and hope for a 0-0 draw. That’s not in our genes, it’s not in the team’s genes, it’s not in the club’s genes.’ He then lined up with five at the back and two defensive midfielders. Against City yesterday, there were seven defensive players on the pitch.
This is not an #oleout rant, although I am still far from convinced that he really is taking this team in the right direction. It is more of a plea to the Norwegian to be honest. Stop trying to talk everything and everyone up. Stop saying one thing and then doing another. Stop believing that if you say something, it makes it true or that it makes us believe it. We have eyes.
It’s almost as if there’s a second season syndrome at Old Trafford where a manager reverts to cautious, possession-based, defensive football. We saw it with Louis van Gaal. We sang ‘José’s got us playing the way we should’ in Mourinho’s first season only to see it degenerate into negative bus-parking in the second. Are we starting to see the same from Solskjaer?
This manager should know this better than anyone: United fans would rather see their side lose having entertained and attacked then get a point the way they did yesterday. That is in the fans’ genes.
Edinson Cavani has made quite an impact since his deadline day arrival at Old Trafford, but how much do you know about our other South American players, past and present? Take our quiz below to find out!