manchestereveningnews: The opening stages of Manchester United’s victory over Watford, in which uncertainty hung heavy in the air and a kamikaze defence was very nearly exposed by the buzzing Hornets, were perhaps more instructive than anything else that happened on Sunday afternoon.
Of course it was ultimately a very satisfying sight for supporters, to see Anthony Martial net his third goal in a week and Mason Greenwood blast a typical left-footed effort into the top corner. But, Bruno Fernandes’ heroics aside, these were things we had seen before at Old Trafford. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men have been wildly inconsistent this term, but they have always been capable of brilliant moments.
The key question is: can they banish those abject patches in games when they always seem to give opponents a chance? Watford could not punish them at the weekend, but others teams have done.
There could be two simple changes for Solskjaer to make to iron out such inconsistencies — and he can make them straight away, he doesn’t have to wait for key men to return from injuries.
Marcus Rashford will of course come back into the side when fit.
You would have said the same about Paul Pogba until recently too, though as his injury situation drags on amid the deafening sound of Real Madrid transfer speculation, it’s perhaps wise to consider United’s future without the Frenchman involved. It would take something seismic to bring Pogba back into the fold at United and keep him beyond the summer, given the war of words between Solskjaer and agent Mino Raiola.
No, Solskjaer can make two swift and easy changes to take United to another level.
He would already have been mulling over whether to make Eric Bailly the first choice to partner Harry Maguire at centre-back, following the Ivorian’s stunning return to action against Chelsea. So although Victor Lindelof, the chief cause of United’s sloppy start against Watford, notched another clean sheet to his name and gradually improved over the course of 90 minutes on Sunday, he is surely a man under threat.
Bailly is the more natural defender and Lindelof hasn’t kicked on after a solid campaign in 2018/19 when he was close to being named United’s player of the year.
This Thursday’s meeting with Club Brugge may give Solskjaer a chance to give Maguire a much-needed rest and allow Lindelof and Bailly to take part in a play-off for the second centre-back’s slot.
The only other change Solskjaer needs to make for the time being is in midfield. He took Fred off against Watford to allow Scott McTominay a first appearance since Boxing Day, but he will surely pair the two together for United’s next league match.
Nemanja Matic has done an admirable job filling in, amid injuries to McTominay and Pogba lately, but the Serbian international turns 32 this summer and looked ponderous at times against Watford. McTominay is the more vibrant and energetic option, and still has some improving to do, too.
Solskjaer has already shown he can make ruthless selection decisions, with the way he left Andreas Pereira and Jesse Lingard out of the matchday squad at the weekend.
Now he has two more straightforward calls to make to help his United team build on two successive league wins. Champions League qualification could hinge on the Norwegian making the right choices in these two positions.
Source: Published by manchestereveningnews