Ole Gunnar Solskjaer tried a new system. Man Utd beat Tottenham. Cristiano Ronaldo was able to take advantage of the changes. But some of his teammates may have been hampered.
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Two front-twos and five back, this is the oldest starting lineup in three years. It’s not Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, but is it?
Following the humiliating defeat by Liverpool at Old Trafford last Wednesday, Manchester United’s boss needed a result.
He dialled the changes in London and, as he wanted to honour club traditions such as backing youth, opted for his age and experience.
His tweaks were a success as United defeated Tottenham to gain three confidence-boosting points.
Cristiano Ronaldo began the attack with Edinson Cavani, while Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood sat on their benches. Jadon Sancho was also present.
Victor Lindelof was among three centre-halves along with Raphael Varane, Harry Maguire.
United’s inspired changes made it clear that United were a great value for their three goals & three points. However, United did not succeed.
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The United we know now is at least one. One that supports attacking talent, for better or worse, as it has been so often.
Ronaldo was able to thrive thanks to this 5-3-2 system.
Cavani was able to score a sublime goal by the 36-year old, opening the scoring.
Ronaldo was freed from all defensive duties and pressing responsibilities, and was able to do the best thing – influence games in the last third.
This system is not long-term, however.
United’s future lies with Rashford, Greenwood and others. Sancho could soon become Donny Van de Beek, if he doesn’t get enough minutes or can’t fit into the system.
Solskjaer is left in an awkward situation as he tries to maximize the value of his asset while avoiding collateral damage.
Gary Neville stated that Sky Sports : “If you do have someone like him (Ronaldo) in the dressing room you have to get him in the team and if you get him in the system you have to play a certain way that suits him.
“There is no doubt this is not Ole’s plan. Leaving Sancho, Greenwood and Rashford on the bench is not the plan.
“That wasn’t the plan in the summer for the recruitment, it wasn’t the plan in the summer for Ole, that’s not what he was thinking he was going to play.
“He’s played 4-2-3-1 for 37 matches so this isn’t his plan to go 5-3-2 but the change of system did look like it benefitted Cristiano Ronaldo because it took the pressure off him from a defensive point of view.
“He looked so small, but today was perfect for him.
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“So I think today was a good day for him not just because of the goal but because it looked like he played in a team he was part of, rather than last few weeks he’s been exposed, being asked to press when he can’t do that.”
Upcoming games against Atalanta and Manchester City will provide a greater basis to judge whether United really have turned the corner.
This system, especially against teams who will put Solskjaer’s side under pressure, looks to be one the Norwegian can turn to.
It does though come at a cost, with United’s forwards firmly paying the price.