Manchester United can’t ignore Chelsea blueprint for managerial change
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer warned Manchester United would pay the price against Liverpool if they played in the same way as they had done against Atalanta, his response was to select the same side which had been bailed out by individual brilliance in midweek, they were three goals down as the half-time whistle was drowned out by boos at Old Trafford.
The gulf in class between United and their domestic rivals has grown to a chasm in recent weeks but on paper they have a side which should be matching sides like Liverpool, Chelsea and Man City rather than offering the pathetic performance which they did at the weekend.
Solskjaer’s biggest issue is that Liverpool’s procession was by no means a one off but rather a culmination of the displays which have plagued United throughout the season so far and have been common place at Old Trafford in the Premier League so far this season.
Against lesser sides they usually have enough grit to stay in the contest before one of their world-class talents bails them out, Liverpool were the first ‘elite side’ they have faced all season – they didn’t even have to play that well to record their victory against a team which lacks any clear identity or philosophy.
After a seismic summer which saw three marquee additions United have already proved that money doesn’t solve their glaring issues, the same problems which are yet to be rectified nearly three years after Solskjaer arrived at the club to ‘put smiles back on faces’, right now he is putting sneers on them instead.
What was so worryingly apparent on Sunday was the disjointed nature of United’s pathetic performance and the embodiment of individual talents rather than a cohesive unit which all has the same vision in mind. This lack of identity has been a reoccurring issue which has still not been solved at the club and seems to be one which will only further fracture in the weeks ahead.
Thomas Tuchel’s transformation of Chelsea from a similar mismatched squad capable of brilliance into bona fide Premier League title challengers is an ominous reference which seems particularly relevant given the similarities between Solskjaer and Frank Lampard – both good guys with the right intentions – both ruthlessly exposed in the intense spotlight of elite management.
When Tuchel arrived at Stamford Bridge he was playing catch up on United, now his side are the reigning Champions of Europe and eight points clear after only nine matches of the new season.
Just as Solskjaer’s caretaker spell proved a squad is not always the issue at a club it has now come full circle where the players are once again no longer the issue. It seems almost inevitable the manager will be the one who pays the price for the dysfunctional operations which are still in place at the club but he himself can not ignore the amateurish errors which continue under his watch.
If the late win over Atalanta was ‘papering over the cracks’ then defeat to Liverpool was an attempt to paper over a fire which is burning out of control.