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Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s forgotten flops could seal his Man Utd future against Watford

Manchester United face Watford in the Premier League on Saturday – and the match could prove the moment of truth for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who has some big decisions to make

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Paul Pogba limps away from France training with injury

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer remains employed by Manchester United, but his situation is perilous.

United’s hierarchy have made it clear recently that they don’t want to sack Solskjaer, but if results continue in the current downward trajectory then they won’t have any choice.

Rather than being the restorative process it was billed as, the international break has weakened Solskjaer’s position even further with speculation about his future rife.

Antonio Conte’s appointment at Tottenham was undeniably a boost for the Norwegian, who could well be clinging onto his job by virtue of there being no viable alternatives.

It is this backdrop which makes Saturday’s Premier League game against Watford absolutely crucial for the United boss. He needs a result – and it needs to be convincing.








Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is under intense pressure at United
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Image:

Chloe Knott – Danehouse/Getty Images)



After the 5-0 thrashing by Liverpool, United pulled off a 3-0 win over Tottenham; Claudio Ranieri’s erratic Watford side needs to provide a similar short-term remedy for the team’s ills.

Of course, there are many barriers in the way of such a result. Anyone who has seen any of United’s recent games will know the prevailing themes of their failure.

They are disjointed out of possession, passive in it, sloppy in their own box and amazingly over reliant on Cristiano Ronaldo’s goal scoring genius.





Solskjaer has tried to address these fundamental problems in the past three games by switching from his usual 4-2-3-1 formation to a more cautious 3-4-1-2 system, but it hasn’t made much of a difference, with the Spurs win followed by a last-gasp Ronaldo equaliser in a 2-2 draw against Atalanta and an embarrassingly one-sided 2-0 defeat by Manchester City.

What might make a difference is doing something that the Norwegian appears reticent to try: making wholesale changes.

Despite United’s rollercoaster form, Solskjaer has been reluctant to rotate his side much over the past few months. And that approach has alienated those who are forced to sit on the bench every game and watch the chaotic drama unfold.

HAVE YOUR SAY! What line-up should Ole Gunnar Solskjaer pick on Saturday? Comment below.








Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is over-reliant on Cristiano Ronaldo for goals
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Image:

Marcio Machado/Eurasia Sport Images/Getty Images)



According to The Telegraph, several players are becoming ‘increasingly frustrated’ by Solskjaer’s favouritism. Many stayed at United in the summer after being given assurances of game time, only to find themselves frozen out once the football started.

United’s cast of unhappy faces has become a familiar sight in recent games on the bench: Donny van de Beek, Jesse Lingard, Alex Telles, Anthony Martial, Diogo Dalot, Juan Mata and Dean Henderson.

While the switch in the formation has benefited Eric Bailly, it has not thrown a lifeline to any of the aforementioned players.





However, if Solskjaer wants to save his job, the Watford match offers him a perfect opportunity to shake things up and re-engage the mutinous fringes of his squad.

Among others, Ronaldo, Bruno Fernandes, Luke Shaw, Scott McTominay, Fred and Victor Lindelof are all currently away on international duty.

Saturday’s game offers the perfect excuse to rotate his side and hand starts to the frustrated bench-dwellers. This would placate them and also send a message to the first-team regulars that poor performances have consequences.








Donny van de Beek has only played 16 Premier League minutes this season
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Image:

GETTY)



Shaw, Fernandes and Aaron Wan-Bissaka have been well below par recently and need to know they face competition for their places. Telles, Van de Beek and Dalot can provide that.

Ronaldo is 36 years old and played 90 minutes in both of Portugal’s disappointing World Cup qualifiers against Ireland and Serbia.

It may seem like heresy – and he will almost certainly hold a grudge – but the fact is he can be used from the substitutes’ bench. United have an array of other options who can fill in.

What should Manchester United’s priorities be in January? Vote below.




The stakes are high for Solskjaer, who knows that if a bold selection call backfires he will leave himself open to even more criticism.

But the reality is that he needs to take some risks. His loyalty to under-performing players is damaging the team and it is about time things came to a head.

If he is to go down, then he may as well go down swinging.


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