It seems Ole Gunnar Solskjaer no longer knows which players he can trust at Manchester United.
Liverpool were ruthlessly dominant against United at the weekend and they didn’t leave second gear. The result was a revealing – yet not surprising – indictment of where United actually find themselves under Solskjaer’s troubled leadership and it’s genuinely remarkable that he’ll be in charge against Tottenham this weekend. There’s simply no more margin for error.
While it’s Solskjaer’s tactical failures that have pushed him to the brink, the Norwegian’s man-management skills have never been in question. Solskjaer has previously admitted that he views man-management as ‘an art or a science’ and it’s an area he excels in.
It is therefore incredibly worrying that noise has emerged from the United dressing room this week in the wake of Sunday’s debacle.
The MEN revealed on Monday that certain members of the squad are becoming increasingly bemused by some of Solskjaer’s selections, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg regarding the dressing room noise. It seems he can’t stop the Titanic from sinking.
Such is the frustration at Carrington, Solskjaer will no longer know which players he’s able to trust. His greatest strength has suddenly become a glaring weakness and the United boss will have to ignore the dressing room noise with his team selection against Spurs.
While it was United’s defensive fragility exacerbated by their tactical deficiencies that seemed the most pressing issue to solve from the Liverpool performance, there’s one particular player that Solskjaer could turn to in attack to reinvigorate his forward line.
Edinson Cavani was a resounding success at United last season after his arrival on a free transfer from Paris Saint-Germain. The 34-year-old emphatically quashed doubts over his ability to still perform at an elite level and his world-class movement and innate ability to find the back of the net immediately endeared him to supporters – Cavani was the striker that United fans have always wanted.
Cavani’s brace against Southampton on the south coast and an audacious lofted chip against Fulham were his finest moments of the campaign, but there were many others in the highlight reel – he scored 17 goals in total – and he seemed a certain starter this term.
The Uruguay star was persuaded to extend his contract for this season and, upon that announcement, he subsequently revealed his delight at the decision. “I have developed a great affection for the club and everything that it represents,” Cavani said.
“From the very first moment that I arrived, I felt the confidence of the manager. As a player, this belief gives you the perfect opportunity to play your best football and I want to thank him for that.”
If Cavani felt that confidence of Solskjaer then, though, what must he feel now after only playing 170 minutes this season?
After Cristiano Ronaldo’s arrival, Cavani has been limited to sporadic involvement and that would have seemed an absurd prospect for the match-going supporters who left Old Trafford on the final home game of the Premier League season against Fulham in May.
Ronaldo’s record – he’s scored six goals in 10 games this season – speaks for itself, however, Cavani has proven he can match those levels in front of goal while he can also offer United another dimension going forward which Ronaldo can’t.
United have looked pedestrian when attempting to orchestrate attacks this season and, against a Nuno Espirito Santo side which will defend with the low block, Cavani seems the clear and obvious choice over Ronaldo to break through the lines towards goal.
Cavani placed his faith in Solskjaer this season when signing a new deal despite his family wanting him to return home.
Solskjaer needs to repay that trust just at the time when he’s beginning to lose allies – he needs to start Cavani against Tottenham.