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Four things Ole Gunnar Solskjaer got wrong as Man United suffer humiliating defeat at Watford

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Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has been left on the brink of the sack after 10-man Manchester United suffered a humiliating 4-1 defeat to Watford at Vicarage Road.

If the Norwegian was hoping for a calm, routine victory following the international break, the 48-year-old should have known better.

The contest began in dramatic circumstances when just six minutes into the first half, Scott McTominay brought down Josh King inside the penalty area and referee Jonathan Moss pointed to the spot.

Watford missed from the spot twice after Ismaila Sarr saw his efforts saved by David de Gea and the visitors survived.

But goals from Joshua King and Ismaila Sarr gave the hosts a deserved lead at the interval and the damning aspect of their performance was that it could have been more.

Substitute Donny van de Beek got one goal back five minutes after coming off the bench, before Harry Maguire’s red card effectively ended United’s chances of a point.

But late strikes from Joao Pedro and Emmanuel Dennis piled on the misery in stoppage time to make it four defeats in five games for the Red Devils.

Below are the four things the Manchester United boss got wrong in the shocked defeat to Watford.

Leaving out Van de Beek again

When a manager is under pressure and the team under-performing, there is usually one player the fans are clamouring for to be included.

But out of sheer principle, it seems Solskjaer is refusing to give Donny van de Beek the game time he desires — and the Man United away support made their feelings clear about his omission.

Chants of “Donny van de Beek, van de Beek, Donny van de Be-ek” emanated from the away section at Vicarage Road, showing where their loyalty lies at present.

Speculation is rife that the 24-year-old is desperate to leave in January after seeing his attempts to secure a loan move over the summer blocked. The minutes he had been promised simply haven’t followed, so few can blame the Dutchman for wanting to leave.

After watching Nemanja Matic and Scott McTominay flounder against Watford’s energetic side, the Norwegian had Van de Beek stripped and ready to come for the second half with his side two goals down.

And within five minutes he proved why he should be in the team, having the desire to burst into the box and head home from Ronaldo’s knockdown to get United back into the game.

He was the best player on the park, covering ground in midfield areas and inspiring his colleagues to lift their effort levels.

But by ignoring the midfielder yet again for his starting XI, Solskjaer has given ammunition to the Van de Beek loyalists who want him out.

Another change in tactics

When you look at Manchester United’s supposed title rivals in the Premier League, there is a coherent pattern in how Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City set up.

Thomas Tuchel very rarely deviates from his 3-4-3 setup, while Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola will stick with a 4-3-3 so long as the ball is still round and there are 22 players on a pitch.

But for Solskjaer, there is no clear identity. Pragmatism is important as a manager, but the constant and significant changes to their setup has quite obviously left the players with limited understanding of their roles.

One week, Cristiano Ronaldo was playing alongside Edinson Cavani in front. Against Watford, the Portuguese was asked to lead the line on his own.

When Solskjaer picked his line-up against Man City, he had three centre-backs. Here, it was two and Maguire looked exposed with that extra man at the back – only compounded by his late dismissal.

There is a palpable lack of comfort with the system Solskjaer is choosing for his teams. The pressing is half-hearted, the passing is tedious and slow. And if he continues to rip up his playbook every week with a new formation, results like this will continue.

Wan-Bissaka faith backfires

Some managers might have been tempted to dump Aaron Wan-Bissaka after his recent decline in performances, particularly against Manchester City.

But Solskjaer chose to stick the full-back he paid £50million for back in 2019, on the assumption that he would soon rediscover the form that made him one of the best full-backs in the Premier League last year.

But it is this blind faith in underperforming players that continues to backfire on Solskjaer.

The 25-year-old looked out-of-sorts and with no sense of positioning as Watford’s front three pulled him around like a ragdoll.

Wan-Bissaka hardly covered himself in glory when doing the basics either, failing to properly clear a simply header inside his own box and Watford scored directly from it.

After that, United collapsed defensively and Wan-Bissaka looked lost amongst a flimsy United backline. Without Raphael Varane, they look vulnerable and Watford knew it.

It goes some way to suggesting why Solskjaer has reportedly revived a move for Kieran Trippier. But on this form, Diogo Dalot would argue he is worth a start — the Portuguese surely can’t be as low on confidence as Wan-Bissaka is right now.

Capitulation after Maguire dismissal

There was something ominous about the way United were creeping back into the game before Maguire’s sending off for a mindless challenge on Tom Cleverley.

United were on top at the time and had chances to equalise through Ronaldo and Bruno Fernandes, but paid the price after Maguire lunged in after losing the ball.

Solskjaer looked furious but still high-fived his captain as he made his way to the tunnel.

And yet, the Norwegian should have been finding a way to add another body to his backline.

Instead, Dalot’s introduction came far too late and Watford were growing in confidence again before Pedro and Dennis struck late on.

Maguire’s tackle had nothing to do with Solskjaer, but the aftermath, it was his responsibility to shore things up.

He didn’t, and now looks set to pay the price.

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Rio Ferdinand issues major warning about Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag

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Former centre-back Rio Ferdinand believes it is still too early to judge whether Erik ten Hag is the right man to lead Manchester United back to the top, despite their unquestionable improvement under him this season.

United head into tomorrow’s Manchester derby against City at Old Trafford with the knowledge that a win will lift them to within a point and place of their neighbours in the Premier League table.

The Reds have lost just one of their last 18 matches since being battered 6-3 by City back in October, featuring a current run of eight wins on the bounce.

The Reds, such is the level of progress they have made under Ten Hag this season, are now considered as one of the favourites to qualify for the Champions League for next season.

They have made significant strides in a relatively short space of time and victories over the likes of Arsenal, Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur already this season have proven that they are capable of competing in the upper echelons of the table again.

However, despite heading into the second half of the campaign with form in their sails, Ferdinand insists the jury is still out on Ten Hag, despite him reaching 20 wins as United manager quick than any of his predecessors.

“I think it’s too early to say,” said Ferdinand to the Mirror. “We’ve been here with previous managers when it looks like we are onto something.

“We’ve got to be patient and give the man time. I think all the signs are very positive at the moment. He’s come in and seen what is happening, assessed how things are, looked at individuals and looked at the shape of the team.

“These were a bunch of players that were quite low. They were shot to pieces and he’s had to build, not only footballers, but men back up again. He’s had to build a lot of human beings back up and that takes time.

“The fact he’s now talking about qualifying for the Champions League so positively, he can sense a confidence coming back into this team. There’s a consistency of performance from the team that wasn’t there before and the signals and signs are all very promising.

“But they’re still not where they want to be. City are way ahead of where United are. The distance is a bit closer, but it’s still not anywhere near where we want it to be. There’s still work to be done.”

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Manchester United takeover bids ‘expected imminently’ with serious interest in Club

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Manchester United are expecting takeover offers from across the world as they are set to invite bids ahead of ‘mid-February deadline’.

The Telegraph have reported that the club have received ‘serious interest’ from consortiums based in the Middle East, Asia and the United States.

British billionaire Sir Jim Ratcliffe is also weighing up an offer, as the Glazers hope to the sell one of the biggest clubs in the world for over £5billion.

The report also adds that parties who had been interested in taking over Chelsea, before Todd Boehly’s £4.25bn takeover, are set to return with approaches for the Red Devils.

It’s expected that potential investors will go public with their attempts to buy United in the coming weeks with the clock ‘now ticking on a deal’.

Senior United figures will issue a mid February deadline for formal offers in order to help get get the takeover completed before the end of the season.

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Confirmed: Chelsea ready to make late bid to hijack another Arsenal transfer

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Chelsea will make a late attempt to scupper Arsenal’s hopes of finally signing Mikhailo Mudryk from Shakhtar Donetsk.

The Gunners have submitted their third bid for the Ukraine international winger and hope an offer of £62m before add-ons, which take the deal closer to £70m, will be enough to break the deadlock between the two clubs.

Chelsea’s interest in the 21-year-old winger was earlier this week described only as ‘exploratory’ but ESPN now claim that Todd Boehly will test the waters and attempt to throw a spanner in the works for the Premier League leaders.

Shakhtar’s technical director Darijo Srna was pictured at Stamford Bridge last week as he watched Chelsea’s defeat against Manchester City and Boehly would have little issue with meeting an asking price which is closer to £88million.

Arsenal are said to be confident that their latest bid for Mudryk will be enough to finally secure the services of their No.1 January target, but have already been beaten to the punch once this month by their west London rivals.

Chelsea won the race to sign Joao Felix on loan from Atletico Madrid amid competition from Arsenal and Manchester United, but the Portugal international’s promising debut ended in devastating fashion when he was sent off just shy of the hour mark for a dangerous challenge on Fulham’s Kenny Tete.

Felix will now miss the next three games through suspension as the problems mount for Chelsea’s under-fire manager Graham Potter.

‘It sums up where we are at the moment – everything that can go wrong, is going wrong,’ Potter said after Chelsea’s 2-1 west London derby defeat.

‘It was a forward’s tackle from Joao, there was no malice in it but I understand why it was a red. It is another blow the hits keep coming at the moment.

‘He was really good you could see his quality in the game so it is doubly disappointing for us because he was looking dangerous throughout.

‘I don’t think there was too much malice in it and it is an unfortunate action and we are going to lose him now for three games.’

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