We keep hearing that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s job at Manchester United has never been under threat inside the walls of Old Trafford. Well, it might be now.
A 5-0 trouncing at home by United’s biggest rival Liverpool must surely be making the hierarchy have second thoughts about this manager’s ability to restore past glories — especially as Sunday’s showing was not a freak, one-off display.
United have looked like a team of strangers for weeks. Villarreal, Atalanta and Leicester have exposed some shambolic defending. So it was no surprise that an attack as potent as Liverpool’s ripped them to shreds.
The very least that needs to happen is for Solskjaer to add a new defensive coach who can drill in a properly coordinated press and more effective marking because there is no sign of the existing coaching team addressing those issues. The blend of the team looks all wrong.
Liverpool’s great manager Bill Shankly once said: “A team needs three classical pianists, and eight others to lift the piano on to the stage.” United have it almost the other way round: Too many artists, not enough artisans. That is why they should have gone all out to sign defensive midfielders Declan Rice or Kalvin Phillips rather than winger Jadon Sancho, who was surplus to requirements again on Sunday.
After the Liverpool defeat, Solskjaer said defiantly: “I do believe I am getting close to what I want with the club.” But no-one who witnessed the Leicester and Liverpool debacles could share that confidence. Patience, even among Solskjaer’s staunchest supporters, must be wearing thin.
Hand Salah a new contract now
Whatever they are paying Mohamed Salah at Liverpool, it is not enough. Give that man his new contract now.
The Egypt international’s hat trick at Old Trafford means he has scored in each of the last 10 games, making him arguably the top player in the world right now. He is also the first opposition player to score a hat trick at United’s ground.
He knows where to be, when to get there, and how to hit a shot to give the keeper no chance. All that allied to speed across the turf and dancing feet. It is goal-scoring as an art form — he rarely misses.
Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp will also be encouraged that midfielder Naby Keita seems at last to be finding his feet at Anfield, but after suffering an injury from Paul Pogba’s awful tackle (which saw the Frenchman given a red card), the Reds will be keen to get him back on the pitch again as soon as possible.
Steve Nicol is left confused by Spurs’ identity under Nuno Espirito Santo after their 1-0 defeat to West Ham.
Tottenham must drive their fans crazy
How can Tottenham go to West Ham, dominate the ball, yet have only nine touches in the opposition box in 90 minutes?
Tottenham’s build-up play was ponderous and lacked width. They look a “win some, lose some” sort of outfit under manager Nuno Espirito Santo so far, and the decision to keep Kane at the club against his will this summer could backfire.
Meanwhile, the Hammers are in the top four and dominating their Europa League group.
Leeds’ Joe Gelhardt offers hope
We can all get a bit jaded talking about the same old players and clubs. The game needs a new star or narrative from time to time.
Enter Joe Gelhardt. The Leeds youngster climbed off the bench to put in a dazzling cameo to change the game and rescue a point in the 1-1 draw against Wolves.
His running with the ball scared Wolves to death from the moment he came on. We have not heard the last of him.
James Maddison’s priorities all wrong
Little things can say a lot. When Mason Mount completed his hat trick for Chelsea in the 7-0 rout of a hopeless Norwich City, the first thing he did was run over to hug midfielder Ruben Loftus-Cheek, who had laid the chance on a plate for him.
Maddison, ignoring Daka, only wanted to run behind the goal to taunt the Brentford fans who had been chanting: “You’ll never play for England.”
The gloat was understandable — but much better if the Leicester playmaker had celebrated with the man who had set up his vital goal.
You sense there is something in Maddison’s playful, extrovert — some might say showy — attitude the England manager Gareth Southgate does not like. He may be back in form, but should not hold his breath waiting for an England recall. Maybe those cruel Brentford fans were right?
Janusz Michallik and Kay Murray discuss Mason Mount’s performance in Chelsea’s 7-0 thrashing of Norwich.
Where do Norwich go from here?
Norwich splashed out over £50m in the summer, hoping to make a better fist of the Premier League this time than they did in a dismal relegation two seasons ago. The money does not look well spent.
So far they are yet to win a game and have scored just two goals. That humbling 7-0 defeat at Chelsea bore the stamp of a team who had already given up the fight by the end of October.
Part of the problem is that the Norwich psyche seems to accept Premier League relegation as a strand of the club’s DNA — regrettable, but not the end of the world because it is part of the business model.
Manager Daniel Farke, who has won two promotions for the Canaries, simply can not get a song out of them at the higher level.
Miracles take time
Newcastle United now have plenty of money to spend in the transfer window from their new Saudi owners but nowhere to spend it yet.
The supporters got their way in getting rid of manager Steve Bruce but, until January, it is the same misfiring players — bar Callum Wilson and Allan Saint-Maximin — who are trying to escape the relegation zone.
Even then, who exactly can Newcastle get in to change the mood? Only other clubs’ rejects or reserves are usually on the market at that time of year and they won’t be able to attract the star names needed.
The Toon scraped a 1-1 draw at Crystal Palace thanks to some wayward finishing and a debatable decision to rule out a late winner for Patrick Vieira’s draw specialists. But Newcastle still look a very ordinary team and most of the players will know they probably have no future at the club once the upgrades arrive.
Worrying times for Aston Villa
Villa’s defence which was mended so effectively during the first COVID-19 lockdown is starting to creak again. They have lost their last three games, 2-1 at Spurs, 3-2 against Wolves, and 3-1 at Arsenal, where they barely turned up until late in the game.
Could that have something to do with defensive expert John Terry leaving the Villa coaching team in the summer?