Ole Gunnar Solskjaer faces daunting set of fixtures – how will his Manchester United defence cope?

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is about to face essentially the most daunting set of fixtures throughout his tenure as Manchester United boss – can he trip the storm?

It is crunch time for Manchester United.

Seven video games down and Solskjaer’s males sit simply two factors off the highest of the Premier League.

Nevertheless, a standard theme of disjointed shows has shifted the main focus sharply again onto their supervisor.

United look as susceptible to the counter as they’ve at set-piece conditions, and a longstanding challenge is obvious to see in the most straightforward of stats: they’ve solely stored one clear sheet in 18 video games.

And what’s that coming over the hill? A monster of a fixture record that is what – one that can most likely make or break the Solskjaer period.

United face Leicester, Liverpool, Tottenham, Chelsea and Arsenal within the subsequent 45 days.

It is Brendan Rodgers’ staff this Saturday at 3pm, arguably the kindest of these fixtures based mostly on Leicester’s kind this season. But, Solskjaer takes his staff to the King Energy within the midst of a defensive disaster.

Harry Maguire is but to return to full coaching as he recovers from damage while Solskjaer can be with out his different first-choice centre-back, Raphael Varane, for the following few weeks. Varane suffered a groin drawback on worldwide responsibility with France and can miss the upcoming video games towards Leicester, Atalanta and Liverpool. Maguire expects to be again in coaching quickly and for United’s sake, that evaluation higher be a dependable one.

With out him, successful soccer matches turns into far more troublesome.

Because the graphic above reveals, Maguire’s absence has a detrimental impact on the general efficiency of the staff. His skill to push up helps fill the house behind the United midfield, one thing that was uncovered by Everton within the 1-1 draw earlier than the worldwide break with Maguire lacking.

Plus, United sorely miss his management and dominance at successful duels, particularly from set items. In matches the place Maguire is lacking, United change into very susceptible defending such conditions.

For the reason that begin of final season throughout all competitions, United have averaged an ‘anticipated targets towards’ determine of 0.28 per 90 minutes with out Maguire within the facet from corners and free-kicks – an enormous and worrying improve when it comes to their defensive output in that space. In that point, they’ve needed to defend 59 set piece conditions and have conceded 22 pictures at purpose – with 4 of these producing targets, together with Kortney Hause’s winner for Aston Villa earlier this season. And it is value stating that Everton’s disallowed purpose at Previous Trafford final weekend from Yerry Mina stemmed from a set piece that wasn’t defended correctly by United.

So, who fills in for Maguire and Varane?

Victor Lindelof has been Solskjaer’s most popular back-up within the coronary heart of defence, making seven appearances thus far this marketing campaign, and is about to be closely relied on by his supervisor over the approaching weeks.

Phil Jones made his return to the Manchester United squad earlier this season however has but to function after a horrendous spell of accidents. If he’s given the nod this weekend it will likely be his first look for 628 days. Jones, who has performed greater than 200 video games in all competitions for the membership, mentioned just a few weeks in the past he had been “by way of hell and again” as he struggled with accidents.

Phil Jones in Manchester United U23s action against Brighton earlier this month
Phil Jones in Manchester United U23s motion towards Brighton earlier this month

Nevertheless, Eric Bailly is the more than likely associate for Lindelof – but it surely’s not a defensive relationship that can instill a lot confidence.

Within the final 5 matches the place Lindelof and Bailly have each began, United are winless. Bailly crammed in at full-back alongside Maguire and Lindelof within the 2-2 draw with Leicester in December 2020 however began at centre-back with Lindelof for the following 4 outcomes proven within the above graphic, together with the 1-0 defeat to West Ham within the Carabao Cup earlier this season.

A counter-proposal – is the defence being left uncovered?

When targets are being conceded and clear sheets laborious to come back by, fingers get pointed on the defence.

That could be a too simplistic method of analysing the issue. The artwork of defending and being laborious to attain towards stems from your complete staff. The fashionable-day elite soccer staff begin their defence by way of their entrance males and if opposition gamers discover a method by way of them, there’s often a top quality ball-winning central midfielder there to guard their defenders from getting uncovered.

United do press from the entrance beneath Solskjaer – as proven by two key metrics collated by Opta. They rank sixth within the Premier League for ‘pressed sequences’ and ‘excessive turnovers’ due to this fact a willingness to win the ball again excessive is clearly a tactic Solskjaer is implementing. And, their defensive position pushes the joint-highest up the pitch of any staff within the Premier League, led by Maguire.

Together with Liverpool, their ‘beginning distance’ outlined by Opta when beginning a section of play from the again is 44.5 metres from purpose. There’s clearly a gameplan to attempt to suffocate groups with the set-up from Solskjaer but it surely’s clear to see when watching them United nonetheless will not be a unit seemingly positive of this gameplan and in a position to make the ample sum of their elements add up. The stability is fallacious.

Within the 1-1 draw with Everton, Solskjaer mentioned they dominated, however 71 per cent of the ball nonetheless gave up 10 pictures contained in the field to their opponents.

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Manchester United’s draw towards Everton within the Premier League

Everton’s sensible sweeping purpose scored by Andros Townsend was the primary purpose United have conceded from a ‘quick break’ – Opta’s time period for a counter-attack utilizing their necessities – however they’d been warned in earlier video games this season. Wolves, by way of Adama Traore, and Newcastle, by way of Allan Saint-Maximin, allowed their staff to achieve essential territory towards the United midfield.

So, it is unsurprising to see that solely two groups have allowed extra ‘quick breaks’ towards them this season than United – these groups being the distinctive Leeds staff that play such open soccer and relegation-threatened Newcastle.

To analyse that information additional, since Solskjaer took the job in December 2018, United have conceded twice as many targets as Manchester Metropolis from a ‘quick break’ (8) and sit seventh within the desk for quick breaks towards in that interval (56). That type of stress in your purpose is not going to take you wherever close to a serious trophy – one thing famous by Gary Neville when talking on the newest episode of his podcast.

“I have been in that residence dressing room over 15 years and there have been intervals when opposition groups would counter assault: in these seasons we did not win the league,” he mentioned.

“If you cannot maintain assaults at Previous Trafford and permit groups to penetrate you on the counter assault, you are not successful the league. These gamers will likely be considering that working again to your personal purpose at Previous Trafford while you’ve tried an assault and the sport is finish to finish will not be the best way you go about successful a league trophy. It’s important to cease counter assaults. It’s important to maintain assaults.

“Folks will discuss Pep Guardiola’s staff’s possession and the factors they win however his groups maintain assaults – as do Jurgen Klopp’s groups. Manchester United do not do it. Why is that? Perhaps they’ve too many attacking gamers on the pitch. Perhaps these attacking gamers aren’t alert or good sufficient to identify a hazard within the sport.”

In the event you have been handpicking two Premier League groups you would not wish to face if showcasing a vulnerability to counter-attack soccer, most would choose Leicester and Liverpool.

That is the truth for Solskjaer over the following two weekends as his skill to plug opposition assaults in transition will likely be severely examined, particularly with out his two first-choice centre-backs. For the reason that begin of the 18/19 season, no groups have scored extra targets from a ‘quick break’ than Leicester and Liverpool – each recording 21 targets from such conditions.

“One thing has to alter,” mentioned Neville relating to United’s lack of ability to quell the specter of a counter-attack on their purpose.

If it would not, then that change simply may come within the United dugout. It is time for Solskjaer to search out the solutions.

You’ll be able to comply with Leicester vs Man Utd with our dwell weblog on the Sky Sports activities web site and app – and get particulars of Solskjaer’s beginning line-up as quickly because the groups are introduced at 2pm. You will not want to attend lengthy to see the match highlights – we’ll convey them to you without cost from 5.15pm on the Sky Sports activities web site and app, in addition to on our Sky Sports activities Soccer YouTube channel.

Man Utd’s daunting fixture record

October 16: Leicester (a) – Premier League, kick-off 3pm

October 20: Atalanta (h) – Champions League, kick-off 8pm

October 24: Liverpool (h) – Premier League, kick-off 4.30pm, dwell on Sky Sports activities

October 30: Tottenham (a) – Premier League, kick-off 5.30pm, dwell on Sky Sports activities

November 2: Atalanta (a) – Champions League, kick-off 8pm

November 6: Man Metropolis (h) – Premier League, kick-off 12.30pm, dwell on Sky Sports activities

November 20: Watford (a) – Premier League, kick-off 3pm

November 23: Villarreal (a) – Champions League, kick-off 5.45pm

November 28: Chelsea (a) – Premier League, kick-off 4.30pm, dwell on Sky Sports activities

November 30: Arsenal (h) – Premier League, kick-off 8pm

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