Manchester United vs Burnley: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer learns valuable lessons as United salvage late draw

Tuesday’s late comeback will teach the United manager more about his players than the eight victories preceding it

Mark Critchley
Wednesday 30 January 2019 08:07
Comments
Premier League transfer round-up: Higuain signs for Chelsea

The streak is over. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was expected to become the first Premier League manager to win his first seven games in charge of a new club but he will instead have to be content with merely equalling Pep Guardiola and Carlo Ancelotti’s records of six.

Will Solskjaer mind? Almost certainly not. He has dismissed every question about the historical significance of his excellent start as Manchester United’s caretaker manager already. He has not, at any point, seemed particularly bothered by breaking records.

Improving United’s performances has been his only priority and that is why Tuesday’s remarkable late comeback to draw against relegation-threatened Burnley will potentially teach him more about his players than the eight victories which preceded it.

Though the narrow 2-0 FA Cup win over Reading at the start of the month was poor, Tuesday easily saw United’s worst performance under Solskjaer to date and the Norwegian could have had no complaints had it ended in defeat.

United’s unease in possession when under pressure was worrying - Andreas Pereira was pick-pocketed in the build-up to Burnley’s first - but not quite as worrying as their inability to fashion much in the way of scoring opportunities.

United had peppered Burnley’s goal with 28 shots by the time all was said and done but Lindelof’s goal aside, only Marcus Rashford’s early chance when one-on-one with Tom Heaton could be described as clear-cut.

Solskjaer saw the problem as a lack of urgency. “The danger of winning might be that you think what we've done before gives us the right to start off on 90 per cent because we're winning one or 2-0, but we don't,” he said.

“You have to start properly in each game and today we didn't start off well enough to cause Burnley enough problems. We know they are well organised and happy if we cross the ball. We needed more tempo and more urgency in the play.”

There was plenty of urgency in United’s play once they went behind, though, and still not clear routes towards goal were carved out. It was hard not to conclude that Solskjaer’s selection played a part, with Jesse Lingard benched and Anthony Martial absent.

Without that pair alongside him in the front three, Rashford did not appear as sharp. It also meant he was stationed on the left, despite having impressed of late through the middle. Solskjaer had no regrets over this decision, nor regarding the surprise inclusion of Pereira.

Marcus Rashford struggled without the presence of Jesse Lingard and Anthony Martial

“No, it was the right decision to make,” he insisted. “We had a couple of niggles. Unfortunately [Pereira] was involved in the first goal but that's the whole team, we played our way into trouble.”

On playing Romelu Lukaku up top and Rashford wide, Solskjaer added: “Rom's done really well against Burnley before. He's scored, he's a handful and with Anthony injured we thought that was the best option with Rashy out there. Of course, he got a couple of chances but today was not his day.”

Yet United’s attack was predictable and not all too dissimilar from many afternoons and evenings at Old Trafford during Jose Mourinho’s first season, when United struggled to break down their opponents and drew on 10 separate occasions in the league alone.

Mourinho’s United started life back then without a clear attacking structure and, in two-and-a-half years, hardly ever came close to discovering one, only ever stumbling upon something to discard it soon after.

Solskjaer has already made more progress in that regard, combining Rashford, Martial and Lingard quite brilliantly in a fluid front three. Lukaku has been used sparingly but effectively, offering important cameos.

Tuesday, however, was a reminder that this is still fundamentally a Mourinho squad undergoing a re-education process. Every now and again, familiar issues will resurface. It has been a remarkable six weeks for Solskjaer but it will take much longer than that to fully fix United’s problems.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in