Stick Or Twist? Solskjaer's Agonising Tactical Conundrum Ahead Of Make-Or-Break Leipzig showdown - 9jaflaver

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Stick Or Twist? Solskjaer’s Agonising Tactical Conundrum Ahead Of Make-Or-Break Leipzig showdown

A big tactical test awaits the Man Utd boss as a failure to secure a point against RB Leipzig will spell the end of their Champions League involvement

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer joked that Manchester United never make things easy for themselves and Tuesday night’s crucial Champions League showdown with RB Leipzig will be no different.

They need one more point to progress to the knockout stages, a position that many around the club would have welcomed when the draw was completed and United found themselves in the ‘group of death’ amongst Europe’s elite.

However, after starting the group stage with impressive results against both Paris Saint-Germain and Leipzig, it’s a position they really shouldn’t be in.

It’s another big game for Solskjaer in which his credentials will again come under question. Such is the Jekyll and Hyde nature of his side’s performances this season, it is impossible to predict exactly what will happen in the group’s final fixture.

Which United will turn up? Will it be the one that beat Julian Nagelsmann’s side 5-0 at Old Trafford? Will it be the side who deservedly beat PSG on home turf in October? Or will it be the anaemic XI that was beaten in Turkey by group outsiders Istanbul Basaksehir?

A lot of that will come down to what system Solskjaer goes with. There was surprise at Old Trafford last week when he diverted away from the back three that had worked well at the Parc des Princes for a flat back four in the home clash against Neymar and Co.

It was an all-out attacking approach from United, who needed a point to progress, but it didn’t work. The French champions found pockets of space and those ‘fine margins’ Solskjaer so regularly talks about went against his side.

It’s two years since Solskjaer replaced the sacked Jose Mourinho and his favoured formation throughout that time has been the 4-2-3-1, which accommodates United’s quick counterattacking style.

There have been variations on that, however. In a number of the bigger games, he has elected to use a back three with the notion that the full-backs can aid in attack while dropping deeper to provide a suffocating back five when out of possession. 

Success has not always followed that plan with Solskjaer winning seven of the 15 games in which he has chosen to field a back three (47 per cent) compared to 53 wins out of 92 games (58 per cent) without it.

However, most crucially, those wins have come against tougher opposition. Chelsea and Manchester City have both been on the receiving end of defeats with United using that system and most recently the win in Paris is an example of how effectively it can work.

It is a more defensive set-up then Solskjaer likes and goes against his ideology. The Norwegian wants to create an exciting, attacking team with flair but Tuesday night’s game is not about the performance, it is about the result.

“You’ve got to approach the game as a 90-minute game where anything can happen in any moment. You can’t sit back and hope for a 0-0 draw, that’s not in our genes, it’s not in the team’s genes, it’s not in the club’s genes,” Solskjaer said.

“We want to go out there and win the game, we showed that against PSG, you have to create chances to score goals and we’ll do that again.”

He is right. But they didn’t take those chances against PSG and it cost them. The same against Leipzig and they’re out. Those early impressive wins in the group stage could count for nothing.

With Anthony Martial and Edinson Cavani both staying back in Manchester due to injury niggles, it makes sense for Solskjaer to revert to a back three with a two-pronged attack led by Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood.

They’ve got the firepower, ability and craft to seize on chances, especially on the counter, while the safety net of having five defenders on the pitch should help to close the gaps that PSG managed to exploit so freely at Old Trafford last week.

It might go against his team’s ‘genes’ but finishing the season in the Europa League doesn’t fit with the club’s make-up either.

“We spoke about it this morning, we want to win the game, we’re not going to sit back,” captain Harry Maguire reiterated.

One thing’s for sure, if they’re going out, they’re going to go out fighting.  

source:- goal

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