Fri. Jan 22nd, 2021

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ANOTHER semi-final loss for Manchester United… how can Ole Gunnar Solskjaer get over the line?

6 min read

Manchester United tasted defeat in yet another semi-final under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as they were beaten 2-0 by rivals Manchester City in the Carabao Cup.

United have not won silverware since Solskjaer took over at the club in December 2018, before his appointment was made permanent five months later.

The Norwegian’s hunt for his first trophy at Old Trafford took another crushing blow, yet again, in the latter stages of a competition. His side had previously lost in the semi-finals of the FA Cup to Chelsea last year and the Europa League to Sevilla. 

Manchester United tasted defeat in yet another semi-final under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

Manchester United tasted defeat in yet another semi-final under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

They were beaten 2-0 by rivals Man City in the Carabao Cup for third semi final defeat in a row

They were beaten 2-0 by rivals Man City in the Carabao Cup for third semi final defeat in a row

Manchester United lost their semi final against Sevilla (pictured) in the Europa League

Manchester United lost their semi final against Sevilla (pictured) in the Europa League

The Red Devils also fell short against Chelsea in the FA Cup semi final at Wembley last season

The Red Devils also fell short against Chelsea in the FA Cup semi final at Wembley last season

Solskjaer admitted that there would be ‘no excuses’ ahead of the derby match if they were to lose another semi as he insisted they were better prepared against a coronavirus-stricken City team. However, they froze under the pressure.

Solskjaer’s predecessor Jose Mourinho won multiple trophies in his first season with United, and the man before him Louis van Gaal won the FA Cup in a shorter time frame than Ole has gone without lifting a cup. 

Whilst the talented squad brimming with exciting players such as Bruno Fernandes and Marcus Rashford has seen them occupy a promising position in the early stages of the Premier League title race, they look no closer to adding to their dust-gathering trophy cabinet.

Here, Sportsmail take a look at what Manchester United need to do become a trophy-winning team under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. 

United have not won silverware since Solskjaer took over at the club back in December 2018

United have not won silverware since Solskjaer took over at the club back in December 2018 

Give goalscorer Edinson Cavani the lead role

As Anthony Martial finished another match without a goal, watching on was the suspended Edinson Cavani. 

Whilst Martial’s skill on the ball and awareness to make runs in attack is a valuable asset to United, he is not is an out-and-out goalscorer. The Frenchman has scored three times in his last 15 appearances in all competitions – simply not enough for a man wearing the infamous No 9 shirt. 

Sir Bobby Charlton, Eric Cantona, Andy Cole and Zlatan Ibrahimovic have all donned the No 9 and led the club to trophies and titles as the goalscoring figure at United. Martial does not possess the same bravado, or the same skill.

Anthony Martial is a great asset to Manchester United, but he is not an out-and-out goalscorer

Anthony Martial is a great asset to Manchester United, but he is not an out-and-out goalscorer

Waiting in the wings is Cavani, who will be available for selection again for the Burnley match on January 12. 

The Uruguayan has shown plenty of hunger in his short time at Old Trafford and has the credentials to become the club’s spearhead in attack. He needs to become Solskjaer’s first-choice striker when the big knockout games come around again. 

Mason Greenwood makes for a fantastic understudy and his time will come, but United need to rely on experience and not potential to win trophies right now.

Striker Edinson Cavani has the credentials to become the club's spearhead in attack

Striker Edinson Cavani has the credentials to become the club’s spearhead in attack

Sign a proven, world class centre back

Time and again, when assessing Manchester United’s woes and underachievement in recent seasons there is always a debate on their centre-back options, and rightfully so.

Captain Harry Maguire, Victor Lindelof and the injury-prone Eric Bailly are by no means calamities, but not one of them will fill the United fanbase with enough confidence and belief that they can provide the solid foundation for a trophy-winning team.

Premier League rivals Chelsea were suffering from a similar issue last year; leaking too many goals and without a proven, world-class centre back. And they went and signed Thiago Silva. 

Disregarding age and bringing in an experienced stalwart such as Silva has seen a more ensured defensive structure and the players around him have improved their game. Look at Kurt Zouma, for example.

Now United need to follow suit and make a similar addition to their ranks. Their long-term interest in Napoli centre-back Kalidou Koulibaly would be worth throwing cash behind, or Real Madrid’s Sergio Ramos, who is out of contract this summer and likely to leave. Either of them would take some pressure off Maguire and others.

Forget age and forget wages, they just need someone who knows how to defend. 

Manchester United have been long-term admirers of Koulibaly

Sergio Ramos' contract at Real Madrid runs out in the summer

Kalidou Kouliably (left) or Sergio Ramos (right) would be good signings for Man United

Their big players need to show up in the big games 

After Wednesday’s defeat to rivals Manchester City, former United captain Roy Keane questioned the player’s ability to show up in the big games.

Bruno Fernandes’ scintillating form of late has earned him comparisons with United great Eric Cantona, but Keane was quick take the Portuguese midfielder down a notch after the defeat.

Speaking on Sky Sports, Keane said: ‘It’s not easy winning football trophies. Fernandes has had great praise for the last few months and people have been comparing him to [Eric] Cantona etc. Fernandes didn’t really do much tonight.

Bruno Fernandes was ineffective in midfield for Manchester United as they lost 2-0 to City

Bruno Fernandes was ineffective in midfield for Manchester United as they lost 2-0 to City

‘The top players turn up in the big occasions. And that’s what the Cantona’s used to do – they get their hands on trophies. That’s where this team are a little bit short.

Consistency has been a huge underlying issue for Solskjaer since he took over at Old Trafford and in high-pressure matches, his team have failed to pull through.

Some will argue that the United squad is young and will learn from the experience of semi-final defeat to become future champions, but United are a team built on success and time will run out for Ole. 

Keane was critical of Fernandes' performance against City, insisting he failed to turn up

Keane was critical of Fernandes’ performance against City, insisting he failed to turn up

Luck of the draw

Sometimes, you just need a little bit of luck. And it’s fair to say in recent times, United have been given the shorter straw when it has come to cup draws.

There is never an easy semi-final opponent, but on paper there will always be an easier opponent. Drawing Manchester City, Chelsea and Sevilla in their last three semis has only made the job harder for United to reach a final.

Last season, the Red Devils managed to avoid the likes of Aston Villa, Leicester, Arsenal and Shakhtar Donetsk in crucial competition draws and were instead given a tougher road to potential glory.

Whilst Tottenham have most certainly earned their place in this season’s Carabao Cup final, there is no doubt that their quarter-final draw against Stoke and semi-final against Brentford did make it slightly easier for them.   

United have drawn Manchester City, Chelsea and Sevilla in their last three semi-final ties

United have drawn Manchester City, Chelsea and Sevilla in their last three semi-final ties

Remove the psychological burden 

With every passing trophy-less season, the burden to win silverware only intensifies for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Manchester United. 

While their main rivals Manchester City and Liverpool are making it look easy, United cannot find the formula to even reach a final, yet alone win a competition.

One major factor in this comparison is the club’s recruitment, which has seen them deliver more misses than hits in recent seasons and not bring in enough star quality to get themselves out of this rut they are in.

But, Solskjaer still has the quality in his dressing room to achieve success. It’s more about his ability to bring the best out of his players and getting them to deal with the pressure.

It is very rare that the Norwegian will lose his cool in front of the cameras and he’ll always come across very diplomatic in his press conferences. 

He needs to change his approach and become a tougher, sterner character and off the pitch embody the trait his team need to show on it; grit.

Solskjaer needs to change his approach and embody the grit he needs to see from his team

Solskjaer needs to change his approach and embody the grit he needs to see from his team

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