Tue. Mar 2nd, 2021

Man Utd

News

Solskjaer has to change his strategy with Manchester United substitutes

4 min read

Having used one of his attacking substitutes in the first-half at Arsenal it was no surprise to see Ole Gunnar Solskjaer delay his only other Manchester United change until the final 10 minutes.

Solskjaer has changed games from the bench this season, noticeably with the decisive half-time introduction of Bruno Fernandes at West Ham and by bringing the same player, as well as Fred, on in the FA Cup triumph against Liverpool recently.

But there is also an argument he can occasionally be too slow to make a change, as he was against Sheffield United a week ago, and while United’s options in attack are impressive, the bench is beginning to have a two-tier look to it.

If felt against the Blades as if the game was crying out of the artistry and invention of Juan Mata, while the stalemate with Arsenal could have benefited from Donny van de Beek’s link-up play and ability to bring the midfield and attack together.

Both players, along with Daniel James, are being overlooked on a regular basis these days, with whoever misses out from Mason Greenwood, Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and Edinson Cavani often the only attacking change.

Mata, James and Van de Beek might not be of the same level as those forwards at the moment, but they could offer fresh legs and something different, while the latter can be brought on in a deeper role if United need more creativity.

While the Premier League rule change that allows clubs to name nine substitutes has widened United’s options, it has generally only led to some players making up the numbers rather than being considered genuine options, especially in games that remain tight, which is often the case for United this season.

The return to fitness of Eric Bailly meant Mata missed out on a spot on the bench at the Emirates, but before then he’d been an unused substitute in six successive Premier League games and in 11 of 21 league fixtures in all this season. On only two occasions has he been called on to try and make an impact, which is what he did in the comeback win at West Ham.

It’s been a similar story for Daniel James, who has been an unused substitute for four of the last five league games, falling to make the squad at all for the goalless draw at Liverpool. In all he’s been an unused replacement nine times this season and only once has he come on in a Premier League, playing three minutes against Aston Villa over Christmas.

Free Manchester United newsletter



Manchester United missed multiple chances to beat Arsenal on Saturday evening, drawing 0-0 at the Emirates Stadium.

Edinson Cavani and Marcus Rashford were culpable of squandering opportunities, as United now sit three points off league leaders Man City having played a game more.

MEN Sport will bring you all the build-up to and reaction from every United match. You can have it all delivered straight to your inbox by signing up to our daily newsletter. Just put your email address in the sign-up box at the top of this article, or simply follow this link. It’s free and only takes a few seconds.

James would appear to fit the bill of an ideal impact sub with his pace and direct style, but a return of just three minutes off the bench all season would suggest his place amongst the substitutes is a token one at best, a role that might be better filled by Amad Diallo for the rest of the season.

Then there is the curious case of Van de Beek, a £35million summer signing from Ajax who is finding it increasingly difficult to get any meaningful game time at Old Trafford.

He did play 66 minutes against Liverpool in the FA Cup but for seven of the last eight Premier League games his has been a watching brief. Van de Beek has made nine substitute appearances in the Premier League this season, but only two of them have come since November 21 and he appears to be the last midfielder that Solskjaer will call on.

You can perhaps understand the reluctance to use Mata, even though he’s done well at times this season. He turns 33 in April and his contract expires at the end of the season.

But James and Van de Beek can probably both wonder why they haven’t been involved more often. James played well in the demolition of Leeds but it seems that was a horses for courses selection and he’s been on the periphery since. The former Swansea winger could have left United on loan in each of the two previous windows and while Solskjaer’s desire to have a large squad that can cover for all eventualities this season is understandable, James is now 23 and is still yet to reach the landmark of 100 club appearances. For his own development, he needs to feature more often.

Van de Beek is clearly being eased into his role at the club and he can expect a more significant presence if Paul Pogba departs this summer, but the Dutchman would have the right to wonder why he hasn’t played as often as he would have expected this season and to wonder why he’s so rarely asked to change a game from the bench.

In having nine subs United have options on the bench, but at the moment Solskjaer seems to happy use a small number of them, rather than consider alternative game-changers.

Copyright © All rights reserved. | Newsphere by AF themes.