Manchester United fans are carrying out the autopsy on their 4-2 defeat to Leicester City.
The inquest into their third consecutive Premier League game without a victory is bound to be an uncomfortable one with many supporters now calling for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s exit.
There is a rising swell of expectation brought about by the signings of Cristiano Ronaldo, Raphael Varne and Jadon Sancho that simply hasn’t been met in such a dire start to the 2021/22 season.
Solskjaer comes in for criticism
And for many, the 4-2 loss at the King Power Stadium was the final straw with several fans opining that the nature of the defeat was symptomatic of Solskjaer’s lack of top-level tactical knowledge.
Very few fans would go so far as to suggest that Solskjaer is any way strategically inept, but the moral of many of the arguments is that he simply can’t compete with the world’s top coaching minds.
Solskjaer might have gotten the better of managers cut from Pep Guardiola, Jurgen Klopp and Thomas Tuchel’s cloth in one-off games, but could he really stay the course over an entire season?
Leicester City vs Man Utd Reaction Show (Football Terrace)
Solskjaer vs Rodgers
Well, that’s the debate that’s being bounded about the United fanbase at the moment and one way in which we can get closer to the answer is by picking apart the carcass of their Leicester display.
We can all point to the individuals errors, particularly from a rushed-back Harry Maguire, but where were the more wholesale tactical problems and strategies that went against United from the start?
Come forth, ‘Football Made Simple’. Yes, that’s right, one of YouTube’s finest tactical analysts has stepped up to the plate on the back of Brendan Rodgers’ battle of wits with Solskjaer on Saturday.
Tactical analysis for Leicester 4-2 Man Utd
And with typical detail and insight, they highlighted ‘Solskjaer’s Defensive Frailties’ that allowed the Foxes to get the better of their opponents despite not necessarily having been brilliant themselves.
In fact, there was perhaps even a Ronaldo-related problem along the way, so be sure to check out the full video down below and keep scrolling for our breakdown of some of the key points raised:
When defending, Bruno Fernandes would push forward alongside Ronaldo to form a 4-4-2, which is common practise when a manager wants to save the legs of a poor presser or ageing player.
Pep Guardiola deployed a similar tactic when David Silva entered his twilight years at Manchester City and it is designed to reduce the amount of lateral distance that the player needs to cover.
This was effective in the first 20 minutes when the Portuguese duo remained passive, but in situations where Ronaldo didn’t match Fernandes’ pressing, Leicester were able to easily advance the ball to one of their pivots.
However, even when both players pressed, it meant that Paul Pogba and Nemanja Matic had to back them up, which – due to Fernandes playing as a forward – meant that United were 3 v 2 down in the midfield.
This meant that Leicester could regularly play penetrative passes to Kelechi Iheanacho and James Maddison, which unlocked the pace of Jamie Vardy and left United’s defence vulnerable.
It is, therefore, worth noting that Ronaldo himself isn’t inherently the issue, but rather deploying another player alongside him like Fernandes because of his lack of pressing can be problematic.
United left exposed at the back
However, working around Ronaldo was by no means the only uphill battle that United faced with their top-heavy approach often leaving Maguire and Victory Lindelof in alarming 2 v 2 situations.
Although Luke Shaw was less aggressively attacking than we’ve seen previously, there were times where both United full-backs as well as one of Pogba or Matic would push forward in possession.
And with Iheanacho and Vardy largely pinning themselves against United’s centre-backs, Leicester often had the chance to play a deadly line-breaking pass whenever possession changed hands.
Problems for Man Utd to address
Naturally, there were areas in which United functioned positively just as much as Leicester had their faults, too, because the game was certainly not as one-sided as the scoreline would have you think.
Nevertheless, there are certainly tactical concerns surrounding Solskjaer on the back of yet another disappointing Premier League results and Ronaldo – believe it or not – could be at the heart of that.
It would be far too ham-fisted and hyperbolic to in any way point the finger at arguably football’s greatest ever goalscorer, but could another manager use him more effectively? Maybe, maybe…