Has Ole Gunnar Solskjaer run Man Utd into the ground?
Manchester United caretaker manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer looks certain to be named as the club’s permanent manager this summer after his sensational start to life in charge at Old Trafford.
But two-and-a-half months into his reign, the Norwegian is running into his first serious difficulties. The defeat to Paris Saint-Germain and draw with Liverpool have slowed the Solskjaer juggernaut slightly, but it is the club’s current injury crisis that represents the biggest problem.
United go into this evening’s game at Crystal Palace with up to nine first-team players missing through injury. Not only will an injury list of that length make it difficult to maintain the scintillating form under Solskjaer going forward, it will also raise questions over the conditioning of the players.
In the past couple of weeks, Jesse Lingard, Anthony Martial, Nemanja Matic, Ander Herrera and Juan Mata have all succumbed to leg muscle injuries.
Injuries can strike at any time and it might be a huge coincidence, but the fact that so many players – particularly those operating in United’s midfield – have sustained what are predominantly hamstring injuries is a bit suspicious.
Solskjaer himself has blamed the injuries on the players’ increased workload since he took charge. That might be the explanation, but is it an excuse?
Part of being a Premier League manager is about managing your assets and maintaining your squad’s fitness throughout a long and arduous season. The current injury crisis will give ammunition to the few vocal critics of Solskjaer, who have mainly suggested that anybody could have done the job he has done since taking charge: harnessing the post-Mourinho bounce through a run of fairly easy fixtures to great success.
The fresh accusation will be that he has also been working the players to unsustainable levels through this period. Time will tell if that is the case or if the current injury crisis is a one-off blip.
Even if Solskjaer and his coaching methods are to blame, there is no reason why the 46-year-old – who is still learning on a job that is way above his previous coaching experience – cannot adapt his methods accordingly.
But it may well prove to be case that what worked on the training ground for Sir Alex Ferguson more than a decade ago is no longer suited to a Premier League that gets faster and more intense every year.