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Manchester United: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s move to back three can’t cure everything

Clairvoyant Paul Scholes was right AGAIN: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s switch to a back three cannot cure all of Man United’s ills and they once again relied on Cristiano Ronaldo to get them out of trouble.


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Paul Scholes brought many talents to the soccer field as a player, but it is fair to say that clairvoyance was not one of them.

As an expert, on the other hand, Scholes is proving to be quite prescient. Following Manchester United’s comeback over Atalanta a fortnight ago, he successfully predicted that his former club would be four goals behind at halftime if they played with the same neglect against Liverpool.

Scholes did it again Tuesday night as he discussed the merits of United’s compact and more cautious 3-4-1-2 formation, which performed so well at Tottenham on Saturday and seemed to become the new norm – well, at least. while Ole Gunnar Solskjaer tries to stabilize the ship and stay at the helm.

Paul Scholes is proving to be quite prescient in the hot seat of the expert speaking on Manchester Utd

Paul Scholes is proving to be quite prescient in the hot seat of the expert speaking on Manchester Utd

United once again relied on Cristiano Ronaldo's brilliance to save a point at Atalanta

United once again relied on Cristiano Ronaldo's brilliance to save a point at Atalanta

United once again relied on Cristiano Ronaldo’s brilliance to save a point at Atalanta

“We can’t get carried away because Tottenham were clearly not right, they were in a bit of a mess,” Scholes told BT Sport. “It’s a tougher game and we’ll see what United is made of.”

Having hit on a winning formula at Spurs, Solskjaer could hardly be blamed for sticking with her at Gewiss Stadium.

He had seen Liverpool and Leicester destroy United and destroy their pressure game. Atalanta did the same in the first half at Old Trafford, taking two goals ahead in 28 minutes.

But it is not a natural fit for the team he has built. The Bergamo bank was packed with unused attackers, including Edinson Cavani, Jadon Sancho, Mason Greenwood, Anthony Martial, Jesse Lingard, and Juan Mata.

And, as Scholes feared, this was a much more rigorous examination of Solskjaer’s Plan B.

Harry Maguire returned to captaining United in a three-defense formation after the weekend's win.

Harry Maguire returned to captaining United in a three-defense formation after the weekend's win.

Harry Maguire returned to captaining United in a three-defense formation after the weekend’s win.

United was one goal short in 12 minutes and the strategy had to be abandoned entirely before the break when Greenwood replaced Raphael Varane, who limped off in his second appearance since returning from a groin injury. Solskjaer returned to 4-2-3-1 and the tie continued eight minutes later.

He no longer had Victor Lindelof due to injury, which means that Eric Bailly only had his second appearance of the season and his first in the Champions League since the famous victory over Paris Saint-Germain in March 2019 when he was a substitute in the First half.

The combative Ivorian had an excellent performance this time, typically stopping two efforts by Duvan Zapata with his face in the first half.

The same cannot be said for captain Harry Maguire or Paul Pogba, who also returned to the lineup in Italy but only, it is suspected, because he is suspended for Saturday’s Manchester derby and Fred needed a break.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has to decide if three centrals will do the job against City

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has to decide if three centrals will do the job against City

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has to decide if three centrals will do the job against City

Provided he has enough fit central defenders to get the job done, Solskjaer can also go for a back-three against Manchester City. It has worked for him before in big games.

But the lesson from Tuesday night was that it clearly cannot cure all of United’s ills. Goals still conceded and Atalanta sat deep, making it difficult to hit them at half-time.

Once again United relied on Cristiano Ronaldo to bail them out with another late goal. But you didn’t have to be clairvoyant to predict that.

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