For Manchester United, this Christmas period is pretty much interesting, unlike the last few years. The shocking and undeniable fact of being knocked out of the champions league is less painful, considering the backstage drama that is ongoing at old Trafford. With Pogba’s transfer request and Ole’s questionable decisions surrounding the club, Christmas is packed with more fireworks than ever before. With the Manchester City derby, tonight, it will be interesting to see, where Manchester United could be at the end of the month.
Champions League Miracle that never happened
A point from the final two champions league matches left United sitting third in a group, qualifying only for the Europa League is a terrible loss of revenue for the club. Despite winning against RB Leipzig, in the reverse fixture, Manchester United failed to gain one point that was necessary for qualifying for the knockout stages of the champions league. Solskjaer’s side were two down inside the first quarter of an hour and conceded a third from Leipzig after the break. Despite a late equalizer by Bruno Fernandez, the remarkable comeback story never happened. With no Fred available for selection, and a rather unhappy pairing of McTominay and Matic, along with a back three including Harry Maguire, whose inability in handling pressure was pretty much apparent as the game unfolded. Even though Ole was considering a defence layout at the back, with progressing wingbacks who could part away from a back five pattern during high pressing and counter-attacks, the lack of quality in midfield with Matic and McTominey left United opting for long balls quite often. With both midfielders playing a less significant role during the entirety of the game it left Nagelsmann’s side finding balls to their feet quite often as their wing-backs pushed forward. This was the game plan, that worked perfectly for Nagelsmann’s side during the majority of the game. For Manchester United, the Champions League exit is similar to their 2015 group stage exit under Luis Van Gaal and we all know how that story ended.
Pogba, Pochettino, and Ole
Understandably, Woodward’s support of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is nothing new. But, recent developments with Pogba’s transfer rumors and lack of proper direction and quality in the team leaves Ole in a terrible spot. With no trophies since his appointment, it is quite evident why Ole is said to be in uncharted territories in the last few months. But with a remarkable third-place finish last season and a solid three-year contract he signed in 2019, the stats don’t look, as bad as it is asserted. Sitting sixth in the table, with summer recruitment like Alex Telles and Cavani showing early promise, have given hopes to Woodward who, as per the report is keen to stick with Solskjaer rather than opting for Pochettino. With five managers being appointed since Alex Ferguson, it is pretty convincing why the Glazers too aren’t interested in going for another manager. But with Pochettino, available after his long hiatus, waiting for his next appointment, it will be a difficult time for Ole during the forthcoming Christmas period. Also, recent media reports had stated, a meeting had been held between Pochettino and the board, but so far nothing has been officially released to claim that Manchester United had offered any deals. But as things stand, the former Tottenham man is currently labeled the favourite to replace Ole at Old Trafford.
Now, another issue that had persistently created controversy during the last few seasons was the role of Pogba in Club. Things became worse, as Pogba’s agent openly stated his player’s interest in moving away from the club before the champions league match against RB Leipzig. Pogba, on the other hand, has found himself in a tough spot since his agent’s outbursts, losing confidence in the eyes of his gaffer which may be the reason he didn’t start in the champions league match. With rumor mills circling the footballing world on a swap deal with Ronaldo, also being discussed in gossip columns, it is evident that a wind of change is happening across the organization. With the league table in mind and the upcoming fixtures in December, it will be interesting to see what could happen to Ole come the end of boxing day.
The Manchester Derby (tonight)
The iconic Manchester derby featuring the two rivals that takes place at Old Trafford tonight will prove to be a crucial game, considering both sides are sitting shoulder to shoulder in the league table at the moment. While Ole is trying to make his job safe, Pep Guardiola will be looking at the top half of the table. With significant points up for grab, it will be very interesting to see how both perform with two key players on both sides doubtful going into the game. Sergio Aguero and Edison Cavani, two experienced attackers, missing out with injures would be a great blow for both clubs.
As to the recent league stats, United come into the game with a poor home win record of only 21%, with major points dropped against poor sides. City, with a poor away record of 5 losses so far this season will also be looking to grab three points at Old Trafford. Incredibly Solskjaer has won 3 of the 5 meetings he has had with Guardiola, which could come in handy against a side that has only lost once in the last 15 matches in all competitions.
Apart from Aguero and Cavani, Martial is doubtful to make a start meanwhile Gundogen will be available along with Eric Garcia.