Solskjaer will cull deadweight in squad

LONDON • The silence that greeted Manchester United's dire 1-1 draw with relegated Huddersfield was a powerful, voiceless protest that underlined why they need a clear-out in the dressing room and a change of culture in the boardroom.

When the players were needed to fight for the right to play Champions League football, they froze.

When United played with belief and pace to overwhelm Paris Saint-Germain in the second leg of their Champions League last-16 tie on March 6 to reach the quarter-finals, all appeared well.

They have won only twice in 11 games since, and Sunday's collapse and failure to secure a top-four spot places substantial question marks against their character.

Paul Pogba is the key because when in the mood, the World Cup winner can impose his sumptuous skills to match-winning effect.

But, when the France midfielder is not in the mood, on or off the pitch, he can drag everyone down.

So Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has a decision to make - convince Pogba to deliver excellence more consistently, or cut his losses and sell him to suitors Real Madrid.

Such is his undeniable talent that the United manager would clearly prefer him to stay, but only if fully committed. Suitable replacements will be hard to find, though, especially as United cannot offer Champions League football.

 
 

Yet one thing is for sure - the squad will be culled in the summer.

In the aftermath of the game at the John Smith's Stadium, Solskjaer said: "I can't talk about individuals now, but there's a chance you've seen the last of players. There's always a chance, but I would not say that about any individual."

The appointment of a director of football in the close season should help him to identify viable targets as the club embarks on the overhaul process, with Ander Herrera, Juan Mata, Antonio Valencia and Matteo Darmian all set to leave.

However, it remains to be seen how much time and resources the Norwegian will be given to revamp the squad in his own image, with Sky Sports pundit Jamie Redknapp already predicting "the scale of the job could be too big for him".

He told the Daily Mail: "Solskjaer has been entrusted with one of the biggest brands in world sport.

"Regardless of the size of the task at hand, he will be under immense pressure should United be several points off the pace and languishing in sixth place again come October."

THE TIMES, LONDON

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 07, 2019, with the headline 'Solskjaer will cull deadweight in squad'. Print Edition | Subscribe