Former Chelsea and Newcastle United striker Demba Ba, now 35, may have scored Istanbul Basaksehir’s first ever Champions League goal this evening, but the only thing anyone is talking about is the manner in which it was conceded.
You couldn’t even call it schoolboy defending. It was an error even a schoolboy wouldn’t make, unless we’re talking primary or elementary level.
Every defender found himself up in attack for a corner, with no-one seemingly detailed to mark the Istanbul striker close to halfway. Nemanja Matic was closest and almost seemed to be taking responsibility simply because no-one else was.
But you don’t leave Matic one-on-one on the halfway line in that situation. He doesn’t have the pace.
United lose the ball taking the corner short, a long accurate pass out of defence, off Ba goes, and it’s 1-0 Basaksehir. Incredible goal, but not for any of the right reasons, unless you’re Turkish, of course.
Former captain Roy Keane criticized United’s squad for lacking leadership after they lost 0-1 to Arsenal on Sunday. Harry Maguire, dismissed Keane’s comments, stating yesterday in a televised interview that, “there are many leaders in the squad.”
Not on this evidence I’m afraid, Harry!
Up until then, United were in their comfort zone and in control of the game. But potential Turkish delight quickly turned to Turkish fright, when Edin Visca, who assisted Ba’s goal helped himself to Istanbul’s second.
United did claw a goal back through a fine Martial header just before the break, but were unable to draw level in the second 45 minutes.
Solskjaer described the first goal as, “Unforgiveable.” He was echoing what everyone else was thinking and saying.
Paul Scholes on BT Sport, “It is completely down to organization. It’s like under-10s football. Embarrassing. What the defence was doing I have no idea.
“The goal is comical, laughable. That can only be a player’s fault, that’s not down to the staff or the coaches.”
Rio Ferdinand said, “You wouldn’t see that on Hackney Marshes,” and called out whoever had responsibility for organizing the defence. The captain himself, I presume?
Ferdinand angrily went on, “I hope Ole is telling them they are embarrassing him. I hope he is very animated in the dressing room because those players need a rocket.”
And Ferdy’s bang on the money of course.
But could it be that therein lies the problem? Is Solskjaer too nice? He’s calm and polite facing the media, seems to avoid getting drawn into conflictual situations with the Chief Executive or owners, and if that trend carries on into the dressing room, then is it any surprise that some players under-perform?
You cannot blame the coach for the manner in which that goal was conceded, but you do need him to go in and roast those responsible.
Perhaps United underestimated their opponents and failed to carry an edge into the game. It certainly looked that way during the first-half.
Since he took the job, former team-mates now pundits, have been kind in their comments towards their former colleague and had it been anyone else in charge of United you feel Roy Keane, Gary Neville, Rio Ferdinand and Paul Scholes, would certainly be letting loose.
It’s not that they haven’t criticized, they have, but it’s not difficult to detect an element of leniency towards a ‘brother’ in their critical analyses.
For any United fan who watched Solskjaer play, these are tough times too. You want him to get it right, but wonder if he will, or if he possibly can? Actually, you wonder if anyone possibly can?
The manager generally always becomes the scapegoat in these situations, and don’t forget we’re talking about someone in charge of a team that’s just won ten away games on the bounce, something that not even Sir Alex’s teams managed to do back in the glory days.
You can’t see clueless Ed Woodward taking any blame, nor the even less football-intelligent owners, should the mood for Ole’s head become a clamour, but another public sacking cannot be the answer. At least not in isolation.
After being out-coached by Mikel Arteta on Sunday and then this evening’s disappointment, the pressure mounts on the little Norwegian.
The game at Everton on Saturday now becomes a huge fixture.
Not quite, but it almost feels like the last days of David Moyes when defeat at Goodison saw the guillotine fall.
Solskjaer was asked to comment on whether he feared for his job, but declined to respond saying, “It is early on. Opinions are there all the time. We have to stay strong.”
#OleOut, and the phrases “lose to Everton”, and “Poch” have been trending on social media since this evening’s defeat.
Mauricio Pochettino, a guest on Sky Football last night, was transparent about his readiness to resume his management career in football after a year away.
The inner strength Solskjaer referred to, served him well as a player. Now at this time in his management reign, he must trust in it more than ever.