Manchester United’s 4-0 defeat to Everton laid bare the scale of the problems facing Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, writes Adam Bate.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had talked of a reality check but this was just unreal. Manchester United thrashed 4-0 by Everton at Goodison Park. Humiliated. A fifth consecutive away defeat for the first time in 38 years. The man who was supposed to be harking back to Sir Alex Ferguson’s hey day has taken the time machine a little too far back.
There was always a suspicion the highs of his first few months in charge were misleading, but this is now more than a correction, more than a regression to the mean. Even Jose Mourinho only conceded four goals in a game once during his two-and-a-half years at the club. As a one-off performance, this was as bad as anything he served up.
Where to begin with the problems? Solskjaer sparked a dramatic upturn in the fortunes of some of the underperforming, and seemingly uninspired, players among the United squad but their form has dipped again. Against Everton, the disappointing efforts of Paul Pogba and the rest were matched by the struggles of those whom United had come to rely on.
Solskjaer did well to restore United’s counter-attack but these players continue to look one-dimensional when the defence is set and the onus is on them to craft a passage to goal. The attacking cohesion bears no comparison to the best teams in the Premier League and this was just the most chastening reminder yet of that ongoing failing.
Such was the initial turnaround under Solskjaer it was possible to believe the need for change at Old Trafford had been overstated. But perhaps the real deception occurred during that run of eight consecutive wins that marked the start of his reign. The players responded following Mourinho’s departure. But maintaining those standards is the key.