Ole understands he needs to win when specifically put on the spot by Geoeff Shreeves after that horrible defeat in the last game at Newcastle. Ole hasn't got the balance right with getting results and driving changes simultaneously which prompted many pundits to label him as 'out of his depth' at managing a giant football club like Manchester United. Norwich who upset the champions City relish the games against high profile teams.
Ole managed to win away at Partizan Belgrade by handing European debuts to James Garner, Brandon Williams and Harry Maguire who captained the side. He has David de Gea, Victor Lindelof and Fred rested for the challenge at Carrow Road, while Luke Shaw, Nemanja Matic were sent to follow Paul Pogba for quick recovery in Dubai. Ole has finally settled on three at the back and abandoned 4-2-3-1 which he persisted with despite not having the personnel from the start of the season. Having sorted out the defense not by analysis but forced by bad results, how soon can Ole bring his highly understaffed midfield to control the game and create chances?
Ole has been blocking all questions about Pogba's return when asked by the press. Is it aimed at not exposing his team in advance to the opposition or has he genuinely lost the faith of the Frenchman after making him play through injury against Rochdale AFC from third tier of English football in the League Cup third round? Defeat at Newcastle brought the worst out of MUFC in terms of creativity and through ball from the midfield of Brazilian Fred and industrious Scott McTominay. Paul Pogba can change that especially if he plays at No 10 where Juan Mata failed miserably at St James' Park. The frantic display at Belgrade can be healed by the natural composure of Pobga's game, who would like to salvage his career prospects urgently.
Hope Angel Gomes and Tahit Chong get another chance to display their potential. Gomes has many disadvantages like Paul Scholes did in his initial days when Nicky Butt stroll a march on him in terms of progress from the academy i.e., better coverage of midfield due to greater height. Gomes did have a good far east pre-season tour. Gomes play ideal for No 10 role in absence of Pogba.
Another positive from the Partizan game was Ole's use of substitutes with a double change of Rashford and James around the 60th minute to try for the second goal. It's probably the first time Ole Gunnar Solskjaer been praised for game management since made permanent manager. With Nemanja Matic injured amid speculation of negotiating his summer move from January is rife the alternatives to Scott McTominay is of urgent need to manage his game time to help him recover from back-to-back games at his young age. Axel Tuanzebe can be the option given the street smart nature of his play which makes him adaptable to multiple positions - a rare attribute so crucial to team sport. Rojo has regained his mojo which made him favourite with few fans with his fearless tackles and can partner Maguire and Lindelof freeing up Tuanzebe.
Not scoring from free-kicks in opportunistic positions has been a lacunae that has afflicted this team to score that all important 2nd goal. Nor Maguire and McTominay missing headers when left unmarked in recent games. This is surprising given how Teddy Sheringham and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer would line up at the near and far post to attack a corner especially in the Treble winning season. Nor have they retained Marouane Fellaini nor replaced the Belgian giant. Ashley Young has lost the zip on his crosses with age so has Juan Mata with free-kicks, retirement overdue to both whose best years are behind them yet give their best when called upon. Roberto Carlos at Real Madrid and David Beckham at MUFC ushered in the term 'dead ball specialist' that inspired Cristiano Ronaldo and MUFC can think of no one as automatic choice to take free-kick now let alone be specialist of any sort! Andreas Pereira has made a start and needs time which if team is not winning creates the added stress which can hamper the development.
Wait for the 2000th Premier League goal for MUFC might be over this weekend as Norwich do not sit back which will enable the Reds to run at them with James, Rashford and Martial increasing the chances of earning a penalty. MUFC look likely to score two goals which if the defense holds can finally get them the elusive away victory or emboldened Norwich with a prospect of a huge upset might turn the tables for not just MUFC but Ole's reign itself. Poised for a dramatic contest either way, while a score draw might seem more plausible.
PS: Meanwhile MUFC lose their prolific U18 striker Mipo Odubeko to West Ham academy.