Manchester United’s recent slump in poor form means Ole Gunnar Solskjaer must be brave now to drop Victor Lindelof for their Europa League game against Real Sociedad.
Right now the Red Devils’ defence remains their Achilles heel, and there may soon come a point where he may find it almost impossible to explain why he has left certain players out.
United sat at the top of the table last month after embarking on a remarkable 13-game unbeaten run before they were stopped in their tracks by a resilient Sheffield United at Old Trafford.
Since then, they have drawn 0-0 at Arsenal, thumped Southampton 9-0, been held to a 3-3 draw by Everton and stumbled against Premier League strugglers West Brom on Sunday to stay second behind Manchester City.
But now Solskjaer must dare to be bold again and put his faith in those who have repaid his trust in the past.
Take Axel Tuanzebe, for example – widely considered to be one of the club’s hottest prospects – the towering robust central defender sat on the bench as United toiled in vain against West Brom at the Hawthorns.
Having impressed against Paris-Saint Germain in the Champions League, he has already started to ask the question just what more does he have to do to make the starting XI regularly and Solskjaer will know his excuses are starting to wear thin.
Whilst Solskjaer himself was effusive in his praise for Tuanzebe’s “tremendous” performance following the 2-1 win over PSG, the home-grown centre-back has had to patiently bide his time when waiting for his opportunities, with just one start to show for his six Premier League appearances so far this season.
However, it may be time for the club legend to consider rotating his squad ahead of tonight’s trip to the two-time La Liga champions, and he may not have to look much further than their leaky defence. United have now conceded four goals in their past three fixtures in all competitions.
But it’s important to get the balancing act of juggling both domestic and European competitions absolutely spot-on as they enter the business end of the season, so giving players like Tuanzebe the chance to stake their claim for a spot in Solskjaer’s starting XI could be key to their chances of success.
In fact, if you compare the performances of Tuanzebe and Lindelof this season, it’s no surprise to see the 23-year-old is streets ahead in almost every area.
Tuanzebe makes 1.2 tackles per 90 in the Premier League while Lindelof has managed just 0.8 in the top flight this term. Perhaps crucially, the young defender boasts a better positional sense of awareness, as he made 2.2 clearances per game in the Champions League. Lindelof, on the other hand, could only muster two.
It’s becoming increasingly apparent that he has to be afforded more opportunities and should start against Real Sociedad on Thursday evening.
AND in other Man Utd news, Man Utd must seal swoop for Victor Lindelof replacement in Sven Botman…