Considering nothing is happening in the world of (English) football a lot seemed to happen this past weekend. Let’s get to it.
The United boss spoke with Sky Sports last Friday and gave us the closest thing we’ll get to team news during the lockdown. The Manchester United squad is completely fit! That’s good news, as whenever (if?) games do return, we’ll see how he chooses to line up with a squad that has everyone available for the first time all season.
That of course was not the big quote of the story, and with nothing else going on, quotes that get you clicks reign supreme. In football, that means transfer speculation, and Solskjaer was obviously asked about summer targets, and gave a typical political answer.
“We’re always looking to improve the squad. This uncertainty in the market now, who knows how football and the market is going to be, but I’m very happy with the squad I’ve got.”
Here’s a quick translation of that quote for you. “I’m looking to improve the squad. I want better players. However I’m also going to say I’m happy with my current squad because I’ve never publicly criticized my players and I’m not going to start doing that now.”
Naturally fans pounced on this quote as Ole making typical excuses so that the Glazers don’t have to spend money. Or that he’s trying to already make an excuse for when he doesn’t sign someone.
That’s not what he’s doing at all. Ole’s been very clear since he arrived that the squad needs to improve in certain areas. However he needs to send a message to the current players he has that he still has faith in them. He’s not saying he doesn’t trust them, he’s just saying we need strength in numbers and that means adding more players.
As always, anyone who believes what a manager says to the media as gospel has their own problems. Managers speak in half truths at best. Remember last summer when Solskjaer said that “Alexis was a big part of his plans this season?” Well it turned out that big plan was to get his ass out of here.
Manchester United have concerns over Victor Lindelöf's form and are open to bringing in a new centre-back this summer to provide some competition— utdreport (@utdreport) May 8, 2020
What a weird headline. If you have concerns over Victor Lindelöf’s form, just drop him. You have Eric Bailly, you have Axel Tuanzebe,
you have Phil Jones ! You don’t have to play Lindelöf if you doubt his form.
Frankly, the “to provide some competition” part of this headline is a far bigger indictment on Bailly and Tuanzebe than it is on Lindelöf. If United don’t think that those two are good enough to overtake the Swede, they’ve got a big shortage of depth.
And that’s really all this is. The truth is Bailly can’t be relied on to stay fit. Tuanzebe is still young but has also been injured a few times this season. When United have needed to dip into the well of center backs they haven’t been there and we’ve ended up with Phil Jones getting destroyed by Sheffield United and Manchester City.
United are more than likely going to be in the market for a young centerback to come in and be fourth or fifth choice, competing with Tuanzebe and Bailly for minutes. But “Manchester United in the market for 5th choice centerback” just isn’t going to get you clicks.
A day later United were suddenly linked with a £20 million move for 22-year-old Swansea centerback Joe Rodon...coincidence??
IFAB temporarily allows for five substitutions when football restarts
In a move to help clubs and competitions out when they restart football and have to cram a million games into the space of like three weeks, the IFAB will be temporarily allowing five substitutions per match. You’ll still only have three opportunities to use those subs so at least the games with no fans will only 95% look like a friendly. It’s up to each league to choose if they want to utilize this rule.
If United are chasing a match this rule doesn’t really help them (even with everyone fit, does Solskjaer have more than 3 game-changing options on the bench?), but it’ll certainly help them if they’re ahead. Should United go three or four nil up in a match, Solskjaer can really make changes to ensure everyone from Paul Pogba, Bruno Fernandes, Marcus Rashford, and Anthony Martial can all be properly rested. With a fit Nemanja Matić, Scott McTominay, and Fred you can also ensure that none of them, or someone like Aaron Wan-Bissaka gets too overtaxed either.
But let’s be honest, here’s what it really means. When you read that first paragraph of Ole saying that everyone is fit, what was your first reaction? “Finally, I’ve seen the last of Lingard and Pereira!”
Well, this ruling has just given these cats yet another life.
On a similar note...
IFAB allows increase of match-day squad to up to 25 players
The increase in substitutions brings an increase in players on the bench. Makes sense, but no need to go to 25. Let’s cap it off at 20 just like the Bundesliga. Nine players on the bench is plenty when you can only make five subs but most importantly, you still need to be able to leave players out.
How else will players like Phil Jones, Jesse Lingard, and Andreas Pereira realize they don’t have futures at Old Trafford if they keep making the match day squad?