The fine work of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer from the bench may have got Manchester United back in this season’s title race as his substitutions made all the difference against West Ham at the weekend.
That’s the view of former Red Devils midfielder Luke Chadwick, who praised Solskjaer for turning things around from the bench yet again, just as he did with his half time substitutions in the recent 3-2 win from 2-0 down away to Southampton.
On this occasion, United were trailing 1-0 to West Ham before Solskjaer brought on Bruno Fernandes and Marcus Rashford in the second half, with the team much improved and going on to secure a 3-1 victory.
This puts United five points off the top of the table with a game in hand, and Chadwick believes this puts them firmly back in contention for this season’s title.
“The last two Premier League games his substitutions have completely changed the face of the game,” Chadwick told CaughtOffside.
“Fernandes and Rashford – two important players who were maybe left out with Leipzig in mind, a game they need a result in – but he needed them on Saturday after a poor first half showing. In that last half hour we saw some incredible football and they got the result with those two playing a massive part in it.
“They’re definitely in the title race. It’s been a strange atmosphere ever since they came back from lockdown last season and I think that is making a difference to games. Anyone can beat anyone more than ever.
“If that West Ham result had gone the other way it’s a crisis again, but they had a wonderful last half-hour of the game and it’s almost changed the whole outlook of the season really.”
It’s clear United needed to change something after a poor first half showing, and it’s perhaps a concern for Donny van de Beek as he failed to take advantage of a rare start in the Premier League.
Chadwick admits it could continue to be difficult for the Dutchman due to the superb form of Bruno Fernandes, but he still thinks there could be opportunities for him, depending on how Solskjaer lines up.
“I think Ole could have taken any of those players off, it was such a poor performance across the board,” Chadwick said. “It could have been any of that front four to get Fernandes and Rashford on the pitch, but Van de Beek was one of the unlucky ones. He was quite ineffective in the game but you could say that about anyone,
“I’m sure there’ll be more opportunities for him. It just shows how important Bruno Fernandes is, and I can’t imagine that in any important Premier League game that if he’s fit he’s not going to start the games.
“I can’t imagine Solskjaer would play the three of them (Van de Beek, Fernandes and Pogba) in central areas … we’ve seen Mata do that very effectively coming from wide areas, so potentially Van de Beek playing on the right or the left could work. But it takes a bit of pace out of the team if Rashford, Martial or Greenwood didn’t play, though in some games you need that cunning kind of player who can play a pass.
“Pogba had a frustrating time but his goal was a wonderful finish, and from then you could see his confidence coming back – he was getting on the ball and dictating the play for United, so that might come at a cost as Van de Beek might have to settle for a place on the bench. At the end of the day the club’s the most important thing and getting results, so whoever’s getting in the team and getting results is going to start games.”