For all that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer likes to think of himself as bringing the Manchester United way back to the club, he’s surely going to have to be pragmatic against Manchester City this weekend.
The Red Devils have endured a difficult start to the season and Solskjaer’s old team-mate Luke Chadwick believes results are now more important than style.
Speaking exclusively to CaughtOffside, Chadwick explained that it’s crucial for Solskjaer to play it safe against City and stick with the recent change to playing five at the back.
The former Man Utd midfielder admits, however, that this might not always be what the crowd wants to see for a big game at Old Trafford, and that the players will need to be disciplined not to let that pressure get to them.
“It’s a tricky one for Ole really. There’s going to be huge tension in the stadium,” Chadwick said. “The fans are going to be demanding, I’m sure they’ll be fully supportive, but it’s easier to play with a low block away from home against teams like Tottenham and Atalanta. But when that crowd is on top of you in a big game, it’s going to be a huge case of discipline, because I think we’ve seen that high press hasn’t worked for them.
“They’re going to have to drop off City and maybe frustrate their own crowd a bit because they’ll want them to be on top. It’s a case of getting into the game, having a solid start, not conceding an early goal and seeing where that takes them.
“We know full well that if they can create chances they’ve got goal-scorers on the pitch. I think we’ll see that three of Bruno Fernandes, Edinson Cavani and Cristiano Ronaldo again. They’d cause massive problems for any team in world football. So I think if United can get a chance to score and snatch a 1-0 win all the fans would take that, even if City dominate possession, which I expect they will.”
This is not exactly inspiring stuff if you’re a United supporter, with so much money invested in world class players to try to get the team playing the kind of football the crowd grew so used to during the glorious Sir Alex Ferguson era.
Chadwick admits that fans are justified in expecting more from the team, but he still stresses that the result is the most important thing right now after the humiliation of the recent 5-0 defeat at home to Liverpool.
“It’s completely justified for the fans to ask for more than that with the money that’s been spent, but I think it is also a case of needs-must at this moment in time,” Chadwick said.
“Their backs are against the wall and they need to find a way out of this slump. If they can scrape a win over Manchester City, the whole mood changes again, so I think it’s about doing whatever it takes to do it, and I think that means a pragmatic approach.
“Obviously City aren’t that full of confidence or in the best form, with that disappointing result against Crystal Palace. If United can win this maybe they can evolve again and move things forward, but at the moment a result is the be all and end all after what happened in the last home game.”
Even if it’s far from ideal to see MUFC moving away from their attacking traditions, Dale agrees that it’s the only realistic option for the club considering the damage City could do to them.
“United try to play on front foot and they will get annihilated,” Dale told CaughtOffside. “We need to play it safe, everyone knows that. If Ole goes out on front foot it could be another cricket score and he can’t afford that.
“I just can’t see him pushing the boat out when City are the best or second best team in England right now.”