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Man Utd: Is Ole Gunnar Solskjaer trying it the Sir Alex Ferguson way in big games? Pitch to Post analysis

Since football restarted in June, Man Utd have played seven Premier League games against the traditional top six, drawing five times and losing twice; They've scored just twice, and been involved in four goalless draws

OGS Fergie Pitch to Post

In the latest Pitch to Post Review show, the panel analyse Manchester United's performances against big six sides this season, and whether the approach works.

Since football restarted in June, Solskjaer's side have played seven Premier League games against the traditional top six, drawing five times and losing twice. They've scored just twice, and been involved in four goalless draws.

Solskjaer's record against the so-called big six before last March was credible, winning five, drawing four and losing four, but in recent months United have taken a more conservative approach to the big contests.

Jasper Taylor was joined by SkySports.com deputy football editor Kate Burlaga and senior football journalist Gerard Brand to discuss the trait, and ask whether Solskjaer's time playing under Sir Alex Ferguson may be influencing the approach.

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Does the Fergie way work now?

Handshakes and hugs: United have drawn 0-0 with Arsenal, Manchester City and Liverpool this season
Image: Handshakes and hugs: United have drawn 0-0 with Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester City and Liverpool this season

Gerard Brand on the Pitch to Post Review show:

"To say Man Utd haven't exactly gambled against the big sides this season would be an understatement. In all of those goalless draws, they seemed rather satisfied at full-time.

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"I actually think this is a legacy issue that Solskjaer is implementing from his days of playing under Sir Alex Ferguson, whether consciously or subconsciously. People talk about United under Ferguson being this all-conquering side, and they were, but against big teams away from home, they would always take a point.

"When Arsenal were their big rivals between 1997 and 2004, United only beat them three times in the Premier League in 14 games, and drew with them five times. Many would assume they beat them more times.

Fergie's Man Utd vs Arsenal in PL - 1997 to 2004

Played 14
Won 3
Drew 5
Lost 6

"Then there was Jose Mourinho; in the three years that Jose was Fergie's big rival with Chelsea between 2004 and 2007, United beat them once in six Premier League games, and drew twice.

Fergie's Man Utd vs Chelsea 2004 to 2007

Played 6
Won 1
Drew 2
Lost 3

"And then of course the game Fergie would always call their biggest, Liverpool away; since 2000 Fergie won there just five times in 13 games in the Premier League. He was cautious in big games, it was a case of getting out alive and it's something a lot of his ex-players have spoken about.

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Roy Keane says Arsenal were there for the taking and that Manchester United lacked the belief they could win the game.

"I think Solskjaer, whether consciously or subconsciously, may be implementing that attitude. But it doesn't work these days for two big reasons. Manchester United now have up to seven big opponents a season, not two or three, and because back then the rest of the Premier League were a lot more beatable than they are now. The middle-ground of the Premier League is much, much stronger.

"We spoke after the first five or six weeks about how manic this season was in terms of goals - it was 6-1 here, 7-2 there, and not a goalless draw in sight. However, we're now below the goals per game level of last season at around 2.7, which is lower than the season before at 2.82. So it's all gone very ordinary again, and United are contributing with their incessant 0-0s in big games!"

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Do United lack that ruthless, cutting edge?

January 27, 2021, Manchester, United Kingdom: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer manager of Manchester United during the Premier League match at Old Trafford, Manchester. Picture date: 27th January 2021. Picture credit should read: Simon Bellis/Sportimage(Credit Image: © Simon Bellis/CSM via ZUMA Wire) (Cal Sport Media via AP Images)
Image: Solskjaer's United haven't beaten a top-six side in the Premier League since March

Kate Burlaga on the Pitch to Post Review show:

"If there's ever been a season to warn against the idea of recency bias, we've really seen it with Manchester United.

"They had a fair bit of praise after that goalless draw at Anfield, but it left me a bit underwhelmed. It was only late on that they showed any real intent, and this was against an injury-hit side that had spurned chances and opened the door for them.

"I had the same feeling against Arsenal on Saturday. I understand what Jamie Carragher and Roy Keane meant, questioning whether they truly believe they are contenders, that ruthless streak to smell the opportunity to land a blow, to consistently show that cutting edge.

"It's still not quite there. I think they are still too reliant on individual moments, in contrast to City where those moments don't just come from individual quality but also from the system, the machine.

"Sure, the result against Sheffield United can happen, even if Man Utd's intensity was alarming in that game, but I think this Arsenal game was a reminder of perhaps the natural order, regression to the mean.

"Improvements, certainly but still they are a side in development when it comes to being contenders for the long haul in my book."

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Keane: United look frightened of title challenge

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Roy Keane says Arsenal were there for the taking and that Manchester United lacked the belief they could win the game.

Roy Keane criticised Manchester United's desire after their draw at Arsenal saw them lose ground to Premier League leaders Manchester City.

"I'm scratching my head with United. The worry for me watching them today, they almost lacked the belief they could go and win the game," Keane told Sky Sports on Saturday Night Football.

"It's Man Utd, you're looking at Arsenal who are missing a few players, the game was there for the taking.

"Overall their performance lacked that intensity. There was a real lack of quality today from Man Utd, and a real lack of conviction and desire to go and take the game to Arsenal. And Arsenal certainly deserved their draw, at least.

"Where they were the last few months, they were getting the plaudits and they were just kind of sneaking up the table. But they got in the habit of winning football matches, even if they weren't playing great.

"But all of a sudden, the last three or four weeks, when they've got to the top, people are saying 'can you win the league, can you compete with Man City?'. And it looks as if the players have got almost frightened of the challenge, 'I don't think we're ready for that yet'.

"But today I'm scratching my head at this team. You play for Man Utd, and Ole keeps talking about these players, saying 'they're winners, they're winners'. Well come on, then. Show us. It is Man Utd. You signed to win football matches, to win big prizes."

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