Solskjaer needs to solve midfield puzzle

Manchester United
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer happy with the win but not the performance.

Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer needs to make signing a midfielder his priority when the January transfer window opens.

United have seen plenty of players depart over the past 12 months but have failed to reinforce and look light in the engine room.

Ander Herrera and Marouane Fellaini have been moved on since Solskjaer succeeded Jose Mourinho in December 2018 and they have looked desperately short in the opening stages of 2019-20.

He has elected to send his men out in a 4-2-3-1 formation in their opening four Premier League games to differing measures of success, having won one, lost one and drawn two.

Paul Pogba and Scott McTominay have been deployed in the two holding positions, with a few different candidates trusted to play in the three just behind striker Marcus Rashford.

McTominay is looking more and more like the player that Mourinho hoped he would be when handing out a senior debut in 2017, but Pogba’s performances have been a bit of a mixed bag.

It’s still unclear whether he is fully committed to the club after previously suggesting that he would like a “new challenge” but, for the meantime, Solskjaer is willing to stand by the World Cup winner.

Nemanja Matic appears to have fallen down the pecking order and has made just one appearance from the bench this season, while Fred has been completely frozen out.

Andreas Pereira looks to be still finding his feet in the Premier League and time is running out for the Brazil international to prove his worth.

It leaves Solskjaer struggling in terms of depth if either Pogba or McTominay pick up any long-term injuries – a situation that should be regarded as a concern to their hopes of returning to the top four.

The midfield has been a problem for a succession of managers at the club and Solskjaer finally needs to address it.

Plenty of options have been linked with the club – Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, Sean Longstaff and Declan Rice – but United failed to make an official bid for any of them over the summer.

Solskjaer felt other areas needed reinforcing and put all of his efforts into signing Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Harry Maguire and Daniel James.

In fairness, that trio has had a big impact already and Solskjaer’s considered approach, compared to the scatter-gun tactics employed by Mourinho, Louis van Gaal and David Moyes, deserves credit.

The latest reports coming out of Old Trafford claim the board are willing to stump up the cash to bring in a midfielder in January – and that could be the final piece of the puzzle.

Mid-season business is always tricky due to a plethora of factors and United will likely have to pay over the odds for any deal to get over the line.

But, in the grand scheme of things, United are one of the wealthiest clubs on the planet and some would say their fans, who became accustomed to challenging for the Premier League title on a regular basis, have suffered for too long.