Manchester United are entering a tough run of fixtures without both of their main centre-backs, leaving a concerning weakness in the heart of Solskjaer’s team he must address
Manchester United and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer have had a mixed start to the season.
A string of uninspiring performances where the Red Devils have looked poor and without a plan are almost balanced out by their reassuring league position just two points off the top.
However, the performances do not bode well and came during a relatively easy spell of fixtures with a full strength squad.
United talisman and captain, Harry Maguire is out with an injury and is still yet to train.
Speaking to United Daily, he said: “Yeah it’s getting there.
“I still haven’t trained yet with the squad, but I am getting better, I am progressing as I should be.
“It is obviously a frustrating injury for me to get, but I am progressing and I will be back on the pitch soon.”
Without their leader, United have often struggled to build from the back and have been notably weaker through the spine of the team.
To make matters worse for Solskjaer, Maguire’s partner at the back and new signing Raphael Varane has been ruled out for a few weeks with a groin injury too.
The World Cup winning Frenchman had settled in well to United’s back four, immediately cementing his place.
But now, amidst an injury crisis that has struck the first team, Solskjaer is faced with a glaring weakness in his United team.
In the place of a World Cup winner and their captain, United will likely be forced to turn to a defensive pairing that have barely lined up together.
Victor Lindelof and Eric Bailly look likely to be the centre-back pairing for Saturday’s game against Leicester City.
However, despite having been at Old Trafford for a full nine seasons together, they have only lined up alongside each other 28 times – an average of seven games a season.
Several of these have also been when one or the other has been introduced off the bench. They have only played a full game together on 12 occasions.
Some notable defeats the pair have overseen include the Europa final defeat to Villarreal and this season’s disappointing Carabao Cup loss to West Ham.
To put that in perspective, Maguire, who has been at Old Trafford for a little over two years, has partnered with Lindelof 85 times.
Whilst Varane and Maguire have proven you do not necessarily need a lot of game time together to gel, it will be the quality of the upcoming opponents which should worry Solskjaer.
Up against the likes of Mohamed Salah, Jamie Vardy, and Phil Foden, United’s stand in centre-backs may not be able to stand up to the test.
With both his first-choice centre-backs out, Solskjaer needs to act to prevent this tough run of fixtures taking too heavy a toll on his team’s season.