12:24 PM ET.
West Bromwich, England – It took 83 seconds to show why Ole Gunnar Solskjaer wants – and needs – a new forward for Manchester United.
Conor Gallagher’s cross from the right allowed Mbaye Diagne to get past Victor Lindelof and goalkeeper David De Gea. De Gea comes on and Diana passes Lindelof, but it’s a surprisingly easy chance for West Brom, the Premier League’s lowest scorer, to trouble the Manchester United defence.
It was the 31st goal against by a Solskjaer team in the league this season, good for 12th in this category. The Hawthorns played out a 1-1 draw on Sunday, while United have lost nine points in their last five games.
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We knew from the beginning that this would happen. We knew they would put pressure on us and give us a push, Solskjaer said. They brought a cross and [Diana] finished well. We need to play better, but we’re off to a rough start. You have 90 minutes to make up for it, but we didn’t create that momentum until the end of the first half.
Solskjaer likes them a lot – especially their stamina when it comes to losing positions again and again, but not their penchant for defending, as if they want to make every game as difficult as possible.
Since the start of the year they have been trailing Sheffield United, Everton and West Brom, giving Manchester City a seven point lead. If City continue with their showdown and already record 16 wins in a row, Solskjaer will have to quickly look at how to close the gap.
He may be encouraged by the fact that United have made the necessary progress, even briefly climbing to the top of the league table in January, and have one of the most effective attacking midfielders in Europe in the person of Bruno Fernandes, who scored a spectacular goal late in the first half. But they will have to find a solution so the wait for the title ends under Solsky’s leadership. The goals against suggest that the central defence is an area for improvement.
Solskjaer has invested heavily in Harry Maguire and has already named him as captain, but when it comes to who his long-term partner should be, this is not the day Lindelof has done much to help his cause. The Swedish international may have felt spared by Djan on West Brom’s opening goal, but he should have been stronger and the striker borrowed from Galatasaray was the only one who seemed determined to accept a cross from Gallagher.
Lindelof battled Dian for 90 minutes and after he was penalised at half-time for a clumsy foul, Solskjaer ran to the edge of his technical area to reprimand him: Victor, think! It could have been worse for Lindelof, as he couldn’t keep up with Dian, who was able to receive a cross from Conor Townsend, but not force it.
Man United need a better partner in Harry Maguire if they really want to compete for first place. Nick Potts – Pool/Getty Images.
In the end, Solskjaer felt that United should have won – especially after Sam Johnstone beautifully headed Maguire’s header against the post – but instead they paid a heavy price on an unfortunate moment with just two minutes left to play. But the victory that put Maine City in pole position for the title was based on a defense that gave up just two league goals in 2021. Pep Guardiola benefited from an investment in Ruben Diaz in the summer, and Solskjaer is expected to feel the same way.
I didn’t think we created enough chances to score goals, Solskjaer said.
We went by the side, but maybe a flank or a position or no movement. We didn’t have any big moments where you thought it should have been a goal, even though the ball was in the final third the whole time. That’s certainly disappointing. We have two points less than we wanted. It was a rough start.
Man City can extend its lead over United to 10 points if it manages to beat Everton at Goodison Park on Wednesday. Solskjaer is not ready to give up the title just yet, but the truth is that next season could offer better opportunities if the right players can be married, including the new central defender who arrived this summer.
It’s a compliment to the guys that we are in the position we are in now, the Norwegian said. We’re not going to let [Manchester City] get away with this… we’ll be facing them soon. We don’t give it away prematurely, no, we don’t.
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