Ole Gunnar Solskjaer must feel like he’s trying to fix a leaking dam with Sellotape at Manchester United right now – no sooner has he solved one problem does another arise.
The Norwegian tactician was just a perfectly-executed hair transplant away from performing an excellent Antonio Conte impersonation on Saturday evening.
Having endured nearly a week of torment in the wake of his side’s abysmal showing against old foes Liverpool – with former Chelsea boss Conte understood to have lodged his interest in the United manager role – Solskjaer came out swinging at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium and adopted the three-at-the-back formation that’s brought the man waiting to take his job so much success over the years.
While United fans are busy revelling in the joy of finally having found a system that accommodates both Edinson Cavani and Cristiano Ronaldo as well as shoring up a midfield that’s been as leaky as the aforementioned dam this season, it just wouldn’t be modern-day United without a pinch of misery to sprinkle over our happiness.
And that segues me nicely into the question: what are we going to do about all the world-class wingers in the squad?
Pacey wide players who can get fans on the edge of their seats are part of the DNA of our club, yet if Solskjaer persists with a 3-5-2 formation it’s difficult to see how he finds room for any of them in his starting XI.
Of course, one way the United boss could shoehorn the likes of Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford into his squad is by slotting them in at wing-back, but if he does that he might as well change his name Ole Gunnar Copy Whatever Conte Does – seriously if he rocks up at Carrington with a new barnet and starts calling the Premier League “Barclays” it’s genuinely happening.
Solskjaer’s switch in formation has the potential to impact a whole host of United’s most talented players.
Sancho, Rashford and Jesse Lingard could well find themselves kicking their heels on the United bench, while the United boss’ tendency to deploy Anthony Martial and Mason Greenwood on the wing means they too could suffer.
There’s also the issue of Paul Pogba. The World Cup winner has occasionally been played as a left-winger during his second spell at the club and he’s unlikely to replace Bruno Fernandes in the midfield three, meaning he too could become surplus to requirements given Solskjaer’s preference for two holding midfielders alongside Fernandes.
The six aforementioned players hold a combined worth of £307.8 million (as per transfermarkt). No sooner has Solskjaer discovered a formation he believes can bring the best out of his squad has he stumbled across an even bigger problem.
Any side hoping to be successful needs to have options all over the pitch and so keeping players happy when they’re not featuring regularly is just part and parcel of the management game. However, switching to a formation that doesn’t accommodate some of the best players in your squad is a whole different ball game.
Solskjaer needs to weigh up the pros and cons of moving away from a system his side performed so well in against Tottenham just so he can facilitate the likes of Pogba and Sancho.
In a weird way, his side’s win at the weekend has almost made his job even harder.
Do you think 3-5-2 is the way forward for United? Follow United On My Mind content editor Ross Jackson on Twitter and let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.