Ole Gunnar Solskjaer joined calls for the Premier League to allow five substitutions to be made this season but even in competitions where that is permitted he doesn’t take full advantage.
It’s rather ironic that a player synonymous with success when coming off the bench as a player often seems to struggle when it comes to making substitutions as a manager.
The most iconic moments of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s playing career came in games that he started on the bench: the four-goal haul against Nottingham Forest, his late FA Cup winner vs Liverpool, that night in Barcelona.
Yet it seems the Manchester United manager is still unaware of how best to utilise his squad depth.
In the midweek win over West Ham it was baffling to see Solskjaer leave his changes until so late in the game. The midfield set-up was wrong from the get-go, yet it took him 73 minutes to change it when Nemanja Matic and Donny van de Beek were finally replaced by Scott McTominay and Bruno Fernandes respectively. Edinson Cavani wasn’t introduced until the 86th minute despite United clearly lacking a focal point in attack without him.
Last season there was genuine sympathy for Solskjaer and his substitution struggles, with the manager clearly lacking faith in his bench options to actually come on and change the game. Juan Mata, Daniel James and Timothy Fosu-Mensah were reluctant introductions in the Europa League semi-final defeat to Sevilla last summer, all coming on in the final three minutes of normal time before Odion Ighalo was intrdocued in stoppage time.
However, United bolstered their first-team squad during last summer’s window yet many of the same problems persist.
United’s final Champions League group game against RB Leizpig saw Axel Tuanzebe and Fosu-Mensah brought on as they searched for an unlikely route back into the match, while against Sheffield United earlier this month Solskjaer brought off the impressive Greenwood, instead persisting with the confidence-stricken Anthony Martial.
It was frustratingly apparent during the weekend draw with Everton too. The United manager brought Tuanzebe on for Greenwood in the final minutes of the game rather than the more sensible addition of Nemanja Matic as they protected a delicate 3-2 lead. Everton went on to score two minutes later following a needless foul from the substitute defender.