Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has discussed his desire to have ‘complete’ midfielders in his side, while admitting he doesn’t have a particular ‘overarching philosophy’.
Manchester United are thought to be in the market for midfield improvements in next summer’s transfer market, with central midfield appearing to be one of the weakest area’s of Solskjaer’s side.
United have an abundance of players in their ranks who are capable of playing in a central role – including Paul Pogba, Donny van de Beek, Scott McTominay, Fred and Nemanja Matic – though none seem particularly suited to role of holding midfielder, such as Man City’s Fernandinho, Chelsea’s N’Golo Kante or Liverpool’s Fabinho.
The efficient yet underwhelming ‘McFred’ partnership was Solskjaer’s preferred pairing for most of last season, with Paul Pogba often shunted into more wide areas – the Frenchman not exactly renowned for being a master of the defensive side of the game despite all his attacking talents.
During the 2-1 loss to Young Boys in midweek, the Norwegian opted to try Van de Beek alongside Fred, though the Dutchman didn’t really make the most of his rare opportunity and was hooked at half-time to facilitate a change of formation.
Asked about what he is actually looking for in his midfield, Solskjaer said he wasn’t after a player to play a specific role, but more of a ‘complete’ player akin to some of Man Utd’s former greats.
“I’m not here to explain every single detail of how I want my team to play,” he said at his pre-match press conference. “We want a central midfielder who can play. Today’s football is about he’s a good 6, 8, 10. Back in the day you had proper midfielders, Roy Keane, Paul Scholes, Bryan Robson.
“You see players out there who can attack and defend and that’s what we look for, midfielders who are complete and we try to develop that in our midfield.
“It’s a balance between with how many you commit forward and how you defend because one little mistake and there’s a counter-attack towards you.”
While Pep Guardiola famously sticks to his relentless possession-based brand of football, and Jurgen Klopp is a student of the high-energy Gegenpress style of play, Solskjaer’s Man Utd are yet to nail down a particular way of playing, though the Norwegian believes that matches can be won in many different ways, with desire, teamwork and good decision-making being key.
“Overarching philosophy? I don’t sit here and claim and talk,” he said. “Football is a simple game and it’s about making good decisions and being in a team.
“Sometimes we look too much into the all intricacies and it’s passion, it’s desire – who wants to win the ball? Which one of the strikers has the desire to get on the end of crosses?
“You can talk about all sorts, it looks nice on paper. But when you go out on that pitch, it’s who wants to win, that’s one of the big things. You want winners and I think I’m getting there with my team, team players.”