Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has been forced to defend his team selections after a run of three defeats in their last four games in all competitions
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- 15:46, 28 Sep 2021
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has doubled down on his belief that a midfield axis of Fred and Scott McTominay can breed success at Manchester United.
After three defeats in four games, the pressure has intensified on the Norwegian, who desperately needs a result against Villarreal in the Champions League.
The Red Devils lost the opening game of their European campaign, falling to a shock 2-1 defeat by Young Boys.
But Unai Emery’s Villarreal side will offer a steep challenge to United, just months removed from their Europa League final clash.
On that occasion, the Spaniards stifled Solskjaer’s men, ultimately winning on penalties and ensuring the club’s trophy drought went on.
Manchester United come up against the side that beat them in last season's Europa League final
Mateus Slodkowski/DeFodi Images via Getty Images)
In Gdansk, the United boss opted to start Fred and McTominay and it appears likely he will do the same again on Wednesday night.
The summer signing of central defender Raphael Varane left many supporters of the belief that Solskjaer would no longer need two holding midfielders.
And with attacking talents like Jadon Sancho, Cristiano Ronaldo, Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood to fit in, removing a more defensive minded player from the lineup appeared likely.
But the two remain mainstays in the United XI, with Solskjaer defending their performances in the recent home defeat to Aston Villa.
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"First of all the stats for them two together we have had many good results,” he said in his pre-match press conference. "The way we broke-up play against Villa I think they are very instrumental together.
“The energy and desire. I really like to have the two of them. I can trust them to give us what they've got.
"Fans will always have opinions, it is easy to say who should be playing."
His defiance stands in the face of criticism from pundits, with Gary Neville previously suggesting Solskjaer needs to name a side with more balance.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has defended playing Scott McTominay and Fred together in midfield
Former Chelsea striker Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink went as far to suggest that playing both Fred and McTominay went against the ‘Manchester United way’.
“Long term you cannot have Fred and McTominay in your team to become champions or to challenge for the championship,” he said last year.
“For now maybe the games that he needs to defend the back four a bit better to give them stability but long-term? That’s not the Manchester United way.”
Man Utd have been linked with England midfielders Declan Rice and Kalvin Phillips
And despite his insistence that the duo are the long term answer in midfield, a look at the players that have been mooted as potential targets, says different.
A report from the Independent claims that Solskjaer is fully aware that a world class holding midfielder is the 'final piece' in his Man United jigsaw.
West Ham ’s Declan Rice has been perennially linked, while his England partner Kalvin Phillips is the latest name touted with a move.
Borussia Dortmund’s Jude Bellingham also remains on the Old Trafford radar, having missed out on him when he left Birmingham City.
‘McFred’ may be here to stay for the next few months, but Solskjaer’s desperation for a standout player in the middle of the park hints at his real intentions.
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Comment MORE ON Unai EmeryCristiano RonaldoGary NevilleRaphael VaraneJimmy Floyd HasselbainkMarcus RashfordOle Gunnar SolskjaerEuropa League finalChampions LeagueManchester United FC
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