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Man Utd are a mess: How long before the Solskjaer experiment is called off?

1:53 PM EDT 10/6/19
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer Manchester United 2019-20
Sunday's dismal 1-0 defeat at relegation-threatened Newcastle means the Red Devils have now gone 11 games without a victory away from home

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was desperately trying to convey his message to Fred.

Manchester United had a corner but the manager was not concerned with what might be at the attacking end.

Instead, he was preoccupied with how his team might fight against any counterattack coming the other way.

He wrapped his hands around his mouth and roared towards his Brazilian midfielder, and then forlornly to Marcos Rojo. The shape wasn’t right and he knew it.

If Newcastle could clear the corner, then there would be trouble. He needed Fred back a touch to close any prospective gap. But his efforts were in vain. Fred got the message too late; United were done for.

Into the space galloped Allan Saint-Maximin, the source of most of United’s misery on what was indeed a miserable afternoon in Newcastle. The Frenchman had the awareness of mind to feed Jetro Willems outside him.

From there, the ball was nudged to Matty Longstaff and, from there, dreams came true.

In a flash, we were delivered clear evidence of how Solskjaer is failing to get his players to do what he wants.

The price they paid here was heavy; the blow, fatal.

United spent the summer chasing the signing of Newcastle midfielder Sean Longstaff and were undone by his brother, Matty, on his Premier League debut, a 19-year-old who could also have scored in the first half with a dipping strike which ultimately ended up on the crossbar.

And it’s not like Newcastle are anything to be feared. There was an argument before kick-off that Solskjaer was not even the most crisis-ridden disciple of Sir Alex Ferguson managing in the Premier League.

That dubious honour might well have belonged to Steve Bruce in the dugout opposite. Beaten 5-0 by Leicester last week, Newcastle were languishing in the nether reaches of the league table.

Moreover, in 22 previous attempts as manager, Bruce had never once beaten his former club. If ever there was a day for Solskjaer’s team to come good, it was here and now.

Again, they failed.

There was barely anything positive to be gleaned from their play. It was a mess.

Their most prominent attacking player these days is Daniel James but he struggles unless he’s got space to counter into; the kind of space United left to Saint-Maximin for Longstaff’s winning goal.

Marcus Rashford was again a non-entity. His opposite number in the Newcastle ranks, Joelinton, finished with more touches by the end of the game despite being replaced in the 55th minute.

Solskjaer has no idea of how to get players closer to Rashford and help him make combinations. The England man looks a lost soul out there.

Behind him, ostensibly, was Juan Mata. Solskjaer spent an age in the first half trying to coax the World Cup winner towards the right-hand side of the attack in order to receive the ball to feet.

Nothing worked and he was replaced by Mason Greenwood, a teenager with more than his fair share of expectation on his young shoulders already.

The manager had previously asked Axel Tuanzebe to play his passes into the midfield instead of to the left or right. Every time the defender found Harry Maguire or Diogo Dalot with one, Solskjaer would plead for the next one to go forward.

Either Tuanzebe can’t or won’t do it. And so a potential supply line was fractured before it was ever up and running.

It was like this all over the pitch; dropped connections, players misreading each other’s intentions, players standing still and beckoning team-mates closer.

The one bright spot in the second half was the space found by Andreas Pereira in the left channel but even his two best deliveries weren’t met in the centre.

Their best route to goal looked to be a set-piece but their prime opportunity came and went at the end of the first half when Maguire nodded off target when the goal yawned like a chasm in front of him.

United were cursed to lose yet again away from home.

That’s 11 games on the road in all competitions without a victory, a catastrophic run of form stretching all the way back to that famous night in Paris last March.

What's more, they have taken only 17 points from the 18 league matches since beating Paris Saint-Germain at the Parc des Princes, the remarkable event which prompted the powers that be to offer Solskjaer the full-time job.

Today, he can point to the losses through injury of Paul Pogba, Anthony Martial, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Luke Shaw and Victor Lindelof. Any team would suffer with that number of players out.

But the problem is that United are suffering even when everyone is fit. And it’s Liverpool next.

How much more time will Solskjaer be permitted to arrest this slide before the experiment is called off?