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Five issues Ole Gunnar Solskjaer must solve during Manchester United winter break – Manchester Evening News, Manchestereveningnews.co.uk

Five issues Ole Gunnar Solskjaer must solve during Manchester United winter break – Manchester Evening News, Manchestereveningnews.co.uk

After the dour draw with Wolves on Saturday Ole Gunnar Solskjaer sounded like he and his squad were ready for a break.

Manchester United have no game for 10 days, with the Premier League’s first ever winter break allowing them a prolonged period to recharge the batteries, with the fact United played on Saturday and don’t return until a Monday night also in their favor .

Solskjaer stressed how tired his players were after failing to find the inspiration to break Wolves down and it’s a familiar refrain from top flight bosses at the moment, with a hectic schedule from mid-November Taking it out of the players.

United will use the down time to give players a break as well as taking in a training camp in Spain, where Solskjaer will hope to fix a few issues that require some work in his squad.

Between now and a return to action at Stamford Bridge, these are the biggest issues facin g Solskjaer and United .

Find the perfect role for Fernandes

The stalemate with Wolves was at least notable for an encouraging debut from Bruno Fernandes . United fans had waited a long time to see the Portuguese midfielder, who had been strongly linked with a switch to Old Trafford in the summer.

Fernandes has posted some eye-catching stats with Sporting Lisbon from an advanced midfield role, but he brings versatility as well, as witnessed by the fact he played a half against Wolves in the No. 16 role and then dropped back alongside Fred after the break.

That versatility is a weapon but it will make Fernandes’ assimilation to the Premier League easier if he is given the chance to settle into the side in one position.

The injuries to Scott McTominay and Paul Pogba have given Solskjaer a dilemma in midfield, but he needs to settle on a system that gives Fernandes a defined role, starting at Stamford Bridge.

Work with the full-backs

Another positive for United in recent weeks has been the form of the defense, with the shutout against Wolves a fourth clean sheet in six games and the partnership between Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelof is looking better than at any other point this season.

But United still need more from their full-backs in an attacking sense. Solskjaer’s side have now failed to score in three of their previous five games, with a Nemanja Matic stunner at the Etihad and a fill-your-boots kind of afternoon at Prenton Park in between.

Aaron Wan-Bissaka still has work to do on his attacking game

Fernandes should help solve the problem of a lack of creativity in midfield, but nearly every successful modern side has a dynamic threat from their full-backs, something United are still working on.

Aaron Wan-Bissaka has improved as an attacking threat during his first season at Old Trafford, but he still has plenty of room for development in the final third, while Luke Shaw can offer more from the left as well.

Rest up

United’s general fitness is an issue that can be worked on in the summer but for now the The biggest issue is getting some rest into the legs of some players and nursing others back to fitness.

Given Solskjaer’s continually sketchy updates on Pogba who knows when the World Cup winner will be seen again, but the Norwegian could certainly do with getting McTominay back as an option in midfield.

Further forward Daniel James and Anthony Martial have both looked in desperate need of a breather recently and this break might have come at a good time for them.

Get Ighalo fit

The deadline day acquisition of Odion Ighalo will go down as one of the more bizarre deals in United’s history. He is at least a Premier League goalscorer and an option in an area of ​​the pitch where United are depleted thanks to Marcus Rashford’s injury.

Ighalo only jetted in from China over the weekend and he hasn ‘t played since mid-December, so will need to use this break as a mini pre-season to get himself up to speed.

The Nigerian is fulfilling a dream he thought had passed him by, having been a boyhood United fan, and he has around three months to make an impact at the club.

Ighalo will put the work in during the break to be fit to face Chelsea on February 17 and Solskjaer will be desperate to have him in the squad immediately.

Plan for the summer

The late loan signing of Ighalo was a sign of how desperate United became during the winter transfer window, but it was a case of needs must for Solskjaer in getting a forward into the club.

The permanent signing of Fernandes was a much better deal but now the planning must start for the summer , when the United rebuild has to gather pace.

This squad is still several additions short of top four quality at least and that is an issue that must be solved before the start of next season. Now the winter window has closed planning should begin in earnest on summer targets, especially as United have rarely proved an efficient recruiting machine when it comes to signing new players recently.

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