Solskjaer admits work to be done for Man United to reach the top

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A tough night for Ole and Manchester United at the Camp Nou.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer admitted “the next few years are going to be massive” for Manchester United as they seek to reestablish themselves among the European elite.

United were comprehensively outclassed at the Nou Camp as they crashed out of the Champions League at the quarter-final stage, with Barcelona‘s 3-0 win on the night sealing a 4-0 aggregate triumph.

Lionel Messi’s first-half double – the first a trademark finish, the second courtesy of a blunder from David De Gea – plus Philippe Coutinho’s 61st-minute wonder goal gave a stark reminder of the difference between the two sides.

Solskjaer will now turn his attention to the domestic front, where United will vie for a top-four spot in the Premier League, but the Norwegian knows he faces a major rebuilding job this summer and beyond.

He said: “We did well to get here and you could see the difference between the two teams.

“We know there’s work to be done. I’ve said all along this isn’t going to change overnight and the next few years are going to be massive for us to get to the level where Barcelona and other teams are at the moment.

“We have to look at ourselves, we know we have a job to do and we are getting on with it.

“We need to get the best out of each other, create an environment of top, top, top-class attitude, world-class attitude every single day. Because we’ve got good players and I’ve got good players to work with.

“We’ve done really, really well to get to the quarters and challenge for the top four.

Messi struck twice for Barca in the first-half.

Messi struck twice for Barca in the first-half.

“So we’ve got a rebuilding job but it starts with the coaches and players, and of course one or two additions to the squad will happen in the summer.”

Following last week’s 1-0 defeat at Old Trafford, United knew they needed to score against a side who, coming into Tuesday night, had not lost in their last 30 matches at home in the Champions League.

Solskjaer felt United needed to display a fearless and attacking mindset in the intimidating atmosphere, similar to the one that saw them overturn a two-goal deficit at Paris St Germain in the last 16 last month.

They made an enterprising start as Marcus Rashford struck the top of the crossbar in the first few seconds but were thoroughly second best after five-time Ballon d’Or winner Messi opened the scoring after 16 minutes.

Dispossessing Ashley Young on the flank, Messi cut inside and curled beyond De Gea, who four minutes later allowed the Barcelona captain’s tame right-foot effort to slide under him.

That effectively ended the contest – while Coutinho added gloss to the scoreline with a superb strike from distance after the interval – though Solskjaer was understandably reticent to criticise a goalkeeper who has so often come to United’s aid in recent years.

Solskjaer said: “That’s unfortunate with goalkeepers. When you make an error, it can get highlighted and that’ll be remembered.

“But he made some fantastic saves as well, which all in all, his contribution to the team is good but sometimes that happens in football.

“The quality of their finishing was absolutely outstanding. We started well in the first 15 minutes, we felt we’ve got something here and then in four minutes they scored two goals.

“The attitude was right, we were fighting against a good team and good players out there.

“Messi is an exceptional talent, him and Cristiano (Ronaldo) have been the best players in the world in the last decade.

“He showed why we all think that and why he’s won so many titles and why this team have won so many Champions Leagues (four since 2006).

“You can prepare as much as you like, if you give him space and time around the goal he’ll create and score goals, he’s a fantastic player.”

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How Ernesto Valverde helped Barcelona take advantage of an error-prone Man United side

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Individual errors and some quite simply brilliant play from Lionel Messi ended Manchester United‘s Champions League dreams as Barcelona enjoyed a convincing 3-0 win at the Camp Nou on Tuesday night.

Messi got the breakthrough in the 16th minute to put his side firmly in the driving seat of the quarter-final second leg before a howler from David De Gea handed him a second four minutes later.

Philippe Coutinho’s effort from range on the hour mark sealed progress to the semi-finals for the Catalans with a 4-0 aggregate score.

Here, we analyse Ernesto Valverde’s tactical input.

BASIC STATS

Goals – 3

Shots – 13

Shots on target – 6

Goals conceded – 0

Possession – 66%

Dribbles – 14

Tackles – 16

TACTICAL TALKING POINT

Busquets role

With Messi in the form that he was in on the night, it’s only natural that he would take all the plaudits. Whatever spotlight remains would undoubtedly be fixated on United’s glaring individual errors and general lack of quality. Spare a thought for Sergio Busquets though who almost single-handedly got Barca to settle down after a shaky start.

The experienced holding midfielder was made to sit a lot deeper after United’s early pressing and threat in the transition. He did that expertly, slotting in between the two centre-backs and helping Barca play their way out of danger. As the game wore on, that became a position of strength for the hosts. The Spaniard was critical to their build-up play, often leaving United’s forwards chasing shadows.

GOT RIGHT

Targeting United’s right side

As Barcelona increasingly gained control of the game, they started to target the right side of United’s defence, a ploy that was particularly noticeable after half-time. Especially after winning possession, their immediate passes were directed at finding either Coutinho or Jordi Alba. The duo threatened on a couple of occasions before linking up for Barca’s third.

VERDICT

Valverde did what has come to be expected of him. His 4-4-2 system is tailor-made for Messi to run the show and run the show he did. The tactician must be credited for the subtle tweaks he is known to make during games which help his side along their way. Has to be said that he benefited hugely from United’s own errors though, ultimately making things rather simple for him.

Rating 7/10

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Analysis of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's Man United tactics after 3-0 defeat to Barcelona

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Individual errors and some quite simply brilliant play from Lionel Messi ended Manchester United‘s Champions League dreams as Barcelona enjoyed a convincing 3-0 win at the Camp Nou on Tuesday night.

Messi got the breakthrough in the 16th minute to put his side firmly in the driving seat of the quarter-final second leg before a howler from David De Gea handed him a second four minutes later.

Philippe Coutinho’s effort from range on the hour mark sealed progress to the semi-finals for the Catalans with a 4-0 aggregate score.

Here, we analyse Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s tactical input.

BASIC STATS

Goals – 0

Shots – 9

Shots on target – 3

Goals conceded – 3

Possession – 34%

Dribbles – 4

Tackles – 17

TACTICAL TALKING POINT

Diamond system

United needed to maintain a compact shape away to Barcelona but they also had to pose a threat in attack. Solskjaer had the right idea when he adopted a 4-4-2 diamond system and for the opening 10 minutes or so, Barcelona were second best.

The Catalans struggled to cope with the pace of Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial up front while Scott McTominay and Fred had started well, giving United’s midfield plenty of mobility.

After Messi took control – aided by a self-destructive streak from United – Barca settled nicely and began to stretch the away side at will, exposing the narrow back-line.

GOT RIGHT

Changes

Apart from his initial set-up, Solskjaer made the right call when he changed it entirely early in the second half after Coutinho’s strike put the game firmly beyond United’s reach. He went into damage-limitation mode, switching to a back five and under the circumstances, it was perfectly understandable.

The Norwegian didn’t get carried away by ludicrous hopes of a miraculous four-goal recovery. Even Sir Alex Ferguson was guilty of such misguided thoughts in the past. On one occasion it led to a 6-1 thumping in the Manchester derby at Old Trafford. Solskjaer at least spared United’s fans further humiliation.

GOT WRONG

Team selection

There was little wrong with Solskjaer’s set-up but perhaps he put a little too much faith in a couple of players, failing to appreciate their limitations. Ashley Young shouldn’t be a United player anymore, let alone starting the Champions League quarter-final away to Barcelona at left-back while sporting the captain’s armband. Diogo Dalot may have been a better option with Luke Shaw suspended.

But that still leaves Victor Lindelof playing at right-back. So there’s not too much for Solskjaer to work with. Four of United’s back five started in Basel when they were knocked out of the group stages in 2011. Eight years on, it’s farcical that the defensive personnel hasn’t been significantly improved. That speaks volumes of the task the United boss has on his hands.

VERDICT

It’s hard to point fingers at Solskjaer, even after such a resounding defeat. You can’t fault the system he went with although there were one or two question marks over his team selection. Individual errors ultimately cost United. What else could Solskjaer have done? Have better players, maybe?

Rating 5/10

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