Manchester United play Leicester City in the Premier League today in a repeat of a fixture which led to an awkward on-pitch moment between Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Cristiano Ronaldo
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Manchester United face Leicester City in the Premier League on Saturday evening for the first time since a particularly galling defeat in the closing stages of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s reign.
There were many low moments in the final few weeks of Solskjaer’s spell as United manager. The 5-0 thrashing at Old Trafford by Liverpool, the most one-sided 2-0 defeat ever seen by Manchester City in the same stadium, and the final nail in the coffin: a completely inept 4-1 thrashing at the hands of Watford.
But before those memorable defeats came another. United travelled to the King Power Stadium on October 16, 2021 with a stunning away record. Solskjaer had put together an English league record 29-game unbeaten run on the road. Yet that record was doing little to cover up the cracks appearing in the team.
Leicester ruthlessly exposed them, scoring three late goals to complete a 4-2 win and bring United’s away run to an abrupt halt. It was a particularly jarring day for Harry Maguire, who returned to his old club, put in a shaky performance and was ruthlessly taunted from the stands all afternoon.
Despite putting in a display riddled with personal errors and being outplayed all afternoon, Solskjaer’s side could have taken a point back to Manchester with them and maintained their historic run. Marcus Rashford came off the bench to equalise in the 82nd minute, but the way United surrendered after that told of a dysfunctional team.
Leicester re-took the lead straight from kick-off to make it 3-2 and added another goal later on to put a deserved exclamation mark on proceedings. There was further embarrassment to come after the final whistle, too.
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United’s disconsolate players were eager to get off the pitch and lick their wounds in the dressing room, but according to the Manchester Evening News, Solskjaer insisted they stay on the pitch and clap the away fans. Cristiano Ronaldo was said to appear particularly reluctant after playing the full 90 minutes of the game.
United’s apologetic Norwegian manager received a warm applause from the United supporters, but it was an awkward moment which hinted at the further problems that were to come over the next month. In his post-match press conference, Solskjaer was forced to defend his players and deny they had an attitude problem.
“We’ve been really good at showing our character when we needed it,” he said. “These boys have [been] coming out fighting. The attitude has always been good. We need to stick together. In training they want to do better. Today we weren’t capable of it.”
But he was fooling no-one. The game had been indicative of deep-set problems at the club – problems Paul Pogba alluded to in his post-match interview. “We have been having these kind of games for a long time,” said Pogba. “We have not found the problem, conceding easy goals, stupid goals. We need to be more mature, play with more experience and arrogance in a good way. We need to find something, we need to change.”
It may have taken a further month and another three one-sided thrashings, but change did indeed come. Solskjaer is now long gone but United are still grappling with many of the same problems as they host the Foxes on Saturday.