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Manchester United’s Glut of Attackers Giving Ole Gunnar Solskjaer ‘Headaches’

© REUTERS / DENIS BALIBOUSESeptember 14, 2021 Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer before the match
September 14, 2021 Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer before the match - Sputnik International, 1920, 24.09.2021
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According to Manchester United manager, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, the squad might have too many attackers. With Edison Cavani now fit, Solskjaer admits, that his team selection for their Saturday showdown with Aston Villa is giving him “headaches.”
Manchester United has more attacking talent than they have available spots in their starting eleven. United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer now has five credible attackers in Cristiano Ronaldo, Edison Cavani, Jadon Sancho, Anthony Martial, and Mason Greenwood to pick from. He could always roll the dice and select all of them, a proposition only realistic in the virtual confines of a video game, but since the arrival of Cristiano Ronaldo, he has opted for a 4-2-3-1 formation.
Solskjaer has played Ronaldo at central forward, although he has the license to roam where he pleases, with three attacking midfielders behind him. Bruno Fernandes has occupied the central attacking midfielder role, while Mason Greenwood, Jadon Sancho, and Paul Pogba have split time playing as wide attacking mids. This set-up gives the trio the opportunity to play to their strengths: Sancho as a winger, Greenwood as a forward, and Pogba as a midfielder. But, it doesn’t offer any clear-cut tactical identity. However, the return of Edison Cavani presents Solskjaer with an interesting proposition.
Edison Cavani, even at an advanced age, remains one of the more versatile central forwards in the Premier League. The Uruguayan is a tactical swiss-army knife in attack. Need hold-up play? Link-up play? Runs? Aerial duels? Goals? Assists? You name it, Cavani can deliver. In many respects, he has the ability to offer Ronaldo what Karim Benzema did during their time at Real Madrid. While Cavani hasn’t played much at the club level in a two-striker set, he has a wealth of experience playing next to Luis Saurez for the Uruguayan national team. Solskjaer would be trusting his attack to two of his most senior members, but the pair have the production and accolades to warrant such an experiment.
As exciting as a Ronaldo-Cavani strike partnership could be, United has won both of their Premier League matches playing a 4-2-3-1, and the introduction of yet another center forward will turn Solskjaer’s lineup “headaches” into a full-blown migraine. Cavani is fit, but as long as Ronaldo is too, he’ll likely be coming off the bench. There simply isn’t enough space to fit more than three of these attackers on the field at any one time, with one, if not both, of Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba, roaming the midfield. Factor in that Marcus Rashford is set to come back from injury in the coming weeks, and United’s glut of attackers will only grow.

However, Solskjaer seems fine with the headaches. "It gives me selection headaches, which is what I'd rather have than the other way around. Sometimes you have to leave players out that you don't feel deserve to be left out.”

United for all their attacking talent has, at times, struggled to generate chances. If Solskjaer wants to push for a title and keep his job, he’ll need to settle on the right combination of players and formation to make this “headache” go away.
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