Jonathan Greening, Manchester United
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Jonathan Greening: Trophy and top-four finish otherwise Ole is a goner

| 04.11.2021

Greening talks Solskjaer and Saturday’s derby

Jonathan Greening spent three seasons with Manchester United between 1998-2001 and although he made just 14 appearances, he has a Champions League winner’s medal to his name having made the bench for the final against Bayern Munich.

The former West Brom midfielder is now manager of his hometown club Scarborough Athletic and he spoke exclusively to Ladbrokes ahead of Saturday’s 5-A-Side bet on the Manchester United v Manchester City game, about Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and his prediction for the derby which kicks off at 12.30pm.

What Ole has to do to keep his job

Ole has to finish in the top four and win some silverware to keep his job. The fans have given him enough time now, he’s spent a lot of money, so they have to finish in the top four. They should really be pushing for the title for the fans to be really, really happy with things. Can they do that? The players need to start performing better – it’s that simple. Can they win a cup competition? Yes, they can. There’s enough depth in that squad for players to come in and do a job and challenge for some silverware this season.

A lot of people are getting frustrated and there’s a lot of negativity around Ole Gunnar Solskjaer – he’s such a nice guy who doesn’t really come out and defend himself that much. If he doesn’t finish in the top four and win a cup, a lot of people will say someone with more experience needs to come in. He’s got until the end of the season though, as far as I’m concerned.

Ole’s strong points don’t get talked about enough

I’ve got a lot of time for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. Obviously I played with him at Manchester United – he was my first roommate on my first away day with the club and he was absolutely brilliant with me. One thing about Ole is that he is an absolutely lovely guy, a really lovely guy who knows his football.

He spent a lot of time with United after his playing career, with the academy and the reserve team before going off to Molde where he learned his trade. He had a crack at Cardiff where things didn’t go too well for him but then went back to Molde and did a good job over there before getting the United call.

He came in and initially did really well. He steadied the ship after Jose Mourinho and I don’t think he lost in his first nine games. He went on that unbelievable run away from home which doesn’t get talked about enough and obviously last season they reached the Europa League final.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Manchester United

He’s been under pressure this year because of a few below-par performances – especially going back to that Liverpool game where they got tonked… that just doesn’t happen at Old Trafford. That was the catalyst for a lot of criticism and negativity. Is he the right man for the job? You’ve definitely got to give him the rest of the season.

Ole’s got so many options up at the top end of the pitch. Even before Cristiano Ronaldo arrived in the summer, they brought in Jadon Sancho for a lot of money and that’s not worked out yet. He’s probably not been given the amount of game-time he’d have wanted to implement his stance on the team. He’s only had a few starts and he’s been coming off the bench here, there and everywhere, and when he is coming on he’s not really performing. Obviously Marcus Rashford is just coming back to fitness.

Ole needs to decide whether or not he’s going to stick with two holding midfielders or not. If he does, then Bruno Fernandes plays in behind Ronaldo, with Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood out wide, or whoever else it might be, whether it’s Anthony Martial or Jadon Sancho.

I’d like to see Man United playing with just one holding midfielder, though – maybe Scott McTominay, and that way you can play Paul Pogba and Bruno Fernandes in those more advanced roles. Especially at home; I don’t think there’s a need for two holding midfielders when you’ve got so many attacking options.

You have to start Ronaldo if he’s fit, he has to start, it’s as simple as that. Can you mix it up a bit, though? Can you put Edinson Cavani ahead of him and have Ronaldo in that number 10 role? I think you can. But that’s for Ole to decide, and that’s why he’s paid the big money.

There are a lot of options out there for Ole, though. They’ve got pace in wide areas, versatility in the likes of Sancho and Greenwood. Martial can play left, right or central. Cavani does brilliantly every time he’s in the team; he works his socks off, he scores goals, he’s a real team player.

Paul Pogba, Manchester United

I think it’s just about finding that balance; there are a few issues defensively, and if there’s one area I think needs strengthening, then it’s in that area of the pitch. They seem quite unlucky with injuries in the centre-back role, Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelof have both been in and out of the team with injuries, Raphael Varane came off against Atalanta with a tight hamstring, and I think they should be looking at bringing in another centre-back as cover. Going forward they’re OK, it’s just about getting the right personnel in the right positions.

Stop playing the two holding midfielders at Old Trafford. You can afford to play another attacking player in a more advanced role without it impacting the team balance at home.

Manchester derby score prediction (Man Utd 2-1 Man City)

At the weekend, Man United obviously need to defend a lot better than they did against Liverpool. Cristiano Ronaldo starts up top, obviously. There’s no way he’s leaving Ronaldo out. It’s a question of who they play out wide. I think Mason Greenwood starts on the right and Bruno Fernandes will definitely play behind Ronaldo, so it’s that wide left spot which is up for grabs between the likes of Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho.

It depends whether Ole sticks with the two holding midfielders which we’ve seen him do in recent weeks, but regardless of that decision, the team needs to be compact, they need to be organised, because Man City can open up any team. United will need to be good on the break, because Man City are flexible and dangerous on the counter-attack.

If United can get the defensive side of the game right, they can definitely score goals. It’s all about keeping City’s danger men quiet. David De Gea needs to be on his A game, because there’s going to be so much for him to do; plenty of shots, plenty of crosses, plenty of crosses – he can’t afford to make any mistakes. I’m going to say Man United win the game 2-1.

Read part two as Greening talks about Sir Alex Ferguson, Roy Keane and winning the treble

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Warren Barner