Football news - Paul Parker: The pressure is now on Manchester United and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
Former Manchester United defender Paul Parker thinks that Manchester United and Liverpool will be determined to win their match on Sunday, with both sides needing the three points for different reasons. However, he has suggested that Manchester United's owners, and those at Arsenal, are to blame for the wider problems at both sides.
Given the current climate, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has done really well. There are teams out there who have struggled this season when the expectations were for them to improve. Wolves were meant to cement themselves as European challengers. Sheffield United were expected to set up shop in the Premier League, and of course Liverpool have struggled to match last year’s achievements.
There are others who have run with the opportunity. Manchester United have made a huge step forward and adapted well, as have West Ham. Being the home team has been a problem for some, but the real question for United and Solskjaer now is how will they perform next year. Everyone will be looking.
They will want to see how they perform when the fans are back in the stadium with more pressure. Some players won’t have missed that and won’t enjoy it, while others will thrive on it.
In unique and difficult circumstances, Solskjaer is on the verge of leading his team to a European final. Under him, United have done poorly in semi-finals, and haven’t done themselves justice. It looked as if the same would happen on Thursday night, but they got a little bit of good fortune with the penalty, as before then there didn’t look to be a way back. In truth, I thought Roma’s penalty was pretty questionable, but that’s how it is in Europe.
The departure of Ed Woodward is an opportunity for United to kick on, but it will be squandered. I’m not even sure they will fill the berth, but if they do it will be by appointing a yes man. There’s not going to be a step forward as a team even if someone comes in. He’ll run it in the same fashion, and it’s up to the manager to deal with the job as best he can.
That’s why I don’t see any stories about United changing things. The director of football is going to be the same, there’s nothing to give anyone great belief. Are they going to get a younger, vibrant, up-and-coming centre forward to make a difference? No they are not.
Villarreal's Argentinian defender Juan Foyth (L) challenges Arsenal's French-born Ivorian midfielder Nicolas Pepe during the Europa League semi-final first leg football match between Villarreal and Arsenal at the Ceramica stadium in Vila-real on April 29,
Image credit: Getty Images
Arteta is not to blame - look at Kroenke and the players
In many ways, Arsenal are coming up against the same sticking point. Given when you look at who is in control they will have their ups, but there will be more downs.
It’s not just the owner, but the mentality of the players is not helping anyone. You don’t know what you’re going to get with them, even their captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang blows hot and cold. People at Borussia Dortmund must be laughing - he’s not captain material, and Arsenal only did that because they wanted him to stay. He’s been found wanting.
It’s easy to call out Mikel Arteta, but people called out Arsene Wenger and Unai Emery before him. At some point, it comes down to the players. Every club has issues with players - if you give them something to compete for most will stick with it, but you need to be careful that you’re not signing players who will otherwise just go through the motions. There’s no pressure from fans right now, and there isn’t pressure when it comes to money anymore. A lot of them believe there’s always another club they can go to if it gets tough.
The pressure is on Liverpool and Manchester United this Sunday
Liverpool could struggle this Sunday against United. People cite the injury to Virgil van Dijk, but it’s the front three they’ve had problems with. Diogo Jota has been a breath of fresh air, but he’s been injured too often to help make the difference.
While neither side will win the league this year, there’s massive pressure on both of them. For United, they are on the verge of getting themselves into a final and for Liverpool, they’re chasing Champions League qualification. You don’t want to find yourself in the Europa League after the seasons they’ve had recently, it’s an embarrassment. It kills all the good work done before, and there will be added pressure from their supporters to beat United.
On the cusp of getting to a final, United can’t lose to Liverpool, to lose their momentum and excitement. They still need to maintain their performance level because in the second leg against Roma, away goals remain a concern. The pressure is on, and evenly matched.
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