Manchester United players ‘didn’t step up’ in FA Cup as Steve McClaren makes interesting Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Sir Alex Ferguson comparison
It took Sir Alex Ferguson five years to build his all-conquering Manchester United squad on the late 1990s and early 2000s, and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer needs to be given time to do the same.
That’s according to Fergie’s former right-hand man Steve McClaren, who has backed the Norwegian and said he was let down by his players in the FA Cup at Leicester on Sunday.
United were dumped out of the cup by the Foxes, who dominated a much-changed Red Devils side in a 3-1 win to seal their place in the semi-finals.
Solskjaer has copped a lot of blame for the exit after resting a number of his top performers from the starting XI.
Bruno Fernandes, Edinson Cavani, Luke Shaw and Scott McTominey started on the bench but all four players were brought on in the 64th minute with United trailing 2-1.
However, the real damage had already been done by then and they were unable to turn the tide.
It leaves the Europa League as the only source of a possible trophy win this season, with United drawn against Spanish side Granada.
There have already been calls for the club to axe Solskjaer, but recent suggestions are that United will wield the axe on the 48-year-old if they fail to win Europe’s second tier competition.
But McClaren insists the team have still made great strides of progress this season, insisting Solskjaer merely needs time to build a squad capable of winning regular titles – just as Sir Alex did in his early days at Old Trafford.
Reacting to Sunday’s FA Cup exit, the former coach said on Monday’s talkSPORT Breakfast: “Ole’s got a squad and Manchester United have always had a squad, they’ve always rotated.
“I’m disappointed with the players that came in, they didn’t step up. That’s what Manchester United need to do.
“Look at Man City, they regularly rotate and their players come in and make an impact and get results, and United have got to do the same.
“Ole brought those subs on with 20 minutes to go, and if they turned the game around Ole’s a hero, but that’s football, you can be a hero one day and the next day a bum.
“But it’s down to the players! The manager has got a very good squad there, it’s up to the likes of Matic, Van de Beek, Pogba and Martial, who have been out for a couple of weeks, to come back in and show that quality, but they didn’t do that.
“Let’s not take away from Leicester, they had such great energy and dominated the game, no matter that the subs that came on for United. They were excellent.
“But I still think Man United have got a squad, and players need to be ready and need to step up, and they didn’t step up yesterday.”
And while calls are growing for Solskjaer to be sacked, with #OleOut trending on social media after Sunday’s defeat, McClaren insists the Norwegian should be afforded the same time Ferguson was in his early United career.
“Ole is trying to build a squad to contend for championships and win the league, that was always the ultimate aim,” he added.
“I remember having a conversation with Sir Alex when I first went about the struggles he had building the team and the number of hits he had in cup competitions where they fell short.
“But he said, ‘after four or five years, now we’re ready to win’, that was in 1999 and then they won everything.
“Ole is building towards that, he’s building a squad to compete for the Premier League title, but along the way he’s still in contention for the Europa League and he’ll be putting all his energies into a top-four finish in the Premier League too.
“I think if Man United finish second and qualify for the Champions League, that is progress.
“The icing on the cake would be winning the Europa League, I think they’ve got a chance to do that and I think they should do that.
“But if they finished in second place in the Premier League that is great progress and it would be a great season.
“What Ole has done is put United in a position to achieve something. Finishing second in the Premier League is an achievement, winning the Europa League is an achievement.
“Now he has to follow that through, and that’s the mark of a Manchester United manager. There are ten games left of the season and, like his players, he now he needs to step up.”