Solskjaer’s team selection was right

Article written by James Barnett.

Having lost 3-0 to rivals Swansea City at the Liberty Stadium, many fans wondered why key players like Craig Noone and Jordon Mutch were left out of the starting team. They also wondered why Peter Whittingham, who had been hauled from the team a week before, had started the game in central midfield alongside Chilean international Gary Medel.

Many have speculated that Bellamy insisted that Whittingham started the game to ensure that his confidence didn’t take a further knock. Others see this as nothing more than looking for an excuse for a poor squad selection. However, I see it completely differently and I’ll go on to explain why I believe Solskjaer made those decisions.

In February, Cardiff City fixtures included Norwich at home, Swansea away, Villa at home and then Hull at home. As you can see, the game versus Swansea City away is the one that we’re most likely to lose. The game against Norwich has already been won and Solskjær still doesn’t know how best starting eleven from the squad he’s assembled post transfer window. It’s fair to say, Solskjær is going to change things up a bit early on and see who is best players are.

Had Solskjær made those changes in a very winnable game at home, where our form has been better this year, he would have come under much more scrutiny. Fixtures against Aston Villa and Hull at home will come with a lot of expectations, even more so that the game away at Swansea City. No club has ever done the double in that fixture. Why did Cardiff City fans expect that to change this season? The most likely outcome was that we were to win at home and they were to win at their home. That’s what happened. There are certainly no surprises there and I for one am not shocked.

Im also not shocked that Solskjær made these changes. Why risk Noone in an away game we’re likely to lose? Okay, it’s a derby game and people want us to win it but it’s also a game that is likely to be a feisty encounter and a game in which he may pick up a serious injury. I don’t want to sound negative but an injury to Noone who’s been majorly influential in the games he’s played could easily be what sends us down. Other than Zaha, we have no wide player who’s direct in possession of the ball.

Also, why risk Mutch? He’s recently picked up a knock in a previous game and to risk him would be borderline insane. If there’s one player that is going to drive us to safety it’s this future England international. Of course, I don’t believe Solskjær threw the game but I do believe the changes to the team were calculated and done with long term interests and goals in mind. I also believe Noone may have had a slight knock hence him not even being brought on in the second half.

Two wins vs Aston Villa and Hull City will see another 6 points collected and a total of 9 from 12 for the month. I said before the month started that we needed a minimum of 7 points from the available 12 but if we pick up those 9 we have an even better chance of staying up, especially given the fact relegation rivals have very tough trips to the top sides coming up. We’ve had our month of doom in January and we come out still second from bottom.

Anyone who believed we wouldn’t be in the bottom three by the end of January, regardless of manager, really is clueless about football.

Maybe that statement is a bit harsh but anyone with a bit of sense would have known that it was always going to be the case with those very tough fixtures. Unfortunately, we have a section of the fan base who do not seem to fathom that and these fans have a sense of expectancy about them. They demand wins in every game and the notion of preplanning for the long term goal does not get through to them.

We have 3 games coming up in 1 week yet fans demand us to play the same squad in all 3. Again, this mind-set is absurd. To ensure fitness is kept high squad rotation is needed. That is why teams submit a 25 man squad and not a 16 man squad. It would be wonderful if footballers had batteries in them that you could recharge overnight. It would be wonderful if footballers were robotic machines that didn’t have muscles and could take any tackle but they’re not. They are human beings just like the rest of us who need to rest and regain energy. They are human beings who if injured take a very long time to recover.

If Mutch and Noone had started the derby and then did not start vs Aston Villa at home after 2 days rest and we had lost that too, the fans would be going berserk. The problem is, we do not have the depth in squad quality other clubs have. We have a lot of Championship players still in the team who unfortunately are not going to give us that ruthless edge needed in the important games against relegation rivals. Bury your head in the sand all you like but the simple fact is, Swansea City are not relegation rivals. They were still above the drop zone playing abysmally. They could only get better.

There’s a reason Solskjær is a title winning player and manager and the fans are not. Its because he understands the game much more than we do. He knows the toll three games take on a player and he also knows our players aren’t as good as the players he’s been amongst at the likes of Manchester United. He is a student of the game and understands it in great depth. To say he’s clueless when he hasn’t even had a fair run of games as manager against a mixture of different levelled opponents shows the fickle nature of the modern football fan. Fans are already judging him based on fixtures away at Manchester City, Manchester United and Swansea City.

Had the fans had their way, we would have been going into the Aston Villa game with Mutch and Noone not fully recovered after only 2 days rest and that would have been a disaster. They’re both key players we need at 100% for these games. Aston Villa also played a very strong side so when it comes to the 60 minute mark in the game they’re either going to have to make changes or face the prospect of getting overrun in midfield by our players who’ve been rested.  Their defenders are also going to have to face the prospect of a very live Craig Noone running at them whenever he gets the ball. He’s had over a weeks rest now so will be raring to go in this very important game.

Solskjær made the right calls but some fans will continue to deny that due to their love in with previous manager Malky Mackay or the fact they play too much Football Manager in their spare time. Malky has gone and its time to move on and fans need to accept Solskjær is our manager now and the person to lead us forward. This was proven by fans saying after the Swansea City game, “Malky would have won us that game”, which is a load of nonsense to put it bluntly. No manager ever delivered the derby double yet fans believe Malky would have done it. Not a chance. Away to Swansea City was always a game we were likely to lose. Some fans need to accept reality and move on.

Solskjær calls the shots now. Malky does not. Remember that. In Solskjær we trust!