Manchester United endured a tough night at the office against Villarreal on Wednesday night despite winning 2-1 at Old Trafford. The visitors should arguably have claimed the three points in their Champions League encounter after missing a string of clear-cut chances, but a dramatic last-minute strike by Cristiano Ronaldo eventually handed the Red Devils victory.
With Luke Shaw injured and Aaron Wan-Bissaka suspended for the encounter Solskjaer was forced to shuffle the pack ahead of kick-off, with the Norwegian boss starting Diogo Dalot at right-back and Alex Telles on the opposite flank.
But Dalot in particular was given a torrid time, with Villarreal attacking pair Arnaut Danjuma and Paco Alcacer teasing and tormenting the 22-year-old throughout much of the match.
Dalot simply does not look good enough for this level, and it is a huge worry that behind Wan-Bissaka he appears to be United’s only real option in the position.
While Telles performed better, and scored a fine equaliser, he was also shaky at times, and Shaw is clearly far superior to his teammate.
This lack of strength in depth is an issue which has blighted United for a number of years, and it could ultimately be their downfall once again this time round, with the pressure on them to win major honours greater than ever.
Wan-Bissaka should return for this weekend’s game against Everton, but it is not clear if Shaw will be fit in time.
And given the superb form Toffees wide-men Andros Townsend and Demarai Gray have been in so far this season, they may well be licking their lips at the prospect of exploiting United’s wide areas again.
Speaking about Dalot’s disastrous showing at half-time, BT pundit Rio Ferdinand said: “Wow Villarreal have been really good down particularly good down this left side.
“Dalot has had a bit of nightmare, and I’m not sure how he’s going to work this one out. Danjuma has been electrifying in parts. It’s just wave after wave.”
That late Ronaldo goal has somewhat eased the huge pressure that was growing on Solskjaer.
But they are in for another tough game against Rafael Benitez’s Everton on Sunday following their strong start to the season, with the Merseysiders sitting in fifth place and level on points with United.
And anything other than victory could see Solskjaer’s worries grow again, especially with the likes of Antonio Conte waiting in the wings.
Nevertheless, when you have Ronaldo in your side anything is possible, and for now United seem able to rely on his individual brilliance to get them out of sticky situations.
How long that can last, however, remains to be seen.