Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has admitted he was too impressed with the performance of winger Daniel James in Sunday’s 0-0 draw with Leeds to replace him with Paul Pogba sooner than he did.
While United were the better side in the game, they were completely lifeless for most of the 90 minutes. Playmaker-in-chief Bruno Fernandes was marked out of the game by Kalvin Phillips, but Solskjaer waited until the 76th minute before making Pogba his first substitute.
It’s a decision which had a lot of fans fuming on social media – with the #OleOut brigade taking it and running with it – but the boss defended his decision and insisted James brought more than most fans realised.
“I thought the foundation of the play was really good,” Solskjaer explained (via the Manchester Evening News). “The fitness is a really big thing and Paul has got the quality.
“We were thinking, ‘could we have gone a little bit earlier?’ Maybe. But then again, I thought Dan James did really well, he had maybe two of the three biggest moments in their half, it didn’t feel I could take him off too early.
“Marcus [Rashford] felt good with his foot and I thought he was a thorn in their side, and Mason was the cleanest of the lot with the ball. He was excellent today.
“Paul came on and almost created something. The pressure we built in the second half pleased me, we should have scored to win the game. Unfortunately, Bruno’s finish just outside of the post and Dan didn’t pull the trigger when he could have.”
The boss was also forced to defend a bust-up between Harry Maguire and Fred. The centre-back was caught on camera calling Fred a ‘f*****g idiot’, just weeks after giving Rashford a similarly affectionate nickname.
“We have got a group that demands a lot of each other,” Solskjaer said of the incident (via the Daily Mail). “The standard is high, both on training and in a game, it is not just about being a nice guy.
“We demand maximum effort. I was really proud of how strong we looked. I never thought they threatened our goal in the second half but we missed a little bit of spark to win the game.”