After a brief reprieve due to performances in Europe, we are back in a familiar position once again: questioning Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's future with Manchester United.
Yesterday's performance against Arsenal was far from the standard required. The home side were completely abject in attack, registering two shots on target in the whole game. They were sloppy in possession and lacked concentration at the back, with Paul Pogba's foul for the penalty a prime example.
In contrast, Arsenal went to Old Trafford with a game plan and executed it perfectly. In the end they were good value for the three points.
While it can be easy to overreact to one game, this contest was a prefect microcosm in comparing the impact of the two managers involved.
Mikel Arteta has been at Arsenal for less than a year, but you can see what he is trying to do with the team. The results have not always been great, but he has the squad playing with a clear purpose and identity.
Arsenal's defence has come on in leaps and bounds under his management. They currently boast the best defensive record in the Premier League, conceding seven goals in seven games. That is even more impressive when you consider that they have already played Liverpool, Manchester City, and Manchester United away from home.
Things have been far from perfect, but you get the impression that Arteta is using every game as a learning experience to make the team better going forward.
Compare that to Ole Gunnar Solksjaer. He has been in the job at Old Trafford for just under two years, but can anybody really say that the team has improved during his tenure?
Of course there have been some impressive results, with the games against PSG and RB Leipzig the most recent examples. However, it also feels like the club are constantly teetering on the brink of crisis.
Perhaps the most worrying aspect of all is United's apparent lack of identity. They don't really have a discernible way of playing the game, seeming to take each fixture as it comes. This is something that could perhaps explain there wild lack of consistency.
All the usual tropes were broke out by the Manchester United old guard on Sky Sports after yesterday's result. Gary Neville once against lamented the club's recruitment policy, while Roy Keane questioned the character and desire amongst the playing squad.
For the most part, they seemingly ignored the Norwegian elephant in the room.
This was unsurprising, but things got even more interesting when Tim Cahill began to speak about Mikel Arteta's progress at Arsenal. The Aussie said it was clear that Arteta had clearly learned from past failings, but Roy Keane could not look beyond the fact that they have lost the same amount of games as Manchester United this season.
🗣"Can I ask you one question, how many league games have Arsenal lost this season, all of a sudden Arsenal are the new Bayern Munich do me a favour?" 🤣
Roy Keane & Tim Cahill's debate over if mangers should motivate their players and Arsenal's form @Tim_Cahill pic.twitter.com/5t6kADbPcx
— Football Daily (@footballdaily) November 1, 2020
Cahill: [Arsenal] know why they lost (to Leicester City). Mikel knows the reason why they lost.
Keane: Mikel has lost three games... How many league games have Arsenal lost this season?
Cahill: The key thing is Arsenal are progressing because there's an identity, there's a formula to the way they play. They play out from the back and they keep playing out from the back. That's why I think Mikel needs a lot of praise...
Keane: Can I ask you one question, how many games have Arsenal lost this season?
Cahill: There's three, but they know why they lost.
It must be pointed out that Cahill is also speaking about a former teammate in Mikel Arteta, but he makes some good points.
Arsenal are clearly progressing under their current manager, with the Spaniard fixing the issues that had been plaguing the team for the last number of years. You can't really say the same of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
It clearly grated on Keane that Arteta was receiving praise despite being not all that far ahead of his former club on the purely objective measure of the league table.
While Cahill doesn't have a direct pop at Solskjaer, he does go on to question why Manchester United's lack of transfer activity is the only area of the club that receives criticism from many pundits.
🗣"They should get Arteta in because he is another messiah!" 🤣
Roy Keane on what Manchester United need 🤔 pic.twitter.com/y3aKyXLQ6c
— Football Daily (@footballdaily) November 1, 2020
Cahill: Everyone is saying Manchester United need to sign, but who do they need to sign? Is it strikers, is it wingbacks, what do they need?
Gary Neville is saying that they need to spend better, but on what?
Keane: Maybe they should get Arteta in because he is another messiah. Crystal Palace came here and tore United apart. United gave a sloppy penalty away and De Gea had one save to make.
Yeah we can give Arsenal a bit of credit, but Arsenal didn't have to be fantastic today. It was United the way they started the game, a bit of sloppiness from Pogba, that's what gifted them the game.
A sloppy tackle from Pogba proved to be a key moment in the game, but Keane also conveniently ignores that Arsenal completely outmatched Solksjaer from a tactical point of view. That is a recurring theme of his management, even if he does have his moments such as the RB Leipzig game last week.
Quite often, his tactical nouse is found wanting if the game requires anything more than sitting deep and hitting teams on the counterattack. That's why United have done relatively well against the top sides in recent years, but have struggled to break down lesser opposition.
You can question the players here, but there's a reason Manchester United paid vast amounts of money to bring them to the club. It's clear that Solksjaer cannot get the best out of this group on a consistent basis.
While it may be an uncomfortable truth for the likes of Neville and Keane to face, the fact of the matter is that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has done very little to improve Manchester United in the last two years. The players can only be blamed for so much of that, especially when a manager's main responsibility is to get the best out of the resources at his disposal.
Solskjaer has certainly failed to do that.
Keane said yesterday that this group of players would force Solskjaer to lose his job, but if he can't succeed with one of the most expensive squads in the history of world football, perhaps an end to his time in charge may be what is best for all involved.