Solskjaer facing biggest decision of managerial career
Manchester United’s manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, center, reacts after Manchester City goal during the English League Cup semifinal soccer match between Manchester United and Manchester City at Old Trafford in Manchester, England, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021. (Peter Powell/Pool via AP)

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer faces one of his biggest tests as Manchester United boss over blunder keeper David De Gea.

De Gea has been United’s No.1 for the past decade but has become a liability rather than an asset, as he showed by gifting Everton a route back into the game and, ultimately, a point.

His mistake handed Everton their first goal and, while he was not at fault for their second, his lack of courage and conviction ultimately yielded Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s last-gasp equaliser.

On the eve of the game, Solskjaer said nobody was guaranteed a place in his United side “like a season ticket card” – now that statement will be put to the test with how he deals with De Gea.

Having started United’s last two FA Cup ties, Dean Henderson was always likely to be between the posts for tomorrow’s visit of West Ham to Old Trafford for the fifth round.

But the time has come for England international Henderson, who returned from a loan spell at Sheffield United to challenge De Gea, to be handed a run in the side.

Whether Solskjaer has the courage to drop De Gea and give Henderson the nod remains to be seen.

If not, how many more mistakes will it take from the former before the latter gets a chance?

Solskjaer facing biggest decision of managerial career
Soccer Football – Premier League – Manchester United v Everton – Old Trafford, Manchester, Britain – February 6, 2021 Manchester United’s David de Gea and teammates look dejected after Everton’s Dominic Calvert-Lewin scored their third goal [Pool via REUTERS/Martin Rickett]

When asked this after the galling draw with Everton, Solskajer said: “Every player has to earn the right to earn his place, of course.

“We’re a squad with competition and that applies to absolutely every single one in the team – and that is the same for every single one of us.”

Certainly, Sir Alex Ferguson, Solskjaer’s former boss and the man whose managerial philosophy he slavishly follows, would have shown his ruthless streak by now and jettisoned De Gea.

Ferguson always knew when a player was past his best and there was no room for sentiment when he acted – now Solskjaer must display the same cold, decisive judgment with De Gea.

The Spaniard, 30, remains capable of some breathtaking saves but too often this season and last his frequent lapses of judgment and failure to make the right decisions have cost United dearly.

Last season, De Gea made a series of high-profile errors and this season has followed a similar pattern, his latest aberrations against Everton making his position untenable.

Former United skipper Gary Neville did not hold back in his criticism of De Gea, citing his lack of courage and decisiveness in key moments.

“De Gea, there, at the end, he doesn’t even come in line with the ball,” said Neville.

“I think you want the goalkeeper to come there and eat the striker. You just want your goalkeeper to come out there and absolutely take him out.

“Goalkeepers are so quick off their line nowadays, it wasn’t a great night for the goalkeeper.”

Yet De Gea was not alone, his defence culpable too, their naivety at set-pieces a recurring theme, the centre-back pairing of Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelof showing their vulnerability.

United have been here before, Everton snatching a draw at Old Trafford to cost them the title.

Back in 2012, United’s failure to win when leading 4-2, drawing 4-4 with the Toffees, swung the title race in Manchester City ’s favour.

This result may have done the same. United led 2-0 at the break, with goals from Edinson Cavani and Bruno Fernandes. But an early second-half double saw Everton draw level.

Scott McTominay restored United’s lead, before Calvert-Lewins plundered a 95th-minute leveller, aided by De Gea’s lack of conviction, which cost the Reds victory.

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