Ole Gunnar Solskjær has admitted he is concerned at Manchester United’s habit of conceding goals from set pieces by losing focus in “big games”, the latest two coming in Wednesday’s Carabao Cup semi-final defeat by Manchester City.
John Stones’s opener came after United’s centre-backs, Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelöf, failed to stop Phil Foden’s free-kick from reaching the defender, whose run was not tracked by the left-back, Luke Shaw. Fernandinho’s goal derived from a poor Aaron Wan-Bissaka clearance following a corner, the right-back’s header going straight to the Brazilian.
Previous errors have included those that allowed Leeds, Sheffield United and Paris Saint-Germain to score from set plays, and seven of the 24 Premier League goals conceded have come this way, the third highest in the division.
“That’s a worry, of course.,” Solskjær said. “It’s a worry when you concede goals but we have defended really well at times. Against Man City when you defend as well as you do in open play and you don’t really concede too many chances you’re disappointed [with what happened].
“In big games against good players and good teams we lose that bit of focus. It’s a big part of football – so many goals are conceded from set plays. We do have a good record of winning the first ball, but when we don’t it seems like it goes in every time. It’s something that we have addressed, that we need to do better at; we seem to suffer [badly] from this. When we don’t get the first contact we have been punished quite severely and more often than anyone else.”
Solskjær has moved to reassure Donny van de Beek regarding his limited game time since signing in the summer window, and the midfielder will start against Watford in Saturday’s FA Cup third-round tie.
“Donny is going to play, it’s another chance for him,” said the manager. “And yes, I’ve spoken to him and made him aware of how much we rate him.”