Exclusive : Solskjaer playing cautious waiting game to protect Lindelof’s ‘mental strength’, says former United defender

PERTH, AUSTRALIA - JULY 17: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer manager of Manchester United talks with Victor Lindelof and Eric Bailly as players walk from the field at half time during a pre-season friendly match between Manchester United and Leeds United at Optus Stadium on July 17, 2019 in Perth, Australia. (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)

Former Manchester United defender Paul Parker believes that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is remaining tight-lipped over Harry Maguire’s fitness race for Wednesday’s Europa League Final to protect the fragile confidence of whoever is chosen to replace him.

Maguire is expected to miss the final with his ankle and foot injury, and although he has been seen without the protective footwear that he initially had, it is rumoured that he is not going to be fit in time.

And Parker believe Solskjaer’s silence is a measured and deliberate approach, in order to ensure that whoever has to replace him is not under any extra pressure.

Eric Bailly and Axel Tuanzebe have been auditioning for the spot that will likely be available, while the more experienced partnership of Bailly with Victor Lindelof did not look impressive against Liverpool. While Lindelof is expected to keep his place, he usually moves to the left-hand side to accommodate Bailly, a partnership that looked very fragile against the dethroned champions last week.

And Parker believes Solskjaer’s problems have been compounded by Lindelof’s confidence in that position.

“The one thing that Bailly or Tuanzebe do give to the centre of defence is extra pace,” he said exclusively on this week’s Talking Devils podcast. “They do give it extra agility too. But one thing I worry about with Bailly in defence is that it’s one player but you have to make two changes. Lindelof would have to move into Maguire’s position but the problem is that Lindelof’s game isn’t simple and it becomes even more complicated when he moves to the left-hand side because his body strength and his mental strength isn’t the strongest, and when you move him to the left-hand side which he’s not comfortable, it feels like you’re weakening him again because he gets brushed aside too easily and too regularly.

“If Ole is going down that road – and he hasn’t talked about it a lot, so that suggests to me that he’s definitely thinking about maybe trying Maguire – then he is going to have to be careful. We saw already with Spurs in the Champions League Final that Pochettino had Moura on a high, and then replaced him with Kane who wasn’t fit. If Ole goes down the road of playing a player isn’t fit, you could end up losing one of the others you need to rely upon. He needs to make whoever is playing believe that they’re good enough and maybe that’s why we’re not hearing from Ole talking about that selection. If that’s the case, that’s good man-management.”

Parker was speaking exclusively on this week’s Talking Devils podcast. Listen to the episode and subscribe here.

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