English Premier League

Manchester United Are Ole in

Before the season began, everyone was arguing how things were changing inside Old Trafford with the appointment of Darren Fletcher appointed as technical director and Matt Judge in charge of negotiating transfers and contracts. There was an air of optimism with the huge signings of Cristiano Ronaldo, Raphael Varane and Jadon Sancho. With such a stacked squad, Solsjkaer could surely now compete for silverware with proven winners in his squad. However, I had my doubts. Were things really changing? Sancho’s transfer saga had spanned for a better part of 3 years and signing him for the 21/22 season was almost inevitable. With Varane, the defender had already set his mind on joining United and was rejecting many other cubs. It did not seem like he needed much convincing. And of course, Ronaldo was desperate to leave Juventus and coming to United was a no brainer for both player and club. While the signings had a large impact on the first few games, the honeymoon period is over. Fletcher and Judge did not effectively get a defensive midfielder for the team. To me, the current batch of signings have been easy and were essentially done to pander to fans. The new technical director and transfer negotiator have not effectively done their jobs.

When it rains, it pours. A 2-1 defeat to Young Boys in the Champions League, 0-1 defeat to West Ham in the league cup and a 0-1 defeat to Aston Villa in the league have seen United fans calling for Ole’s head. But are things as bad as it seems? It really is in my opinion. I’m an ardent supporter of Ole but it just seems like he’s a bit clueless when plan A does not bear fruit. I am certainly not a tactical analyst but I can certainly differentiate a team that has a plan and a team that does not. The defeat to Young Boys was not a fair result. People had questioned his substitutions in that game but going to a back three seemed like the only logical thing to do. The game was only flawed by a mistake by Jesse Lingard who actually made amends to come off the bench and score the winner against West Ham in the next game. Nonetheless, it is suffice to say that the games after that have been dismal. Absolutely horrible. There was no sign of a plan B and somehow felt that we were dominated by the smaller teams. 

Consistency has been the downfall of Solsjkaer’s reign. I have said this before and will say it again. I really do not see this United side match the level of consistency displayed by Man City and Liverpool the past 3 to 4 years who have accumulated over 90 points in a season to win the Premier League. Apart from that, the football played by United is exciting and fast but it doesn’t seem to have patterns of play. Sort of like the trademark that teams are known for; Guardiola playing possession football at City while Klopp has his own system where the fullbacks have been instrumental in their footballing success. What does United have? Mostly back passes when the spaces are too tight. All I see is a huge hole in the midfield when opposing teams are in transition. Try as Ole might, having two hardworking players to try and protect the back four is completely useless if none of them know how to tackle or anticipate where the ball is going. Heck, they don’t even have the strength to bring down a player as seen from Fred’s feeble attempt at trying to out-muscle Demarai Gray off the ball. Without a credible defensive midfielder, United are truly going to suffer against more clinical teams. It could be down to a bad patch of form but could better quality coaching mitigate this? No one can say for sure but I shudder at the thought of meeting City, Liverpool and Chelsea this season. 

While panicking about the way United has started this season may be premature, I really do hope that Ole gets the best out of this team. The Glazers should threaten to fire the Norwegian and we could again see United go on a long unbeaten run. Arguably, this season would be the best season for United to win the league. If United can get through the first half of the season unscathed, they could mount a serious title challenge as their fixtures for the second half of the season are mostly winnable on paper. Even if United decide to part ways with Ole, are there any other managers who are good enough to take on the job for the long term?

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