Not much seems to have changed at Manchester United from last season, as they continue finding themselves struggling to keep up with the best in the Premier League. A topsy-turvy start to the new season and long odds by Betway on finishing in the top four signifies the missing elements in their squad which are holding them back.
However, there’s no time to lament their past failures and the Red Devils must move forward to keep up with the top teams. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer stated in January, much before getting the job permanently, that the viable target for him would be winning a trophy over finishing in the top-four.
Well, that could have changed its tune now. United are just not strong enough to deal against top opposition in cup competitions – Betway correctly pegs them as underdogs in their away League Cup tie with Chelsea next month – but must maintain consistency to at least guarantee a UEFA Champions League qualification.
With a pay-cut from the Adidas sponsorship deal on the horizon, if they miss top-level European football again, Ed Woodward will also be watching things closely. Currently, they are three points adrift from the top-four spot. Now, this might not look that far off, but the season will only get tougher as teams start finding their rhythm.
With Solskjaer’s disappointing form ever since getting the job permanently, he must turn things around to find the aura which defined his first few months as manager. He must get this young team firing on all cylinders and most importantly maintain a fit squad due to his lack of options.
Paul Pogba should be back very soon and Solskjaer’s reiterated he’s here for the long haul recently. The Frenchman’s created the most number of chances this season for United and his presence was missed against Leicester City and West Ham United. Solskajer needs him to find back his explosive form from last season to usher United to victory.
Anthony Martial also must stay fit and roaring to get the goals for Solskjaer, after having scored 2 and assisted 1 in his three appearances so far. Marcus Rashford’s out for a bit of time, but he needs to find back his spirited nature to start contributing better going forward. Daniel James has turned out a stunning signing with some electric performances already, as he will also play a big part going forward.
Thankfully, United’s defensive shape looks much stronger this season. Harry Maguire and Aaron Wan-Bissaka have changed their reputation at the back, giving an array of strong performances to keep oppositions at bay. However, a good defence doesn’t win you matches all the time.
United must realize this and amp up their attacking style to score more decisive goals and win back the fans’ confidence. If they manage a string of victories again, the momentum will automatically be back with Solskjaer’s side.
They need to go on a winning streak like earlier this year to throttle far forward in the top-four race. A fourth-place finish is still very much possible, but constant injuries and upsets could tear apart Solskjaer’s brittle’s squad’s self-belief very soon.