So just when it seemed like the good times were back for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Manchester United, the crushing defeat to West Ham United dialed back all the positives.
The horrible showing at the London Stadium pinpointed the persisting problems with their attacking system, which is running short of fume after a thunderous start against Chelsea.
Scraping by on penalties in the League Cup against Rochdale (albeit with a side filled with kids) and United are right the betting underdogs in the football odds by BetEasy and other bookmakers for the next round’s away tie against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.
The Red Devils have started the season poorly, and must pick up the pace to keep up with a top-four spot on the horizon.
Firstly, United travel to the Netherlands to face Dutch side AZ Alkmaar. Solskajer will mostly play his blooming youngsters and fringe players, who have the chance to further stake their claim for a regular spot by clinching a rare away win.
A game against the struggling Newcastle United seems the perfect way to get end their horrific away record. The Toons are struggling to stamp their authority in games, with Steve Bruce being sympathatic to the fans booing them off against Brighton recently. However, they do boast a strong defensive line. For their attacking hiccups, the stern Newcastle defence could cause United even more frustration.
The Toons might be quite one-dimensional and ineffective going forward, but can sit deep to at least keep goals out pretty well. United will need to take their chances and be clever in deciphering the limitations to Newcastle’s game and most importantly defend smartly to put an end to their horrible away record.
Moreover, they must win the Newcastle game to go into the derby against Liverpool with some confidence. Indeed, the league leaders visit Old Trafford after the international break next month. They’ve only lost one league game in nearly 18 months now and are the complete package, be it in defence or attack.
As if containing their venomous trio of Roberto Firmino, Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane wouldn’t be enough, but they’ll need to be wary of Trent Alexander-Arnold’s crosses and Andy Robertson’s industrious work as well. Virgil Van Dijk might’ve come up short in the FIFA Best awards, but he’s still an impenetrable rock who will be a daunting task for United’s thin strike-force.
United then travel to Serbia to face Nemanja Matic’s old club Partizan Belgrade, as winning this one could give their chances of topping group L a big boost. Matic will probably be given the arm-band to usher them to victory, but this will be a stern task for Mason Greenwood and the youngsters to further prove their mettle.
Finally, United travel to Carrow Road to face Norwich City, who stunned many by upsetting Manchester City recently. Pep Guardiola himself heaped praise on them, as United will need to be their defensive best to keep Teemu Pukki and co at bay. Norwich are brittle defensively, as the Red Devils will get chances to prove their counter-attacking volatility and end the month on a bright note.