Manchester United in the Premier League so far: WDLD
As we return to Premier League action, following the international break, should Manchester United fans be excited on the evidence so far?
To recap, Manchester United began the Premier League season with a thumping 4-0 win over Chelsea.
This was followed by a draw with Wolves, that could so easily have been a win but for a late Paul Pogba penalty miss.
The undoubted worst result of the season so far for Manchester United came in the third game of the campaign, a 2-1 home defeat to Crystal Palace.
The first quartet of games finished with Manchester United drawing 1-1 at Southampton.
Shocking… with a few bright spots
Manchester United’s start to the Premier League season has been pretty shocking, with a few bright sparks.
The lack of chances created and goals scored is simply not good enough for a side with Top Four Premier League ambitions.
Symptomatic of the malaise at Manchester United right now is the consistently poor set pieces.
Either Marcus Rashford going direct for goal from anywhere on the pitch, inevitably skying the ball well over the bar, or sending in poor crosses.
With Harry Maguire being so good in the air, United should be whipping the ball in with pace, not floating the ball high into the clouds. Perhaps this will improve as the season goes on?
Manchester United’s penalty problems are well documented. From three this season, two have been missed, and that has undoubtedly shaped how we are all looking at the campaign so far.
In terms of penalties, surely Manchester United should have one dedicated penalty taker, not leaving it to the players on the pitch to decide amongst themselves who takes it.
With both Pogba and Rashford having missed spot-kicks, now must be the time for United’s best finisher, Tony Martial, to take over.
Is Ole Gunnar Solskjaer blooding enough youngsters?
Ever since arriving as Manchester United manager, both temporary and permanent, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has publicly committed to blooding the youngsters, in the true traditions of the club.
However, many fans have questioned whether Solskjaer is going far enough. Is there any point in bringing on great young talents like Mason Greenwood for only 20 minutes per game?
Solskjaer should be starting the likes of Greenwood rather than Jesse Lingard, who has been very poor this season.
Rather than playing the exciting Angel Gomes, Solskjaer goes with the more senior Juan Mata, who is far too slow for the kind of football that Ole is trying to implement – quick on the counter attack football.
The above being said, credit should go to Ole for consistently selecting Daniel James, who’s been one of Manchester United’s outstanding players so far this season.
The main problem isn’t Ole; it’s the Board
But the main problem isn’t Solskjaer, Jose Mourinho, Louis van Gaal or David Moyes; it’s the Board.
Only the genius that is Sir Alex Ferguson proved capable of working at Old Trafford under owners who are taking significant money out of the club on a regular basis.
The always awesome Swiss Ramble has looked at every Premier League club’s finances for 2017/2018.
As is detailed below, the Glazers took out 22 million pounds in this period. This is during a spell where Manchester United have gotten worse in terms of league results.
#MUFC operating profit dropped from £70m to £26m, mainly due to growth in wages and player amortisation. Relatively low £18m profit on player sales, combined with £18m interest payable, meant £27m profit before tax. Tax bill up from £17m to £63m after change in US corporate tax. pic.twitter.com/9kQDFwcLkc
— Swiss Ramble (@SwissRamble) September 12, 2019
#MUFC £120m operating cash flow would have been higher without negative £55m working capital movement. Net £108m spent on players (purchases £155m, sales £47m). Only PL club to pay dividends £22m plus highest interest payments £18m, so £40m on Glazers’ financial engineering. pic.twitter.com/m96Og5ngf8
— Swiss Ramble (@SwissRamble) September 12, 2019
Did Manchester United have a good summer transfer window?
In the last transfer window, many Manchester United fans believed their club needed two defenders, two midfielders and a right winger, and with the departures of Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez, another striker.
Granted, the Red Devils did go out and buy two excellent defenders in Maguire and Aaron Wan-Bissaka, and a young attacking prospect in James who, luckily enough, has started the season extremely well.
But in midfield and upfront, United are desperately lacking. In midfield, Paul Pogba is probably the only player good enough to be playing in a “Top Four” team; that just isn’t good enough for a club like United.
And in terms of the striking role, if either Rashford or Martial get injured or Daniel James loses form, United will have a major problem.
The positives for Manchester United
On a positive note, Martial has adapted very well to playing in the number 9 position, and has started the season very brightly, and Daniel James, as mentioned, has been superb.
Solskjaer has been pretty ruthless as well in getting rid of some of the dead wood like Lukaku, Sanchez and Matteo Darmian, none of whom had a great time in the United shirt.
It seems likely that Solskjaer will be given time. Most probably until the end of the campaign, unless results take a drastic downturn.
Manchester United fans have little choice but to hope that Solskjaer can make Manchester United great again. Maybe not as good as Man City and Liverpool right now, but definitely good enough for a Top Four finish.
However, Solskjaer faces a huge challenge in motivating his players and impressing upon them that a Top Four finish is possible.
In terms of transfers, Manchester United need to get back into the Champions League to convince the best players in the world to join them.
Players like Borussia Dortmund’s Jordan Sancho and Sporting Lisbon’s Bruno Fernandes won’t want to come to a club without Champions League football.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Manchester United challenge
In the long run, Top Four is the minimum expected for a team that dominated the Premier League in its first 15 years.
Solskjaer’s remit is far from simple but it is clear: Build a young and exciting team, that is quick and counter-attacking, in the traditions of the club. And lay the foundations for the years ahead.
This is Ole’s challenge for the rest of the season.
Five games in September, that include Leicester and Arsenal at home in the Premier League, should be a good indicator of if Solskjaer is getting any closer to his goal.