Another soulless defeat, another goalscoring crisis, another injury crisis, another underwhelming performance from De Gea, another abject performance from elder statesmen Young, Matic and Mata, another shaky performance from Lindelof, Ed telling Jonesy to shut up on camera, and Matic bizarrely thinking that 120 passes against a team lying 3rd in the Kazakhstan League is worth bragging about on Twitter. It is just another week in the life of the Manchester United fan. How long must we feel so beaten up and humiliated?
Can someone remind me again of the reason why Lukaku, Sanchez, Herrera and Fellaini weren’t replaced this Summer? At the time, we were told that Olé wanted to put his faith in youth, but as I said in my last column, that doesn’t seem to be happening. When Shaw, Pogba and Martial got injured, he brought in Young, Mata and Matic rather than, say, Dalot, Garner and Chong. Luis Van Gaal was playing Axel Tuanzebe as a holding midfielder 4 years ago, and yet Olé, supposedly the champion of youth, has appeared not to even consider the talented youngster in that role.
The worst part of it all is, you think OK, the gamble (whatever that actually was) has failed, let’s try and limp through to January and get 2 or 3 quality players in then – yet you just know, as Ed Woodward continues to avoid employing a director of football, that it will not happen and that there will be another shambolic window in which at best one overpriced, under-qualified player is brought in.
It’s going to be a long season, lads.
We are told Rome wasn’t built in a day and that we can’t expect to be up there with City and Liverpool for a couple of seasons. We get that. But we can surely aspire to beat Crystal Palace at home and at least get a point at West Ham? We can surely expect to be putting at least 2 or 3 past Astana?
For the first time ever as a Man United fan, I’m struggling to think what I would do if I was suddenly given the manager’s job, such is the lack of options available to Olé Solskjaer. But here are a few things I would try.
- Give Fred a proper run in the team. Yes, he’s still giving away free kicks in dangerous areas, but once he cuts that out, he can be a force for United. The team needs his box-to-box energy.
- Bring Tuanzebe in for Lindelof. Let’s just see what Axel can do and give Victor time to refocus and find his form again.
- If Ashley Young must play, ban him from taking corners and free kicks. It is crazy that when talented dead ball specialist Andreas Pereira is also on the pitch that the inept Young still gets this role.
- Go to the free transfer market and strengthen with at least two signings. In particular, players like Hatem Ben Arfa and Wilfred Bony would provide some options in attacking areas, and maybe even the likes of James Morrison or Miles Jedinak would provide some cover in midfield. Yes, we have come to this.
- When he has recovered from injury, put Rashford back out wide. He is simply not consistent enough in front of goal to be a number 9.
- Give James Garner 90 minutes in central midfield against Rochdale. If he looks the part, bump him up ahead of Matic (McTominay is looking better in the holding role anyway).
- Rip out Mason Greenwood’s tonsils ASAP. And let him play. Let him learn on the pitch. He is already a better player than Rashford and should be getting much more game time.
- Likewise, give Angel Gomes proper game time and see if he can learn on the pitch. It’s sad to see the decline in Juan Mata, but Gomes is a like-for-like substitute who needs to be given a decent chance to show what he can do. Again, 90 minutes against Rochdale is a must.
- The starting XI, if all fit should be something like this: De Gea, Wan Bissaka, Tuanzebe, Maguire, Shaw – McTominay, Fred, Pogba – James, Greenwood, Martial.
- The starting XI with current injuries should be something like this: De Gea, Wan Bissaka, Tuanzebe, Maguire, Dalot – McTominay, Fred, Garner – James, Gomes or Chong and a free agent transfer such as Bony at centre forward.
- At all costs, buy a striker in the January window. Even if Greenwood, Martial and Rashford come good, there’s still room for a fourth option.
None of this is likely to be enough to get United into the top four this season, but it might be enough to steady what is fast becoming a sinking ship. The squad is simply too thin and needs strengthening urgently, whether it is by fast forwarding young players’ introduction into the first team or by bringing in players from outside.