Is the United squad as strong as it could be? This week, the Red Thoughts team look into strength in depth and ask, is it good enough?
RICK: I feel that if Mourinho is able to consistently change the team and if we are able to put in solid performances in each game, we are in a better position than say Man City, as the strength in depth in our squad is much better than theirs. We have at least 2 quality players for every position on the pitch. Obviously we have a few world class players which will be essential to our first team, but the rest of our squad is no shake.
When I look at our bench nowadays, in games I think even if we’re not winning we have quality players to bring off the bench who will be hungry to help the team win and have the quality to do so. With Mourinho still getting the players to adapt to what he wants, we are only going to improve. We have a great squad and I feel Mourinho can get the best out of them.
The last few seasons we’ve had a decent team, but when we looked at our bench there wasn’t anyone who the opposition would say “we hope he doesn’t come on”, they wouldn’t have been worried about who was coming on as they knew they weren’t top class. Now, if we bring someone off the bench you know they can make something happen and do some damage.
BETS: As you say, you could pick any two teams of 11 from our current squad and have (on form) top class players in every single position on both sides, and even with 3 pretty good ones left over (if you include Schweini). That is exciting and almost unheard of, and to be honest a big part of the thanks for that should go to Mr Van Gaal, who made it his mission to have 2 top class players in every position, and assembled most of this squad. Mou has brought in the four that really put the icing on the cake.
I think if you look at it in terms of fielding 2 sides, we are way stronger than Chelsea and Barca and somewhat stronger than City or even Real. If we’re looking at the strength of every single squad member, the only squad I’ve found that I would swap our current one for, past or present, is the 2005-6 United squad, look at the top 22 from that one: Tim Howard – Edwin Van der Sar –Gary Neville -Wes Brown -John O’Shea – Gabriel Heinze -Gerard Piqué – Rio Ferdinand – Nemanja Vidic – Mikael Silvestre – Paul Scholes – Ryan Giggs -Darren Fletcher (OK, well, it’s him or Gibson!) – Ji-Sung Park – Quinton Fortune – Cristiano Ronaldo – Wayne Rooney – Ruud Van Nistelrooy – Ole Gunnar Solskjaer – Guisseppe Rossi – Louis Saha – Alan Smith. Not bad!
RICK: And how many players from City, Spurs, Liverpool, Chelsea or Arsenal would get into our first team? Not many is the answer to that.
BETS: Even if you look at Barcelona, honestly we are so much better than them in a number of positions. The problem is that we have no galacticos. We have 22 BMWs but no Lamborghinis or Ferraris. Rashford and Martial might be galacticos in the making, Ibra and maybe at a stretch Rooney you may classify as galacticos in decline, but I don’t think we have anyone in the Messi – Neymar – Bale – Ronaldo – Aguero league right now.
HEMOR: Are you guys judging the quality of our squad based on how good they were or can be or how good they are now? Because lots of our squad players are in poor form and nobody knows if they’ll improve.
1. Rooney – he has been on a decline for the past 3 seasons.
2. Memphis – he has only had 2 good games with us that I can’t remember. Against Club Brugge and Midtyjlland. That says it all.
3. Schneiderlin – he hasn’t been at his best with us.
4. Darmian – very poor since he joined us.
5. Rojo – had a good first season but he has been shit ever since.
6. Jones – always injured.
7. Fellaini – he has been playing well this season but overall he still lacks quality. Too slow, no vision, no creativity, poor tackling ability.
8. Mkhi – very awesome player but he hasn’t been at his best since he joined us. I believe he’ll be a beast once he starts playing again BUT this list is based on present form.
9. Martial – another awesome player who has been in poor form since the start of this season.
10. Zlatan – Started this season very very well but for the past few games he has been on poor form. He misses a lot of big chances.
11. Young – his performances this season have been mixed. He played very well against Liverpool but in the game he played before that he was poor, so he’s still not sure to perform well.
So judging by present form, we don’t have a solid squad. We can put out a very solid starting XI, but the majority of the squad players aren’t very convincing. If José can get the best out of everybody then we might not need to sign or sell any players for the next two seasons, but if he can’t then we need to sell lots of players and buy new ones!
RICK: I’m judging them based on how they can perform if they play to their best. Rooney we all know is on decline, for me he is a bench player now but can still put in the odd good performance as seen against Palace last season or Fenerbahce. So in that respect we definitely have a good squad.
Tell me how many bench players do City have where you can say, “oh they will do something off the bench?” How many for Chelsea, how many for Liverpool, how many for Arsenal, how many for Spurs? Then compare that to how many we have that can do so from the bench. Yes, it is down to Mourinho to try and get the best out of them, but the point I’m making is that the quality is there, it’s just about the players producing.
HEMOR: You’re absolutely right, when everybody is playing well we have a great squad, but José has a lot of work to do on the players individually.
RICK: The only exception is Fellaini – he should never ever see the light of the Man Utd first team!
JIM: Its a good squad, but they’re not always used correctly.
RICK: The problem is LVG demoralised so many of our players last year, Mourinho is having to pick them up again. Plus as we discussed last week, not all are willing to fight for the badge.
REX: We have a good squad on paper. That is all. The form of our ‘bench’ players is worrying for me. I for one think it’s Mourinho’ s rotation or lack thereof. Yes, he wants a solid team, but we barely go through the team roster. This is also why I feel Chelsea limped to the finish line the year they were champions. They were great to start with, but at the end of the season they just did the bare minimum to win.
All the names we can bring off the bench are underperfoming … Martial, Mkhitaryan, Depay and the list goes on. Ask yourselves why? It’s not just one player. It’s simply because they barely get a look in. Some people might feel like these players are crap, but no one improves on the bench … even Depay. It took him several efforts to get the second goal from a free kick for his national team, but he was given a chance. He barely gets a sniff at United. Games like Burnley at home and we couldn’t even get Mkhitaryan on the team sheet! Really?!
This actually leads back to our discussion last week about player attitudes. Mourinho is looking for a dying breed of players. The Keanos and Terry’s of this world. Times are changing and players now are more fragile. They need rotation. Shaw looked horrible and tired and he’s supposed to be our main LB. This squad does have potential, but I don’t see it being realized with players just sitting on the bench or at home.
BETS: Van Gaal had a terrible effect on player’s confidence. Darmian and Memphis were the worst examples – axed from the team for a couple of bad performances (one in Darmian’s case). Schneidy was another. I remember saying when he arrived he reminded me of Bryan Robson – box to box, can do everything a midfielder needs to do – but what does LVG do? Staple him to the CDM position and doesn’t let him move. Carrick also was restricted so much it made some of us think he was past it. We’ve also read Martial saying they were made to watch videos of their mistakes every week – how does that build confidence?
I agree, Rex, that the squad players need a run in the side, but I can see that Mou is trying to build a winning side first, for the ones whose confidence has been destroyed to come in to. Makes sense. We can’t afford to lose too many points giving too many players a chance to find their form. We are already giving Pogba and Ibra time to settle and find their feet in the PL. He would (rightly) want to get them firing properly before risking others. The Netherlands performance might offer Mou the chance to give Memphis more playing time, and so I expect to see him on the bench on Saturday.
RICK: The Luxembourg game has given Memphis some confidence, but you do need to put that into context. They are a shit team. But you never know, it might just be the spark for him to start performing again.
REX: At the end of the day, players need more minutes to show what they can do. Mourinho let Rooney play until it was apparent that he had to be dropped, Zlatan played through the worst non-scoring stretch of his career costing us wins in the process, but yet he doesn’t have the patience to play the lads off the bench who are in dire need of game time. It just doesn’t make sense.