Manchester United’s disappointing 1-1 draw away at Southampton on Saturday means the Red Devils are without an away win since 6th March when they defeated PSG 3-1 at the Parc des Princes.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer promised big changes soon after his arrival half way through last season and the Norwegian has swung his axe with Smalling, Sanchez and Darmian joining the likes of Lukaku, Herrera and Fellaini through the exit door this week. It is greatly anticipated that the former Molde boss will promote the highly regarded youth at Old Trafford this campaign to plug the caps in the squad that the departures have left. Axel Tuanzebe, Mason Greenwood and Tahith Chong were all on the bench at St Mary’s today showcasing the trust that Ole and his coaching staff have in the youngsters at their disposal.
Daniel James now has 3 goals Premier League in his first 4 appearances for the club, equalling the tally recorded by Alexis Sanchez throughout his entire 18 months at United. With the £18 million acquisition of James already looking like a steal after settling into life in the North West immediately, and the defensive purchases of Wan-Bissaka and Maguire also looking like good moves, you would be forgiven for thinking everything was looking up for the three time European Champions.
But United’s latest sub-standard performance leaves the Old Trafford club with just 3 wins from their last 13 Premier League games and without a win since their opening day demolition of Chelsea. Just 4 points from a possible 12 is far below the total that many expected and demand from a club the size of Manchester United. Some fans are pointing the finger at the manager after becoming frustrated with their underperforming side but the ex-United striker played down fears by claiming, “It’s not a dip in form, it’s a dip in results.” He is satisfied with how his team are playing and carrying out his game plan, but the results just haven’t been there to match.
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Supporters do need to be patient and remember that the likes of Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp didn’t have success immediately at their current clubs, but the board stuck with them, backing their tactics and managers in the transfer window, before ultimately building impressive, winning teams. However, they also have a right to be disappointed with how the team have nose dived in the last dozen or so league games and will rightly bemoan the lack of movement through the door at Carrington over the summer which has now left the squad thin on quality. A creative midfielder was a must on everyone’s wish list with the likes of Bruno Fernandes and Christian Eriksen heavily linked and the performances of James Maddison and Youri Tielemans (who was available for just £40 million in the summer) have left people bemused as to how and why one wasn’t signed.
Solskjaer has clearly identified the deadwood throughout the squad and has started to make the necessary changes, whilst bringing through young exciting prospects that will surely play a bigger role as the season goes on. With the Europa League group stages approaching along with the Carabao Cup, there will be plenty of opportunities for the likes of Angel Gomes and Greenwood to stake a claim for a starting role in the first XI but the ever faithful Reds would have desired to see those hot prospects integrated alongside world class talent.
Many will feel Solskjaer is moving in the right direction; getting rid of the overpaid, underperforming players and bringing through an exciting new crop of academy graduates, but the results have to be better during this transitional period or he will not be there to see the job through.
The Norwegian stated after the match, as quoted by the club’s official website, “We feel numb and disappointed. In the last three games we’ve lost points that we definitely deserved to win.”
If Ole is to avoid becoming the fourth manager sacked since Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement and carry on his good work off the pitch, he needs to be stronger and more ruthless in the transfer market whilst picking up some points quickly to help United return back to Champions league football in the bid to eventually close the gap on their two biggest rivals Liverpool and Man City. Fans understand it was never going to be a quick fix and the rebuild would take several transfer markets but they also need to be shown that progress is being made and everyone is pulling in the same direction, fighting for the badge, something they are yet to be convinced by.