It’s been a strange few weeks for Ole Gunnar Solksjaer’s Manchester United. They had a solid pre-season, and kicked off the new season with a rather convincing 4-0 thumping of Frank Lampard’s Chelsea. Then came the draw at Wolves, and the disappointing home loss against Crystal Palace.
They didn’t play too badly, to be fair, and had it not been for the inexplicable two penalty misses in two consecutive matches, the statistics would have read WWW instead of WDL.
And then came the game against Southampton at St Mary’s. United had the lions share of the possession, but it came to nought in the 1-1 stalemate. They lacked the necessary cutting edge and imagination, and couldn’t even overcome a depleted Southampton who played the last 20 minutes with 10 men after Kevin Danso was dismissed for a second yellow card.
So that’s WDLD so far, and United failed to keep a clean sheet yet again. It’s still early days, but questions need to be asked about the team’s defensive spine. While Maguire delivers another stout performance, Victoria Lindelof cannot be allowed to keep dozing off on the job. United have now won 1 of their nine last Premier League games (4 D, 4L)
The three major summer purchases viz. Obi Wan-Bissaka, Daniel James and Harry Maguire look pretty solid overall, and they will come good once they properly integrate into the team. As for the rest of the squad, you get this niggling urge to administer a major tweak or three to United’s dressing room, as it’s clear that some of the players are simply not fit to grace the Theatre of Dreams.
It wasn’t a brilliant transfer window for the Red Devils, with Executive Vice Chairman, Ed Woodpecker, bumbling and stumbling all summer with that startled-possum look on his face. He didn’t quite manage to conclude some of the major deals that would have given the squad a major shot in the arm, so United could be in for a long, wretched season.
If one looked closely at the Southampton game, one is inclined to surmise that perhaps United’s real problem is not who they do or don’t manage to bring to Old Trafford. Rather, it’s about the players they absolutely need to get rid of.
Standards have dropped since Sir Alex left, and the rot had well and truly started the day a certain David Moyes took over the reign.
Transfer efforts partial
For far too long, far too many subpar prima donnas have been allowed to parade around the club like a flock of overstimulated peacocks. They have cheapened and dishonoured the institution, turning ld Trafford into an increasingly dismal and morose place.
Ole Gundam Solksjaer has been working quietly to eradicate all the nonsense at Old Trafford, and it’s a start of a long overhaul process.
Man United have jettisoned Romeo Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez, which was a great start. Chris Smalling’s loan move to AS Roma is also excellent news, as the man has been an accident waiting to happen in the past three or four seasons.
Now the club’s hierarchy must work hard to clear the deck and get rid of the dastardly disastrous defensive triplets of Phil Jones, Marcos Rojo and Matteo Darmian, all of whom are clearly surplus to requirements.
Phil Jones has never quite fulfilled the early promise that persuaded Sir Alex Ferguson to pay Blackburn Rovers £16.5 million for his services. Ditto Argentinian international Rojo, whose €20 million price tag seems like a complete waste of perfectly good money.
As for Darmian, no one really has a clue why he was recruited during Louis van Ghoulish’s reign.
The likes of Fred, Andres Pereira, Diogo Dalot, and even Nemanja Matic will have to work extra hard this term to prove that they are worthy of the squad numbers.
United would also do well to get rid of Ashley Young and Jesse Lingard.
The ancient Young is a train wreck waiting to happen every time he plays. The man doesn’t know how to defend, and he’s also a rather useless attacker who can’t even cross properly. The only thing he does well is run around the pitch like a headless chicken, inflicting all manners of mayhem, usually upon his own team, unfortunately.
Instead of selling him off and putting a stop to the whole farce, Manchester United opted for even more slapstick comedy and inexplicably made Ashley the Club Captain.
Lingard is, at best, an average player whose ‘asset’ is apparently his enthusiasm on the pitch. As we all know, enthusiasm – instead of actual footballing skills and the ability to be clinical – is precisely the quality that will help a player to score 20 goals a season.
God knows how he’s an England international. He doesn’t create or score nearly enough goals, regardless if he’s on the right wing or just behind the front three or whatever his preferred position is. It’s possible that he’s reach Peak Lingard at age 26, so United would do well to sell him fast while West Ham or Newcastle are still interested.
The Paul Pogba Problem
Arguably, the biggest and worst virus that Man United must torch and incinerate is Paul Pogba.
Some people went on and on about Pogba being a great player and how his departure will leave a gaping void in the middle of the park for United. But actually, it’s unclear exactly on what basis Pogba can be described as a great player.
Sure, he won the FIFA World Cup with France last year, but he has otherwise not done much to suggest that he will win the Ballon d’Or in this lifetime.
There would be the odd flashes of the footballing heights that he’s capable of, but these are too few and far between.
A beautifully weighted pass here, a surging run or two there, and maybe the occasional goals when the mood suits him. Otherwise, he’s inconsistent at best.
His passing is not exactly Paul Scholes in terms of range, accuracy and consistency.
For all his high self-regard and cockiness, he doesn’t seem capable of conjuring up magic like Cantona once did.
He’s not an unrelenting midfield warrior like Roy Keane who can lead and grab every single game by the scruff of the neck.
He can be very lazy when backtracking and defending as a collective, and he does a fair bit of ball watching in games.
So, what exactly is so special about Paul Pogba apart from his Instagram account and ridiculous haircut?
His heart is clearly no longer at Old Trafford, so shipping him out pronto is the only move left for United. Either that or absorb the losses and banish the lad to train alone at Carrington for the next 18 months.
Despite agitating for a move to Real Madrid all summer, Pogba has said – with a straight face, no less – that he remains committed to United’s cause and he will always give his best.
Alas, his best is often not good enough. Exhibit A: his erratic display against Southampton at St Mary’s Stadium, where he gave away possession on too many occasions. He wasn’t nearly as effective as he’s expected to be, and gave the travelling fans multiple heart attacks whenever he lost the ball in the defensive third (which happened quite a lot).
The biggest concern among the Old Trafford hierarchy must be the fact that Pogba the Curmudgeon seems to give the impression that the whole club is beneath him. He appears to think that he belongs to a bigger stage, and his colleagues at United are inferior to him. The stunningly patronising atttitude is just ludicrous and cancerous.
Instead of unshakable commitment, United get what can be politely described as sloppy footballing horseplay, buffoonery and indifference.
The world’s best midfielder? Bah! Humbug!
So what of 2019-2020?
Where does this leave United?
Still rambling along an uneven road, possibly destined for mid table mediocrity (Leicester and Wolves could also finish higher, forget the traditional big 5).
How the mighty seem to have fallen.
But such is the circle of Premier League life.