What’s gone wrong at Manchester United?

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This season was supposed to be different. It was finally Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s team. Manchester United had finally recovered from the loss of Sir Alex Ferguson. After shelling out £80 million on Harry Maguire and £50 million on Aaron Wan Bissaka, finally Manchester United had sorted their defence, as well as adding to their attack with the promising Daniel James. Yet eight games into the season, those expectations have flown out of the window. After a promising yet flattering 4-0 win against Chelsea, the all too familiar flaws have returned. No bark, no bite and a defence that couldn’t save their lives. This culminated in this team scraping past Astana in the Europa League, losing to West Ham and just about beating Rochdale on penalties. So what exactly has gone wrong at the club?

The Manager

Ole Gunnar Solskjær has a special place in United folklore, scoring that famous goal to win the Champions League in the treble of 1999. However, unless something drastic happens, the ‘Baby-Faced Assassin’ is in all too much danger of damaging his reputation. He can’t change the past, but is what is happening right now partly his fault? He has the players he wanted; young players who play for the badge, not for the money. Perhaps more importantly, he has got rid some of the ‘deadwood’ like Chris Smalling, as well as players that did not fit his philosophy, like Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez. This is now, at least partly, Solskjær’s team. Yet they’re not playing to his ideas. His tactics have also been called into question. Solskjær wants to play counter-attacking, free-flowing football, which is what the fans crave. Yet the substitutions he makes have been heavily criticised. For example, in the loss against Crystal Palace, many people thought that Solskjær introduced Mata too late. When Mata came on, albeit for five minutes, Manchester United started dominating. If Mata was brought on earlier, United could possibly have won that game. His subs, and tactics, seem very predictable, and he seems to have no Plan B.

The Players

Maybe the problem is in the players themselves. Quite frankly, there are too many players on wages that do not justify their performances at all. Jesse Lingard hasn’t contributed to a goal in 11 of the last 12 months, but is on a £100,000 a week, which is just one such example. Many of the players are not playing for the badge, but only for the money. They do not care about the club, which is a far cry from players like Roy Keane and Ryan Giggs, who lived for the club. Including Solskjær, Manchester United have had five managers in the six years since Ferguson’s retirement, and none of them have brought satisfactory results. Yet the core of the players have remained at the club. Surely at least some of the blame has to go to the players? The players have also been blamed for making the managers look bad. A lot of the players seem to lose faith in their manager as soon as something goes wrong, and then don’t play for him. The fans then blame the manager, causing them to lose their job. The attitude of the players at the club is definitely toxic.

The Board

I personally think that the problem at the club goes much deeper. Who appoints the manager? The board. Who has the power to buy and sell players? The board. The vice-chairman of the club, Ed Woodward, seems to have most of this power. Woodward needs Solskjær to do well, because his last managerial appointments have not gone well. Many fans feel that Woodward has no footballing knowledge; his managerial appointments have no correlation with the players these managers buy. The profits at the club are dropping because of on-field issues, and if the profits keep dropping further, the Glazer family will get involved. The signings he has made have also been inadequate. They may have signed some decent defenders finally, but this Manchester United team seems toothless up front. They have sold Lukaku but not replaced him. This leaves Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial as their only recognised centre forwards, even though that’s not their preferred positions. Their midfield is also lacking in quality. Woodward and the board clearly need help in making managerial and player positions. Which is why they need a technical director. The board has been searching for one since summer, and has failed in that too. The board needs a desperate revamp to stop the situation from getting a lot worse.