A year and a week ago Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United were beaten 3-1 by Manuel Pellegrini’s West Ham United at the London Stadium in a game that would see the Red Devils drop to eighth in the Premier League on ten points (eight behind leaders Liverpool) thus equalling their worst ever start to a Premier League season after seven games.
Yesterday, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Manchester United were beaten 2-0 at the London Stadium by Manuel Pellegrini’s West Ham United in a game that was their sixth in the league this season, after two wins and two draws this was their second defeat. United currently lie eighth, ten points behind leaders Liverpool and if they fail to win next Monday against Arsenal it will be their worst ever start to a Premier League season.
And as they were 12 months ago, questions are again being asked on United with many stating things have got worse and not better since Solskjaer took charge from Mourinho in what was a clear bid by the Glazers last December to restore some of the old ethos, inspiration and mentality back at the club.
And whilst that gamble instantly looked like a positive step following the first fifteen or so games of Ole’s reign things have slowly declined at United with form since that famous win in Paris last March reading just 5 wins with 4 draws and 11 defeats in all competitive matches.
But to hand the majority of the blame on Ole is perhaps unjustified considering what was spent before him on absolute dross that failed to live up to United’s standards and high demands.
In all Jose Mourinho, the man tipped by many as the only person capable of following Sir Alex Ferguson’s footsteps is the man largely to blame, spending over £350m on eleven signings that included the transactions of Paul Pogba, Romelu Lukaku, Alexis Sanchez, Erik Bailly, Victor Lindelof, Nemanja Matic, Henrik Mkhitaryan, Fred, Diego Dalot, Lee Grant and Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
In fact Zlatan of those mentioned would probably be considered the best bit of business and he cost the least on a free before leaving for the same amount to LA Galaxy, whilst the likes of Pogba, Bailly and Matic have so far failed those like Lukaku, Sanchez and Mkhitaryan have already been shown the door.
In fairness to Solskjaer in the one window he’s worked he already looks to have faired better than Mourinho in capturing Harry Maguire from Leicester as well as Aaron Wan Bissaka from Crystal Palace and arguably United’s best player so far this season Daniel James from Swansea. But more players are needed following the glut of underperforming overpriced brand names that Mourinho bought in, Gary Neville only yesterday saying that “£400m will be needed” to repair the mess.
Mourinho himself was questioned after witnessing Solskjaers team easily beaten yesterday and he stated “that things have been bad for a long time” surely he must take some credit for this? Surely this started from source? This began with some poor signings and got even worse the more they delivered less.
United now are heavily reliant on youngsters, but the trouble is these youngsters are not ready to be reliable week in week out. Mason Greenwood, Angel Gomes, Tahith Chong, Axel Tuanzube, they have talent but they need help from their peers. The likes of Pogba, Matic, Mata, Lingard, Jones, Young, De Gea etc need to step up and educate by delivering themselves when it matters most, but failing to do this is heaping more pressure on those least experienced and that cannot be fair if these young exciting players are to grow and be nurtured into Premier League football over time.
My worry is now that the blame will lie on Ole’s door which might be part justifiable as tactically you have to question his motives as the side struggles to break down the door of teams considered inferior to them. Counter-attacking football cannot be the only way. United need plan B, plan C, plan D and more if they are to improve on recent inadequacy.
Has Ole got the capabilities to improve his side tactically to become a force again in the Premier League? Only time will tell, but the concern is Ole won’t be given time when the real issue is in fact the players he has to pick from are simply not good enough or not wanting to do their jobs to the best of their own levels.
In one or two transfer windows perhaps we might begin to find out if United can improve but it will take up to ten players leaving and ten players incoming before the side can even think about winning trophies again.
They say the Glazers should go? You can’t say United haven’t been backed by them. Badly managed yes, they now have too many footballers with bad attitudes and they need to get them out the door before that negativity rubs off on what looks like a promising crop of youngsters coming through.
I hope the board back Ole and the fans give him time and see that its the players and not the Coach on this particular occasion that are not doing their bit to the best they can, as a Coach he’s still learning and with time and new players he can learn to get things right. I just wonder if by then, United will be too far away from the top six to even be considered amongst the elite?