Halfway through the Premier League season and Liverpool are storming ahead of the rest of the table. They look already set to win it, with Man City behind them in second place but more than 15 points adrift. Man United, meanwhile, are battling it out with Everton, Wolves and Tottenham around eighth place in the table. Accruing barely more wins than losses or draws, the Red Devils look little like the formidable force they were under Sir Alex Ferguson. Back then, anyone studying the Premier league title odds would have expected Man Utd to run away with the league title. Now it’s a different story and you find yourself asking if they can ever retain their former glory — and how?
New players often breathe new life into a team. Earlier in 2020, the former Red Devils defender Gary Neville stated his belief that the team needed to sign four or five new players to become serious trophy contenders again. In his opinion, the team need a left-back, another centre-back, two central midfielders and a forward or striker.
Gary Neville isn’t the only one to have called for midfield reinforcements. Last year, some sports journalists observed that the side desperately needed a player to shield the defence. As far as one writer was concerned, the combination of Pogba and McTominay wasn’t working because the Frenchman was too attack-minded and the Scotsman was not enough of a hold-up player.
Improve player mentality
Just before Christmas, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, stated that the players may have to work on their mentality against teams people are expecting Man Utd to beat. The club put in some fine performances towards the end of the year against Spurs and Man City,but seem to struggle against ‘lesser’ teams. Solskjaer has recognised this problem and aims to fix it if he feels his players are finding it hard to get up for these games.
The manager acknowledges that every game in the Premier League is a big game. He remembers his playing days, the ones in which Man Utd were a treble-winning team and how they never used to drop a point against even the smallest clubs. In his view, this was the attitude that helped them win the league.
Getting rid of some players
In January, the team hit a low point and fans started to turn against them when Man Utd lost 2–1 at Old Trafford against Burnley, a loss which left them trailing in the Champions League race. Despite dominating possession, the side created few chances against Sean Dyche’s men, who defended well and were clinical in their finishing. Following the game, Solskjaer announced the club was having a clear-out before the January transfer window closed. He stated that his side just hadn’t played well enough for a club of its stature and said he was looking to improve their performance on the pitch. One of those who to have made a departure for the time being is Ashley Young, who signed for Italian giants Inter at the end of January until the end of June 2020. At the time of his departure, Man Utd were sitting at fifth place in the league.
Although the January window closed long ago, another player who is considering making tracks is Tahith Chong. The 20-year-old has received an offer from Inter to 2025 which is worth £3 million a year. He’s also received a renewal proposal from Man Utd, but there are reports it hasn’t convinced him. The player has only played twice in the Premier League this season so far, both times coming off the subs bench, and eight games in all for the club this season.
Tough times these are just now for Man Utd, with fans calling for the dismissal of Solskjaer, who has defended himself by insisting there is no quick fix for the team. Fans have also criticised the influence of Ed Woodward, the executive vice chairman, who they feel has too much influence on the selection of players. Just now though, signings and departures appear to be the order of the day, with a healthy dose of mental resilience thrown in, to turn things around. Let’s hope Man Utd can make it happen.