Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has come under fire from sections of Manchester United supporters after the club’s underwhelming start to the campaign. The Red Devils brushed aside Chelsea in the opening match of the term, cruising to a 4-0 win at Old Trafford. However, it has not provided the momentum surge fans would have expected after their fine performance.
United were held to a draw by Wolverhampton Wanderers before being beaten by Crystal Palace at home with a listless performance. In their last outing, Southampton were able to mount a comeback to claim a point at St Mary’s Stadium, despite playing the closing stages of the contest with 10 men. It was concerning that Solskjaer’s men were unable to put the Saints to the sword, lacking the killer instinct that was prevalent during the Norwegian’s playing days at the club.
Although it remains early days in the campaign, the pressure is slowly building on the Norwegian, especially after the Red Devils’ poor finish to last season. United are considered to be behind both Arsenal and Tottenham in the reckoning at Betway for a finish in the top four with odds at 6/4 as of the 6th September.
Whether a Champions League place alone would be enough to satisfy United supporters remains to be seen. Solskjaer may need to add silverware in the FA Cup or the Carabao Cup to justify his position in the dugout, and even that may be a challenge considering that Manchester City and Liverpool along with Spurs, Arsenal and Chelsea will also be pursuing the crowns.
Does Solskjaer Deserve Patience?
— Premier League (@premierleague) August 31, 2019
The Red Devils were spoiled under the era of Sir Alex Ferguson. United were truly dominant under the Scot, winning the Premier League 13 times during his 27 years at Old Trafford. Even Ferguson needed time to make his breakthrough, requiring a Mark Robins strike in the third round of the FA Cup to save his job before going on to win the competition.
Solskjaer is working with one of the weakest United squads on paper for the last 30 years. Romelu Lukaku’s departure has left the Norwegian short on firepower. Marcus Rashford had a good start against Chelsea, but his costly penalty miss against Palace may have rocked his confidence. Anthony Martial has already been struck down with a short-term injury, forcing Solskjaer to go to his bench and 17-year-old Mason Greenwood.
Daniel James has hit the ground running, scoring three goals in his opening four matches. The Welshman along with Rashford and Martial could be a fearsome front three, but the lack of experience among the forward line may limit United’s prospects to compete at the top end of the table. There has been enough encouragement with aspects of their play, especially that of James with his ability in the final third.
Unfortunately for the trio, there is a huge weight of expectations on their shoulders to produce quality good enough to propel the club back into the top four. It’s not their fault as the last six years of recruitment has presented the toughest of tasks for the young players and their manager.
Experienced Players Have To Stand Up
— Express Sport (@DExpress_Sport) September 1, 2019
Given the inexperience in the final third, Solskjaer will have expected more from his experienced players in the squad, none more so than David de Gea. The Spaniard has allowed his standards to drop over the last couple of years. He made a costly error against Palace as Patrick van Aanholt’s strike squirmed through his hands into the net. De Gea has to take on more responsibility to regain the world class level of his form, ensuring that United are not conceding cheap goals at the back.
Harry Maguire was only signed in the summer, but at a price tag of £80m, he has to have a huge impact in his first term. Virgil van Dijk transformed Liverpool’s defence following his move from Southampton and is now arguably the best centre-back in the world. It’s not out of the question that Maguire can reach that same standard, although he has to become a dominant force to justify the world-record fee for a defender that the Red Devils paid Leicester, as reported by the BBC.
The enigma that is Paul Pogba remains a huge issue at Old Trafford. Reports suggested that he was keen to leave the club in the summer, although he has remained in the squad. At his best, the Frenchman is one of the leading midfielders in the game, but his mercurial nature has seen those performances become few and far between. Solskjaer’s biggest task will be to unlock Pogba’s full potential – should he achieve that it might be enough for a prolonged stay in the dugout.