The Red Devils have endured a difficult season and missed out on CL football after yesterday's draw
Quite how you sum up these sorts of games as well as the season is beyond us. A game that needs to be won at all costs but all we see are sideways passes, back passes to the GK and wasteful shots. Granted, United looked upbeat in the starting stages of the game but that was all that was on offer. The brightest moments of the game came from two youngsters who were showing the much more experienced heads what to do and how to do it. Scott McTominay got his 2nd goal for the season and Tahith Chong’s introduction gave hope that a winning goal was around somewhere in the remaining 40 mins or so. Except that there wasn’t!
In the 87th min, Pogba’s strike hit the bar and it frankly was the moment most of us realized that an undeserving Champions League campaign will not be on the cards next season. Perhaps this was always in the writing, barring the 2 month period of optimism where the club and Solskjaer could do no wrong. Yet what followed in March and April just went on to reveal the extent of shambles this gargantuan institution has become in the last half-decade.
You ask what’s wrong with this team? EVERY! BLOODY! THING!
From off-field to on-field, there’s literally nothing of note that you can say is positive about this club. But just for now, we’ll try to focus on the on-field issues.
It’ll be hard to find a more disinterested bunch of players playing at a top level club and pretty much getting away with it. Simply because the remaining options are worse if not the same.
The forwards are horribly out of form and have scored in sporadic patches through the season. The midfield has looked bereft of ideas on most occasions when it has come up against middling to elite opposition. The defence has been shipping goals for fun almost and the only reliable player from the last few seasons is having one of the worst seasons ever since he debuted.
Marcus Rashford seems to think he’s Ronaldo every time he gets the ball at his feet. Anthony Martial is just plain lazy to look at. Romelu Lukaku is flirting with a move to the Serie A. Not that he was setting the games ablaze with goals but he is the club’s starting forward. Let’s not even speak of Sanchez!
The only supposed best midfielder in the squad, Pogba, has his head turned towards Real Madrid and has been more of a flash in the pan rather than the reliable and consistent leader the club needed him to be. Ander Herrera looks all set to leave on a free at the end of this season due to contract and wage issues. The problem is that Herrera was one of the most hardworking players for United this season. Matic has been a pale shadow of him this season. Only a certain Scott McTominay can say that he has played relatively better than the rest of the central operators in the engine room. This just goes on to show how much quality is lacking.
Frankly, the defence does not leave much to be said that hasn’t already been spoken about and dissected to the last strand. Victor Lindelof and Luke Shaw have been the only 2 standout players in a defence that has shipped off 52 goals in 37 league games. Just to give you some context, that is the worst defensive record among the top 9 teams in the Premier League! A washed-up Ashley Young is your first choice full back and a bumbling duo of Chris Smalling and Phil Jones are your 2nd and 3rd choice centre backs!
They simply aren’t the players you want starting for a team that wants to win trophies. Their deficiencies have come to the fore with De Gea having one of the most error-prone seasons of his career. 7 clean sheets in 37 games and currently on a 14 match run without a clean sheet! These are seriously concerning numbers. Yes, he has produced some fine displays like the one against Spurs but there have been one too many errors directly leading to a goal being conceded (4).
Add to that his reluctance to renew his contract due to high wage demands with the current one expiring in a year and you have a messy situation without much of a solution.
On top of everything, United will have to make do with Thursday night football for next season and they have no one to point the finger at, other than themselves. The last few weeks were supposed to be about one final assault and top 4 looked an easy goal with Spurs, Chelsea and Arsenal faltering in several of their games. Instead, they managed 2 scrappy wins in the last 9 games. Chelsea’s win over Watford sealed their top 4 spot while Spurs are likely to be the 4th team to complete the set.
The biggest question Manchester United need to ask themselves, about their squad, is how many of these players would get even one game for the likes of Manchester City and Liverpool, who are at a whole different level than the rest right now. Maybe just 2 or 3! Maybe not even them given their patchy form.
A lot of this stems from the boardroom level and lack of a footballing brain behind the transfer ins and outs. When a businessman/accountant is calling the shots at a football club, there isn’t much better you can expect. His appointment of Solskjaer was emotional more than anything and to appease the fans because of his previous history with the club. There’s not a lot more he could have done with these seemingly lethargic bunches of unfit, disinterested players who strut about as if they are the best in their business. They are chipping away at the club’s finances on a weekly basis and nothing is being done. This factors in when you’re trying to sign new players but eventually can’t because the wage bill is way past the ceiling.
A proper cleanup of the club is needed before any new player is brought in. If someone does not fit the club’s philosophy or isn’t putting in the hard yards, get rid of them. Involve more youth players who know what it is to wear the Manchester United badge on their chest. Buy young players who want to learn and actually want to be at Manchester United. Sell players who are half committed to the cause or are distractions with their continuous flirtations with other clubs. They simply have no place in the Theatre of Dreams.
It’s not an overnight job and it shouldn’t be. Cleaning a mess takes time but you at least need to start somewhere. You have put your faith in Solskjaer. Good! Now back him with funds in the coming window. Yes, the club will play in the Europa League but it’s the place they belong as of now. A Barcelona team without moving to 2nd gear chewed and spit them out.
‘This’ United team don’t belong among Europe’s elite and that’s stating things mildly. A season in Europe’s 2nd tier will help in the rebuilding. Players who want to fight will stay and those not will most likely leave. Attracting players will be tough but the name ‘Manchester United’ still holds a lot of value. The club may play whichever competition; there will still remain players who want to play for Manchester United.
With one game to go, the season is pretty much done. Another trophyless season! A pivotal summer and transfer window beckon for the club. Maybe the most important one in their history. It could well be a step in the path of redemption or another wrong step into the depths of mediocrity. For now, just sit back, relax and watch next week’s game. Or not. There’s not a lot to see except maybe some young, hungry academy players running around, having fun and playing football. They might even get a win. Who knows...