It is no secret that Manchester United have failed to produce results this season and following the departure of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Manchester United have begun the recruitment process for a new manager.
Coach Michael Carrick will lead the team out for the forthcoming games. While we can’t expect to see much change under him given his lack of experience and the fact he was at the club anyway, there are several things the next United manager needs to do if he is to improve the way things have gone this season.
Get the players defending as a team
The first thing in my eyes is to get the team playing more – as that – a team. One of the biggest problems this season has been a lack of defensive cohesion among the players and it has led to intense criticism of the club’s coaches. Manchester United have conceded 21 goals in 12 games so far this season, which means they are on course to concede a huge 66 goals by the end of the campaign – three more than last placed Sheffield United conceded in 20/21. I don’t need to tell you, but that is rather dreadful.
Some teams choose to adopt a high, intense pressing system, such as Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool for example; some choose to sit off more often and others opt for a more balanced approach like Solskjaer’s United in previous seasons. This season however, United have looked so disjointed in defence that it is difficult to pinpoint exactly what the plan is. The arrival of Cristiano Ronaldo has complicated United’s pressing to an extent – the graph below via The Athletic shows his pressing numbers in detail.
While his goals and his experience can make up for this (And has at times when he has saved us this season) it has meant that the players around him have to work harder than they usually do to make up for his low pressing frequency… but the problem is that they haven’t.
It is certainly not all to blame on Ronaldo, far from it. Much of the defending we’ve seen this season has been irrespective of him, but when (Or if) the players understand how to defend as a team when the striker is playing, the defensive record will improve greatly.
Use the squad better
Solskjaer failed to use the depth of the squad well this season and it has resulted in multiple players becoming unhappy due to a lack of game time. Donny Van De Beek, Jesse Lingard and Alex Telles have a combined game time of 531 minutes this season – that’s not even six 90 minutes, to put that into perspective.
They are just three good examples of players who should have played more this season and some would argue their cases for other players, too. Especially with the lack of form shown by certain regulars in the team, you would have thought some other players would have gotten chances.
All teams have squad players, but when you have players underperforming and the highly talented players like those mentioned aren’t even getting a look in, it is right that questions are asked. As it stands, all three of them as well as others, will probably look to leave the club soon if the situation persists. Solskjaer built a fantastic squad for the most part, with great depth – we can’t let that work be undone by not using it.
Sort the captaincy issue
Although the lack of team shape and defensive structure hasn’t helped, many of the players have been poor this season. Harry Maguire is the biggest example – while enjoying a good couple of years with the club before this season, he has failed to get anywhere near the same heights.
Perhaps the mental burden of being captain throughout such a tough period has taken its toll, but that is just speculation. Some have suggested handing the captaincy over to someone else. Although I fear that could make Maguire’s situation worse in the short term, he has shown he can get through rough patches in the past and it may be the right call.
Some have suggested Ronaldo or David De Gea, but for me Bruno Fernandes would be the most sensible choice. Not only is he an incredibly important player for the team, he has shown himself to be a leader and a fighter, and he is also on a long term contract still. Some have suggested the players vote on who should be captain, which is another sensible option.
Whatever decision the new manager takes, it will be a risky one with the potential to backfire – let’s see in the coming months what happens.
Get players playing with confidence again.
What’s clear is that many players like the aforementioned Maguire, Shaw, and almost any of the other first team regulars have looked nothing like themselves this year. After the Watford game, there were rumours many of the players were mentally destroyed and some even on the verge of tears.
Much like Solskjaer did when he first took over as interim manager, it’s imperative that the next United boss lifts the spirits and get the team playing with confidence again. If they do, it could be the start of another fine run.
It’s obvious, but above all United need to start winning games a lot more often. This has been an incredibly disappointing season so far when considering the high expectations we all had. Let’s hope whoever the next manager is can get the team performing again.