It was yet another day to forget for Manchester United fans, and players and manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, as Manchester United succumbed to a 4-2 loss to Leicester City at the King Power Stadium. That brought an end to a 29 game unbeaten record away from home in the Premier League. Manchester United last lost a league game away from home at Anfield in January 2020. They United finish 3rd that season, while Liverpool went on to win the league. They did show decent progress last season as they finished 2nd but were a massive 12 points behind eventual league winners, Manchester City.
That was the gulf left to bridge if United are to target winning the league. In order to do just that, the club from the red side of Manchester added the likes of Jadon Sancho, Raphael Varane, and Cristiano Ronaldo to its ranks, but the club seems to have fallen further away from their goals for the season, as they already find themselves outside of top 4, and a tough fixture list ahead of them.
United would have hoped for the best start to their campaign after the international break, but they were demolished at the King Power. This is their second loss to their campaign already, with just 8 games played. With United able to assemble a star-studded squad, the expectation in and around the club has gone through the roof, and rightly so. You don’t bring in Cristiano Ronaldo to compete for Top 4 or to improve the squad as part of the bigger picture. You get Ronaldo to try winning everything that is out there for you to win. Therefore, the question arises, has Ole Gunnar Solsjkaer done his bit for Manchester United Football Club?
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was brought in December 2018, after the club decided to part ways with Jose Mourinho. Ole’s appointment was thought to be a temporary one, while the club worked behind the scenes to find a permanent fix to United’s problems. The likes of Mauricio Pochettino were considered. Meanwhile, Ole got his team firing on all cylinders and gaining momentum as United pushed for a top 4 place. The ‘honeymoon period’ included beating Paris Saint Germain 3-1 in the second leg of the Round of 16s, after being beaten 2-0 at Old Trafford in the first leg.
However that was that, and United could never repeat such performances or results post the game in March 2019. United crawled past the rest of the season, ending in 6th place, 32 points behind league leaders, and city rivals, Manchester City. They also were 5 points off 4th place, which was taken by Tottenham Hotspur.
Major investment followed the next season, as United recruited Harry Maguire, making him the most expensive defender in world football. They also got Aaron Wan Bissaka to fix problems at right-back and promoted Mason Greenwood to the first team. The recruitment for the right places, and injection of young blood adds a lot of credit to Ole’s bank. However, United has failed to deliver a trophy since Jose Mourinho won the Europa League in 2016, and Manchester United under Ole has failed to win any silverware. They blew their best chance of winning a trophy in the Europa League final last season, as they failed to beat Villareal.
The addition of Ronaldo, Sancho, and Varane this season adds pressure, and performances like yesterday raise a lot of eyebrows and a lot of questions. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will soon be completing 3 years in charge of Manchester United, and that much time spent on the project adds to the scrutiny, and rightly so.
Manchester United have one of the best squads in the league, maybe even in Europe, yet the performances are nowhere near what they should be. The team seems to be clueless during various moments in the game, while individual moments tend to pull United through at times. Cristiano Ronaldo’s winner against Villareal is a fine example of individual players getting things done. David de Gea’s last-minute penalty save against West Ham United was another one of those individual moments, then a team putting in a shift in to grind a result.
It all comes back to the squad that Manchester United has been able to assemble this season, which should be doing a lot more than it currently is. United are 6th in the Premier League table, 3rd in the Champions League group, out of the Carabao Cup after they lost their first game in the tournament. United have not put in a stellar team performance yet, and apart from games against bottom-of-the-league oppositions like Leeds United and Newcastle United, they have scraped through results, be it wins or draws.
David de Gea seems to be back to his best again and is putting in a man-of-the-match performance yet again. Oh, we have seen that before!
United have failed to control the games against Aston Villa at home (which they lost), Everton at home (which they drew), and Leicester away (which they lost). Teams have found it easy to cut through them in the middle, and also are finding it relatively easy to break and counter-attack. Villareal should have run away with the result in their Champions League fixture adding to Ole’s woes. Instead, their poor finishing led to their own downfall, and Ronaldo got United an undeserved victory and 3 valuable points. United started their UCL campaign with a 2-1 defeat against Young Boys. A defeat was the first sign of stagnancy, and of the team lacking ideas, and creativity, and resilience.
Much is down to the players, but a lot should rest on the manager. Manchester United is nowhere tactically sound as their rivals in the league and Europe, and the next set of fixtures against Liverpool, Man City, and Chelsea will prove a stern test for Ole and his staff.
Manchester United fans adore Ole Gunnar Solskjaer for what he achieved as a player. He has also done a fine job to get Manchester United back on track from where Jose Mourinho left, but it’s probably what he could have and has done, and is probably, probably not the one to take this squad to the league title, and other major honors. The next few weeks will surely define the rest of Ole’s career at Manchester United.
As reported by The Athletic, the board at Manchester United will continue to back Ole and his staff despite the poor form, but things change quickly in football. It’ll be interesting to see how United fare in the next set of fixtures, and if the board continues to believe in Ole, and give him more time after what will surely be a reality check against the best clubs in England, and probably in the world.
If results do go down south, Manchester United will have to take a bold decision if they are to stay relevant both in the short and long term. They’re football royalty, but that does not guarantee success, and United has already learned a lesson or two in the last 8 years since Sir Alex Ferguson retired. Like Jose Mourinho said, “Football Heritage”.