Three games into Manchester United’s season and it is safe to say that there has been a mixture of elation, frustration and despair. We started with the highs of United’s 4-0 victory on the opening weekend of the season with optimism and have sunk to the almighty low of conceding Patrick Van Aanholt’s late winner at home to Crystal Palace – United’s first loss to Palace in Premier League history. Although it may have only been three games, there are there glaring problems which have become increasingly evident during the first few weeks of the season.
1. The Midfield Problem
The midfield has been a talking point throughout the entirety of pre-season whether it be Pogba’s potential departure or the fan’s desire to sign a midfielder to help contribute goals and assists, with Bruno Fernandes being the most commonly linked name to the club. After the start of the season, the lack of creativity is clear for all to see and the team is desperate for a player of a higher calibre to play in the number 10 position which has been mainly occupied by Lingard. Lingard has not contributed either a goal or assist in 2019 and seeing Fernandes’s positive start for Lisbon has made this even more painful for Manchester United fans to swallow. The lack of creativity is particularly highlighted against the likes of Wolves and Crystal Palace where United tend to dominate the possession and play against an extremely defensive block. Lingard seems to provide very little in this system against sides where United dominate the ball and are crying out for a midfielder to add creativity and goals. This glaring gap in the team is made even more torturous when you glance across to Manchester City who have at least 5 players who can play this role to a remarkably high level.
2. Squad Size
Another obvious concern after the start of the season has been the size of our ever-thinning squad. After every line-up has been announced, you can’t help but feel completely uninspired by the options on the bench. The backup option to every single position is a vast drop in quality leaving Ole very few options to make an impact on the game. Not only is this alarming for the immediate future, but as we near the introduction of cup competitions, the squad is going to be severely tested and I do not believe United’s squad is anywhere near capable to cope with the onslaught of fixtures. This is particularly worrying as the Europa League may be our greatest chance of getting a spot back in the Champions League. Martial and Shaw have already picked up injuries with the latter looking like he is going to be out for at least over a month which further proves his unreliability in becoming United’s main left-back for the following years.
3. Too much youth, not enough experience
Since Ole’s appointment, he has continuously mentioned the importance of youth and his belief in incorporating youth in the team. This belief is already evident with United starting with the youngest squad in the league and the frequent substitute appearances of 17 year old Mason Greenwood. Although this does bring some joy to the United fans due to the nostalgia of great youth players of the past, there is far too much pressure and over-reliance on the likes of Greenwood at such a young age. Despite United always proudly being associated with bringing through youth, most youth players have only been successfully brought through when they have been surrounded by experienced professionals who were used to winning titles regularly. The current United young generation are part of a squad who have been performing poorly for several years and have few experienced winners in the team to look up to and rely on when they are having an off day. United’s youth have far too much responsibility and unfair pressure to perform so regularly and there will be a major over-dependence on them as the season goes on which will inevitably result in United falling far short of the expected end of season targets.
Sadly the first three games of the season has created more concern than hope for the upcoming season. Most Manchester United fans can agree that the problems above will become an increasingly greater issue for Ole which guarantees a rollercoaster of season but hopefully Ole is given a chance to rectify these issues in the future.