The Premier League is already under the way and Liverpool have already registered a thumping 4-1 win over Norwich City at Anfield. Jurgen Klopp’s men have already laid the cornerstone to winning the Premier League this season.
The mood at Anfield is jocund and jovial. Sadly, the same cannot be said about Old Trafford, the home of their bitter rivals Manchester United. At the Theatre of Dreams seems gloomier than usual. Following a disheartening transfer window where the board partially kept the promises they made to the fan, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s cheerful mood seems to be uncanny at its best.
Manchester United roped in Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Daniel James and Harry Maguire for a combined £145m, with the latter coming in for a world-record £80m fee. While the Old Trafford bosses have taken care of the team’s defence immaculately, a lot of work remained unattended. However, were they right enough to turn a blind eye to the reinforcements needed in the midfield and attacking departments?
In his latest conference, Solskjaer has already said that he believes in giving the youngsters a chance to try their luck amidst the turbulent times at Old Trafford. The reports also claim that the Norwegian is seen as a long term solution by Ed Woodward and the Glazers to the dugout problems at the club.
Kudos to the Baby-Faced Assassin for biding by Manchester United’s traditions of nurturing youngsters. But in an era where money actually plays a crucial role in becoming a powerhouse and fans getting impatient as years pass by, is he right enough to pin that gigantic pressure on the shoulders of those young kids? Is Ed Woodward prudent enough to make a cost-effective investment with a net spend amount of just £75m when a massive overhaul was promised and actually required?
Giving youngsters a chance is always a welcome thing; they will have adequate time to prove their worth for the red shirt and cement a place in the lineup. However, they will require time to step up, to get ready and understand the depth of the responsibility they have to shoulder now. In the meantime, the Red Devils do need experienced personnel to see off and launch a challenge for titles.
The fraternity always talks about Sir Alex Ferguson’s excellent handling of the Class of 92 and about how he decided to use them for an entire season instead of investing in the transfer market. What they also need to know is that when they came into the first team, those six gems already had leaders like Paul Ince and Eric Cantona guiding them in the right direction.
The current team, sorrowfully, hardly has such leaders the likes of Tahith Chong, Angel Gomes and Mason Greenwood can look up to.
The current crop of United players will face much much more pressure than what the Class of 92 faced. Back in the 90s, United were always amongst the firm favourites to win the title while their adversaries changed every season. However, the Red Devils had at the most two competitors for the Premier League trophy.
Now, however, times have changed and there are six teams in the race for the title. The altitudinous pressure is also the result of the fact that the Red Devils haven’t won the league for six years now and have an incompetent squad if they actually think of launching a challenge.
In such tumultuous times, there is every possibility for those youngsters to lose their confidence if they fail to adjust to the rigours they have been subjected to.
The accusations at Ed Woodward
With Manchester United having a transfer window that was way off the promises they made, Ed Woodward was the center point of all rage and vexation on the social media. To speak on his side, the United CEO is absolutely on point about rejecting players who do not want to play for the club (hello there, Paulo Dybala). It is utmost important to build an image where footballers view you as a footballing powerhouse and not as a goldmine.
Make no mistake, Woodward has already shown he is capable of delivering marquee signings. Paul Pogba, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Radamel Falcao and now Harry Maguire; the Englishman needs no special tutor to tell him how he needs to hon his craft.
However, what he also needs to know is that Manchester United have no other way to appease the top brass other than splashing the cash. The Red Devils have no Champions League opportunity to offer to the players and are far off from competing for the title considering the squads Manchester City, Liverpool and Tottenham possess at the moment.
In Ed Woodward’s tenure, Manchester United have finished inside the top 4 only twice – an alarming stat and one to be rightly concerned about for every Manchester United fan.
Woodward’s biggest error, talking as a whole and not only about the current transfer market, is about his intermittent investments in the past seasons. United have only considerably emptied their coffers in the summers when they have had to participate in the Europa League.
Pogba, Schweinsteiger, Zlatan, Mkhitaryan, Falcao; all of them have come at a time when United needed strength to qualify for the Champions League, not to mention that a bunch of them were wrong investments in the first place.
Once qualified, however, Woodward has turned deaf years towards managers who have been crying out for quality signings to upgrade the squad. He has failed to build upon the developments by not delivering what was actually required.
A case in point is the summer of season 2018/19 when Jose Mourinho asked for a defensive reinforcement and got none. The results in the aftermath showed that the Special One wasn’t entirely responsible for his failures.
What does a lackadaisical summer mean for United?
Liverpool didn’t invest in the transfer market because they didn’t need to. Jurgen Klopp has a good squad depth that was put to test in the rigorous fixture list last season. The Kop’s squad depth is well-tested and experienced.
Same goes for Manchester City, who made only one significant signing in Rodri but improved the area that needed improvisation the mist last season. Arsenal and Tottenham have done praiseworthy business and strengthened themselves considerably, making the competition fierce than ever.
Going by the players they have signed, these four clubs could be the final teams to qualify for the Champions League in season 2020/21.
However, what’s more alarming is the efficient transfer business conducted by the likes of Wolverhampton, Everton and Aston Villa. These teams will definitely mount a challenge from the back meaning United will be sandwiched between catching the top 4 teams and staying at a safe distance from these clubs if they wish to avoid falling any lower than they are now.
The possible aftermath
Manchester United haven’t made the major investments in midfield and attacking departments, which also needed to be given top priority alongside defence. Solskjaer’s attacking style-of-play is offering a ray of optimism for the United faithful, but only time will tell if a change of system is enough to deliver silverware.
Should Paul Pogba get injured, the Red Devils do not possess a player who can pick out players with passes and create goalscoring chances as well as score goals. Now after Lukaku’s departure, that condition would be more grave knowing the Frenchman is also the club’s top scorer alongside being their creator-in-chief.
The best possible option to strengthen themselves is now the winter transfer season. If Ed Woodward and co don’t invest in January, Manchester United risk the possibility of reaching newer heights of mediocrity as time passes by.