Boos from the Old Trafford faithful rang loudly at the interval Wednesday night as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men sauntered off the pitch down one goal against Burnley in the Premier League. By the final whistle, more than half who had traveled to the Theatre of Dreams to see the Red Devils play had already exited the once threatening stadium.
Manchester United, once again, had dropped points to a so-called lesser side in English competition. Disappointed, to say the least. Surprised? Not in the slightest. The management has been poor and once again, the executives in charge of recruiting top talent in January have failed to meet expectations. A goal each from Chris Wood and Jay Rodriguez sealed the victory for The Clarets and marked another embarrassing evening for the hosts.
David de Gea looks finished
There’s nothing the Spaniard could do to stop the first goal. In fact, centre-back and recently promoted skipper Harry Maguire should absorb much of the blame for that error. However, De Gea’s inability to snuff out the second strike from Rodriguez until after it was too late is unacceptable for a world-class keeper. No one is denying de Gea’s talent. He played an integral role in United’s second-place finish in the 2017/18 campaign, but since then has largely disappointed more than he has impressed.
Nearly a month ago, de Gea finally recorded his first clean sheet in double-digit contests against the same side who put two past him on Wednesday. Despite what his lucrative wages might suggest, the 29-year-old is no longer the best keeper at his club, and surely not even top-five in Europe.
Adjustments needed for top-four finish or silverware
Shockingly, United still sit hold the fifth place spot in the Premier League after Wednesday’s defeat. However, the standings aren’t quite as remarkable when a staggering 30 points separate them from champions-elect Liverpool. Between them and current fourth place occupiers Chelsea, six points remains the deficit. Between the FA Cup, Carabao Cup and Europa League, United still have an opportunity for silverware, but adjustments are absolutely necessary to see that to fruition.
First, a dramatic revision in the starting XI must occur. If Nemanja Matić doesn’t leave in January, the rest of his time in a red shirt should be spent warming the bench. Furthermore, Mason Greenwood should no longer be used as a sub with the hopes that he’ll salvage a point with whatever time he has to find the back of the net. The teenager, just like Brandon Williams, has proven his worth and deserves a starting role. With Marcus Rashford out for a considerable amount of time and Anthony Martial holding a significant amount of responsibility to be the goal-scorer, Greenwood is entitled to a fair shot at playing from the start, and not with 20 minutes left on the clock.
United’s issues are bigger than Solskjaer
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s contributions to United as a player will never go unrecognized. His legacy as manager, on the other hand, hangs in balance after failing to earn points against sides facing relegation. The Norwegian looked helpless all match, void of any tactical decision-making. Even the faithful cohort who loyally stick by the boss through thick and thin must surely want the club to cut their losses. While Solskjaer is the easiest fix as United justify another eventual managerial change with an excuse centered around “rebuilding,” perhaps offloading the manager when things go south isn’t the only approach this time around.
Ed Woodward and the Glazer Family as a unit have spoiled United’s reputation of a club capable of making long-term decisions. Year after year and transfer window after transfer window, fans have watched these executives promise brighter days under the pretense of better talent and a more refined vision for the future. And yet, here United stand, now seven years since the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson, miles apart from their biggest rivals.
Lifelong supporters are beginning to get impatient at the team’s lack of progress, with a stalled bid for Sporting midfielder Bruno Fernandes now adding more anxiety. If United want an immediate remedy, get Mauricio Pochettino on the first flight to Manchester. If sustainable, permanent fixes are what they crave, show Ed Woodward the door and find a way to prevent the Glazer Family from ever profiting off this storied club again.