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Are Manchester United any Good?

West Ham 2-0 Manchester United

In late September last year, Manchester United travelled to West Ham’s London stadium. The Red Devils put in a hapless performance in a 3-1 defeat in East London. That display and result – a third league defeat in six games – reinforced the notion that Jose Mourinho and Manchester United were at the embers of their relationship, that sooner rather than later both parties would part ways, and Jose lasted three more months after that game before the inevitable P45 was given to him.

It’s been 359 days since that defeat, in which United have changed managers and had a summer to rebuild and regroup, and they’ve just about circumnavigated their way to another hapless defeat at the London stadium in late September. And there are so many things to read into this game.

There’s the fact that every performance since the start of the season has seen depreciating levels of quality, if quality is the word. There’s the fact United lost here without ever looking threatening, and without a striker on the pitch, because they got rid of two forwards in the summer without replacing them. There’s the fact that United are so commonplace and banal that beating them hardly causes an uproar of celebration, the biggest club in the land have fallen so low, losing to a side that have finished in the top half of the league once in the past nine years is rather routine.

West Ham 2-0 Manchester United
Aaron Cresswell puts West Ham two up with a free-kick

And there lies the question: Are Manchester United any good? From the squad itself; check out the team ahead of matches and they look quite mid-table. Too often we make the tedious point of whether players in a team would get into other top sides, but would any United player get into the team of the other top-five sides. Maybe Paul Pogba (who’s been absent and hasn’t been at his best since joining), and David de Gea (who has suffered a decline in the past year, and has lost his starting spot with the Spanish national team).

You could also look at the manager himself. One of the criticisms of the final days of the Mourinho era was that United lacked any clear plan. Well it’s been 10 months since the Portuguese was replaced by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, and they still look listless. There’s no clear mode of how the team wants to play, no visible blueprint or model. The constant joke is made of how Solskjaer seemingly sits and waits for a 1999-esque Alex Ferguson inspired miracle to get through games, but frankly it’s hardly funny anymore. Just bothering on befuddling and sad. Ole spoke, towards the end of last season, of how a few players wouldn’t be here this season. Yet, of the four high-profile departures that occurred in the summer, United wanted to keep one, and two were loaned out.

And that points to another problem in the side. Since January, United have lost two midfielders and two frontmen, and failed to replace them. Hence a squad that’s both short on quality and numbers. And for the umpteenth time, you could point the finger at the man atop the hierarchy, Ed Woodward. Since Woodward become chief executive, United’s policies – managerial and player-wise – have been odd, to say the least.

There’s hardly a model to be followed, or an idea to be implemented. Woodward has shown quite a level of incompetence and rash thinking in his time, with his football-related decisions bothering on short-termism. It is the kind of rash and short-termist thinking that actually led to the permanent appointment of Solskjaer last March. And since last March, since Ole got the job on a permanent basis, United have scored 16 goals. To put this into context, Manchester City have scored 13 in the past nine days.

Ole spoke, post-match, of staying positive, but it’s hard to find any silver lining or shred of light in this dark cloud. There are already murmurs from fans about getting rid of the manager, and a lack of tactical vision makes that a fair point. But binning Ole would neither make Woodward and the board get their act together, or augment the squad, which is seriously lacking.

There’s no vision, no model, no plan, and no sign of optimism with United right now. They just look broken, bland and blunt.

Elsewhere

  • It was going to be interesting to see how Manchester City responded after their 3-2 defeat to Norwich last weekend. The answer; emphatically. The champions bounced back with a 3-0 win at Shakhtar Donetsk in the Champions League on Wednesday, before managing just eight goals against Watford at the weekend. City were 5-0 up inside 17 minutes, and frankly, should have hit double figures against the hapless Hornets.
  • 15 league wins on the bounce for Liverpool, who came off from Stamford Bridge with three points, despite not looking quite at their best. For Chelsea, the final 25 minutes give cause for optimism for Frank Lampard and his side, but that doesn’t excuse the side looking listless before then.
  • Spurs were two up, then it was 1-1. After a brilliant Harry Kane finish had given Mauricio Pochettino’s side the lead, Serge Aurier saw his second half effort disallowed by the ever-so-lovely VAR, before they conceded moments later. For hosts Leicester, this was a third game against one of last season’s top six, and after a draw and defeat in the first two, crowned a victory here thanks to a super finish from James Maddison, who began the day by showing off a rather awful backpack.
  • There’s no middle ground for Arsenal, who continue to switch between brilliant and shabby, and shabbily brilliant. The ten-man Gunners had to come from behind to grab a win against Aston Villa.
  • Still no win for Wolves, although they managed a late equaliser against Crystal Palace thanks to Diogo Jota.

Results

Wolves 1-1 Crystal Palace; Manchester City 8-0 Watford;
Arsenal 3-2 Aston Villa; Leicester 2-1 Tottenham; Everton 0-2 Sheffield United;
Burnley 2-0 Norwich; Newcastle 0-0 Brighton; Chelsea 1-2 Liverpool; West Ham
2-0 Manchester United; Southampton 1-3 Bournemouth 

Kunle Ajao121 Posts

Kunle Ajao is a football writer and columnist for spotkick. Having made a toss of himself trying to actually play the game, he knew better and got a pen instead of boots. Spends a bit of his time with the game, and thinks he's a bit like Sid Lowe. He's not

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