Ole Gunnar Solskjær may be targeting a top four finish for his beloved Manchester United side. But, the reality is that given United’s crop of players, recent transfers and tough fixtures, finishing outside the top six is a more realistic prospect. Here are the five main reasons why the Red Devils could end up outside Premier League’s elite.
Marcus Rashford is not a natural goalscorer and this will continue to affect results
When target man Romelu Lukaku was sold to Inter Milan during the summer, United were slow to sign a replacement. It is true, much of the money from the transfer went into strengthening United’s defense. While Harry Maguire and Aaron Wan-Bissaka bring credibility to the team’s defense, Solskjær’s team are struggling at the other end of the pitch.
Marcus Rashford is a very talented offensive player. He is, however, for the moment, not a natural number 9. The England international often fails in terms of positioning. Mason Greenwood shows great potential, as does Anthony Martial. But, can they replace Lukaku, a striker who had managed 113 Premier League goals by the age of 26?
Fred, Nemanja Matic, Juan Mata and Scott McTominay have provided 1 assist in 8 games between them
Even top clubs, the likes of Real Madrid, Bayern Munchen or Manchester United, can start the season poorly, yet regain form. However, it is hard to understand where goal threats are going to come from considering the assist tally of United’s central midfielders.
Fred, Nemanja Matic, Juan Mata and Scott McTominay have made just one assist this season. This was provided by McTominay, a player with considerable potential, undone often by lack of experience. While Paul Pogba and McTominay may offer some clarity, United simply have very little to offer when they have possession.
Harry Maguire is adapting fast, but Ashley Young, Victor Lindelof and Luke Shaw’s positioning can be a liability
Harry Maguire cost Manchester United a fortune. And, while, the label of United’s Van Dijk was undoubtedly hastily cast, he is a good a addition to the squad. But, United still shows defensive vulnerabilities. Many of those come from the players’ positioning. One error tends to lead to another. Defender often fail to cover their space, or make poor choices. United have been scored against 8 times in 8 matches. It is not a disastrous tally. But, considering the way teams like Rochdale, West Ham or Newcastle have managed to break the lock, Solskjær still has reasons to worry.
Solskjær is a club legend, but he is not guaranteed his job until the end of the season
When the Norwegian was offered the interim spot at Manchester United, many fans of the club rejoiced. Here was a local hero being handed a great opportunity. Early results helped Solskjær to a full time job. But, it was a gift that came with plenty of pressure.
As the rather inexperienced manager of a team that is under performing, Solskjær finds himself perpetually with an axe hovering above his head. A lot of money has been invested in the manager’s vision. And, general wisdom says that Solskjær should be allowed to carry out his plan. But, recent history has shown this is rarely the case with Premier League clubs in general and Manchester United in particular.
Leicester City, Wolverhampton and West Ham are capable of bettering Manchester United
Manchester United has finished below the Top Six line only once since 1990. It happened in 2014. Then, the club was just adjusting to a life without Sir Alex Ferguson at the helm. The Top Six does not merely guarantee a spot playing European football. It is a symbol that, together with Manchester City, Liverpool, Tottenham, Chelsea and Arsenal, Manchester United remain among England’s elite.
But, transfer budgets aside, United have serious rivals for a place among the big boys. Leicester City have a better squad. Wolverhampton have finished 7th last season and are looking to do better this time around. And, West Ham, who have long prepared to join the upper echelons, finally have a manager, Manuel Pellegrini, that could help them achieve this.
It’s a long stretch, but Manchester United could easily miss out on top four, even top six table finish this season if their form does not improve. Sure, we can expect United to delve further into the transfer market this summer. A new $100 million signing might solve some problems. But, some issues will exist for a while yet. And, in the end, while Manchester United will eventually regain their cherished position in international football, ongoing issues is best way to describe United’s foreseeable future.