Analyzing Manchester United's current predicament and how they can get out of it
Manchester United was once regarded as one of the most fierce teams on the planet. Other teams used to play against the mighty Red Devils not to win but to secure a respectable loss. At the time of Sir Alex Ferguson, we have seen a star-studded team consisting of Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney, Carlos Tevez, Dimitar Berbatov, Vidic, Scholes, and Giggs bulldogging against all its opponents in an unforgiving fashion.
However, since the departure of Sir Alex, the team has lost its identity. We can see the loss of confidence in Old Trafford from the fans to the players. Even appointment of Jose Mourinho and the most expensive signings of Paul Pogba and Lukaku can't help the cause. The questions on identity, confidence, and style of play were about to come but it came a lot sooner. Not a single win in last 5 matches and recent losses against teams like West Ham and Brighton and Hove Albion has seriously questioned the management. These are the 5 major things the team in Red part of Manchester has to work on in order to lift off from their worst league start since 1989:
Roles and Responsibilities
McTominay played in the three-man centre defence in the match against West Ham. It is important to note that he is technically a central midfielder. With a perfect centre-back, Eric Bailly on the bench that day it was extremely surprising to see a centre midfielder playing as a centre-half. This shows a major flaw in the Mourinho's team management.
Bailly, who was among the first few Mourinho's signings, is now used as a cover for a centre midfielder playing as a centre back. It creates a sense of uncertainty in the team. Every player is briefed about his role in the team before signing but it looks like all is forgotten at Manchester United. It is not about buying the most expensive players but the right players. And when a team signs a player for a particular role, he is meant to be used for it. Not all players have a good day every day so the manager should believe the players and give them multiple opportunities. Sir Alex used to trust his players multiple times despite their errors. This not only installed belief in the hearts of the players but also brought excellent performances from some average players like Anderson.
Unlike the past, nowadays many notable footballers are hesitating from signing for the red devils because of this uncertainty and lack of belief from the manager.
Lack of work rate
Manchester United covered a total of 3,672 km in the 2017-18 season and it was the least distance covered by any team in the premier league. In the same season, Bournemouth covered the highest distance of 4,040 km in 38 matches. The stats clearly suggests lack of intensity, urgency, and commitment in the United's squad. After watching the last few matches, it is clearly visible that Manchester United squad is either tired or imposed to play in a low work rate system. We have seen a United team that always played with a swagger of scoring goals first and defending later.
Lack of Leadership
One of the major cause of United slump is the lack of true leaders. Since the retirement of Sir Alex, no player looked like a captain. The person with authority and unwavering desire to win trophies is a major missing in the united's changing room. They need a dominating leader like Vidic, Keane or Cantona to lift the team up through their performances and winning mentality. Someone who cares for the club more than anything. Manchester United's compatriots Arsenal was also facing similar issue for last few years. Unai Emery immediately rectified the problem by signing two seasoned leaders at club and country levels, Sokratis and Lichtsteiner. The improvements in Arsenal due to these signings is evident.
#4 Improve the choice of personnel
If the best player on each position is played and is given a run of 4-5 games, Manchester United can restore their status of Premier League contender. These are the best players in each position -
Goalkeeper - Manchester United possesses one of the best goalkeepers of the world right now, David De Gea. He is definitely the first name on the team sheet on any given day.
Defence - The defensive pairing of Smalling and Eric Bailly has the best track record in the Mourinho's era. The partnership was the driving force behind exceptional 2-3 victory over United's city rivals, Manchester City last season at the City of Manchester Stadium. Valencia and Shaw are the obvious choices as side backs due to their recent forms and past experiences.
Midfield - There is no better organizer in the team than Matic. Due to his formidable physique and supreme technical ability he has all the abilities to play in front of the defence line. Pogba and Fred are the most creative players. They can operate at number 10 and number 8 roles respectively. Their dribbling ability can create space for the players on either flank. Releasing Pogba from the defensive responsibility can be a boon to United. He was provided full freedom in Juventus as a number 10 and that is why Allegri was able to fetch the best out of the French. Mata and Lindgard can operate as cover for Fred and Pogba while Ander Herrera and McTominay can be used in place of Matic if required.
Attack - Lukaku is undoubtedly the quickest and the most physical forward in the Premier League. He is the best man up front. Alexis and Martial should be deployed on either wing as suppliers to Lukaku. All three, Lukaku, Alexis and Martial are renounced goal scorers. Defending against them will be a serious headache to any opposition. Rashford is a more than capable substitute in this mighty attacking force.
This is how Manchester United will line up if the choice of personnel is improved.
David de Gea; Antonio Valencia, Eric Bailly, Chris Smalling, Luke Shaw; Anthony Martial, Paul Pogba, Nemanja Matic, Fred, Alexis Sanchez; Romelu Lukaku
#5 No complacency
The body language of Manchester United players in the training and matches looked very negative. This reflected in their performances as well. It doesn't matter if a team has the costliest player in the world or the most successful manager in the Premier League, it has to win matches. It doesn't matter if a club has the most glorious past, it still needs to play every match to the full potential. There is no room for complacency in a cutthroat Premier League competition.
If the Red Devils improve on these five points, there will be great times in Old Trafford once again very soon.