Manchester United have had a shaky start to the season so far. The Red Devils had to rely on a combination of luck and VAR to seal a controversial last-second victory at the Amex Stadium against Brighton on Saturday. Early signs of danger were evident in their first game of the season against Crystal Palace, and were visible once again against the Seagulls. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s team was simply not good enough.
Almost every other club in the Premier League has performed better than the Red Devils in the transfer market. Each one of them also looks better prepared so far too. Manchester United, on the other hand, continue to be off the pace, and are currently a far cry from the team that finished third last season. Unless the Red Devils buckle up and get up to speed soon, they might again have to play catch up for the rest of the season.
While United’s poor start has been a collective failure of the team, the performance of some players has raised a lot of questions about their presence in the team. Even though the United squad is not the greatest, Solskjaer might be losing his patience on a few of the underperformers who are pulling his team down. Today, we take a look at the four Manchester United players who need to step up their efforts on the field if they want to cement their place in the first eleven.
The Frenchman was undoubtedly one of Manchester United’s most important players last season. Anthony Martial fired the Red Devils to third in the league, scoring crucial goals and turning over a new leaf when football resumed after the break due to the Coronavirus pandemic. He vindicated Solskjaer’s trust in him, flourishing as a striker, and achieving the highest goalscoring tally of his career. That resulted in a long-awaited return to the French national team, and ignited hopes of a red hot Martial leading the line for his team in the new season. Unfortunately, the Frenchman has failed to replicate his form from last season so far.
One of the main complaints with Martial is his lack of intent and desire on the field. The Frenchman tends to blow hot and cold, but he seemed to have shed those shortcomings at the tail end of last season. Martial showed great work ethic, tracking back, closing down, and fighting for every ball. This new, improved version of the player earned rave reviews from his staunchest critics as well. Unfortunately, Martial seems to have reverted to his old self over the summer.
In his two games so far, the Frenchman has shown flashes of his genius, but those have been few and far in between. Instead, spectators have been treated to the old lethargic, uninterested Martial who seems to be lost in his own world. His lack of movement and imagination in the final third is a cause of concern for Solskjaer at the moment.
Unless Martial shakes off his old habit and returns to his productive best, Solskjaer might be tempted to bench him, especially with both Mason Greenwood and Marcus Rashford capable of playing up top.
#3 Aaron Wan-Bissaka
Everyone was gushing about Aaron Wan-Bissaka last season. He was no Trent Alexander-Arnold, but when it came to old school defending, he was one of the best in the league. What Wan-Bissaka lacked in the attack, he made up for with his resolute defending. He was fast, strong and impossible to get past. The Englishman defended as if his life depended on it, and some of the biggest attacking stalwarts of the league whimpered under his crunching tackles. He was one of the reasons why United managed an impressive defensive record last season.
The step up from Crystal Palace to Manchester United can be overwhelming for many young players and it was assumed that the Englishman would improve his performance in the final third this term. However, his performance in the first two games has raised a fair bit of concern among the United faithful. Wan-Bissaka took to the field for the first time this season against Luton Town last week in the Carabao Cup and managed to come away unscathed.
However, Wan-Bissaka took a step further back against Brighton on Saturday. He was too cautious with his forward runs and was hardly visible in the final third. But he was also all over the place at the back. He was taken for a ride by Neal Maupay and Solly March, who were among the biggest threats of the opposition. The Seagulls capitalized on his poor performance and gave Wan-Bissaka more than he could handle at times.
The Englishman's quality is unquestionable, so it is just a matter of form and confidence now. Wan-Bissaka must work on his fitness and go back to the basics if required. He needs to get back to speed immediately, even though a lack of a better alternative in the squad means that he might not be under too much pressure. However, Solskjaer could always shift Brandon Williams to the right if Wan-Bissaka continues to underperform.