It is sad to see Manchester United, the thirteen times Premier League champions become a toothless dog in the game they once dominated. The Red Devils are currently tenth in the Premier League table and have gone below that in the past weeks.
Since Sir Alex Ferguson resigned as the club’s manager, the club has had problems with finding its feet and keeping on with the old glory the fans once roared over the field whenever they played. Now, they can’t even secure a win against the newly-promoted clubs. As disappointing as that may seem, it has allowed for proper analysis of what the problem is in the United squad.
Many have associated it with the lack of squad depth and that might be true with the injuries the club has suffered since the start of the season but that is not the main problem. The real problem presented itself in Red Devils’ last match against Bournemouth.
The match presented a United forward that is too scared to take risks. All we saw throughout the game was an isolated Rashford at a point or Martial at another.
Rashford for the most couldn’t move freely throughout the match and it made the team less aggressive in attack. For some reason, Rashford was constantly glued to the touchline and couldn’t float into central areas nearly enough.
It is no surprise to see this have a negative effect on United’s attack because it has always been that United’s No.9 is the most adept of the club’s forward to lead the line on his own but also, several matches have shown how much better he can be with others around him.
With how the match had gone, it was obvious that Rashford and Martial’s inability to link up has made it extremely difficult for them to function properly.
How to tackle the problem
If linkup play is Rashford and Martial’s problem then the easy fix for it is a midfield that will always be there to create the link. A good passer that can make the connection between a team’s midfield and its attack will go a long way in making the attacking force stronger.
We did not see this against Bournemouth and it was largely one of the reasons it seemed like the forwards did not function well.
Andreas Pereira’s stock has risen since the last international break as a result of his energetic showings, against Liverpool and Chelsea in particular, but he lacks the quality required in offensive situations, on a consistent basis at least.
There is no simple solution to this situation, with the alternatives to Pereira either out of form or out of favor.
Jesse Lingard has not scored since January and is similar to Pereira in that he is probably more useful off the ball than he is on it. Juan Mata has never been effective in a central role for United and Angel Gomes has not featured since his anonymous display away to AZ Alkmaar over a month ago.
With all these, the likely alternative for Ole Gunnar will be to look in the academy or wait till the transfer window resumes in January and stock his armory.
While the former might not seem like a bad idea, the question of inexperience on a bigger stage still comes up and also the option of waiting till January doesn’t seem like one that can solve the club’s immediate problem.
As it is for Manchester United, looking in the academy for a gem that can effectively create the connection between the midfield and the forward seems like the right idea for now. This allows for promoting a youngster into the senior team and developing him from there.
This also won’t stop the club from bringing in another player when the transfer window resumes in January but it at least solves the immediate problem.