MUFC-Everton FC-Tactical Preview

When Manchester United beat Chelsea 4-0 at Old Trafford on the opening day of the season, there was a sense of optimism that has been fading ever since.

Now, coming off the back of a resounding 2-0 loss to West Ham, it seems there is more negativity surrounding the club than ever before.

However, fans are quick to overlook the injuries United have suffered to key players.

Paul Pogba, Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford, arguably United’s three most influential attacking players, have only started two games together this season.

One was the 1-1 draw away at Wolves in mid-August – a match that United dominated in the first half, and were only denied victory when Pogba saw a late penalty saved.

The other game was the drubbing of Chelsea.

Since then though, United have been without their first-choice striker in Martial, and later lost their best midfielder in Pogba.

When Rashford sustained a groin injury an hour into the loss at West Ham, and Mason Greenwood ruled out through illness, Jesse Lingard was forced to play up front.

Critics quickly pointed to United’s lack of summer transfer business, but in truth, most Premier League teams would struggle in that position.

Manchester City aside, there aren’t any teams in the league that wouldn’t be impacted by the loss of their three best attackers.

For example, if Liverpool lost Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Jordan Henderson, it is hard to argue that they wouldn’t be weaker.

They perhaps have enough strength in depth in midfield in the event of losing a midfielder, as shown with the loss of Oxlade-Chamberlain last season, but not at the top end of the pitch.

They could potentially survive without one of their deadly attacking trio, but without two, they would be a far less productive outfit.

Rashford and Martial are, of course, not on the level of Salah and Firmino, but their relative importance to their team is similar.

Regardless, United are not on the level to compete with City or Liverpool yet, and it is unreasonable to think they would have a squad as strong as either of them.

Tottenham, Arsenal and Chelsea are the teams United are competing with this season, and they would all be in a similar predicament if they sustained injuries to three key men.

Imagine a Tottenham side without Harry Kane, Heung-min Son or Christian Eriksen – they would effectively be without a senior striker, and would be devoid of creativity in midfield.

Arsenal would be far less of a threat without Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and would be forced to rely heavily on their youth players.

Chelsea are perhaps best equipped to deal with an injury crisis at the top end of the pitch, as they have three senior strikers in Tammy Abraham, Olivier Giroud and Michy Batshuayi.

Nonetheless, losing Abraham and Giroud at the same time as N’Golo Kante would surely have a negative impact on the squad.

The problem for United is that the players coming in replace the likes of Rashford and Pogba are not good enough.

United are a team undergoing a transition, and any squad in that phase is going include players that aren’t good enough.

Ageing players such as Nemanja Matic aren’t likely to be at Old Trafford come this time next year, and the young players at United will be more trusted to play their part in the Premier League.

Solskjaer has been harshly criticised in recent weeks, but perhaps he should be judged once he has his best players back in the side.

The 4-0 win over Chelsea is now being viewed as a freak result, but when Pogba, Rashford and Martial return to the team, we will see if it was, in fact, a teaser of how good a full-strength United can be.