Manchester United sit twelfth in the Premier League table but with the squad seemingly worse than last season, it’s hardly a surprise that the club have found themselves in this predicament. So why have the club seemingly gone backwards?
The reasons stem from decisions at both board and managerial level, and it appears there has been a lack of planning both for the short-term and long-term:
1) Key Targets Were Unavailable
Only three players were signed in the summer: Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Daniel James and Harry Maguire. At the back end of last season, with results poor, manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was reportedly asking for up to nine players so why were so few signed?
United were only targeting young players with potential to improve, and there are only so many of them available in the transfer market. One of the key targets early in the summer was Borussia Dortmund’s Jadon Sancho. Despite being keen to sign the England international, it became very clear that the teenager wasn’t going to move from Germany.
2) The Inability To Sell Off Deadwood
Before the start of the season, United had seven centre-backs in the squad. With Chris Smalling only leaving on loan, it means that Solskjaer still has two more centre-halves than he actually needs.
The decision to give Phil Jones and Smalling new contracts last season is perplexing, to say the least. Was Solskjaer or the board responsible for giving these players new deals? You have to think that the manager would have had a say in the decision. If so, it was clearly a mistake considering neither are now considered first-team regulars.
3) The Club Were Priced Out Of Certain Transfers
One of biggest problems for a club like United is that every team knows you have money to spend. Crystal Palace held out for a large sum for Wan-Bissaka and Newcastle were willing to do the same for Sean Longstaff.
You can question whether the 21-year-old is of sufficient quality to play for United, but the fact that the Red Devils opted against signing him and then didn’t go after another target is the fault of the board rather than the manager who clearly wanted another body in midfield.
4) Senior Internationals Wanting To Leave
The BBC’s Simon Stone has said sources inside United have told him that Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez were both looking to leave Old Trafford, and there was no realistic chance of them staying.
With that being the case, the club should have had players lined up to replace them early in the summer. Negotiations with Inter Milan were protracted, and it could have led United missing out on potential signings, but there’s no reason for the club to wait until the two players were off the books before signing replacements.
5) Experienced Stars Replaced With Young Players Not Ready For The Premier League
Solskjaer has backed youth ahead of experience, and the gamble so far has failed to pay off. While Arsenal hammered Standard Liege with their youngsters last week, United’s reserves laboured to a 0-0 draw against AZ.
While the manager can be blamed partly for his poor tactics, the lack of quality on show was also evident. The sheer number of young players coming into a team already bereft of confidence is not a recipe for success.