Toothless Manchester United Pays For Summer Mistakes

It’s impossible not to feel sorry for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer at the moment. As manager of Manchester United, he’s finally obtained the job of his dreams - he just couldn’t have picked a worse time in the club’s recent history to have taken in. The team he inherited from Jose Mourinho was demoralized and disjointed, his star player Paul Pogba spent most of the summer publicly courting a move away from the club, and he’s now presided over United’s worst start to a season in the past thirty years.

In normal circumstances, the press would already be talking about Solskjaer losing his job. Manchester United and their global fanbase have high expectations. In seasons where they don't win trophies, they're at least expected to challenge for them. United, currently in tenth position after a depressingly dull draw with Arsenal, aren't in contention for the Premier League championship this season. You wouldn't fancy them as being among the favorites for the FA Cup, the Carabao Cup, or the Europa League either. Solskjaer has spoken of the need for 'growth' and 'transition.' but both would require patience. That isn't a luxury that's often afforded to managers in English football's top division.

These, however, are not normal circumstances. Chopping and changing the man at the top hasn't worked for Manchester United in recent years. The appointment of David Moyes as a successor to Sir Alex Ferguson was an unmitigated disaster. Louis van Gaal appeared to be performing better as his replacement, and won an FA Cup with the team, but his style of football was deemed unattractive, and so he was also shown to the door.

Jose Mourinho was supposed to be a guarantee of success - and he did manage a League Cup and a Europa League trophy - but he, too, couldn’t sustain his side’s form. At this point, shuffling managers around again would be akin to rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic. Solskjaer is likely to get the time he craves - but the big question is whether the club is likely or able to do anything meaningful with the time they give him. Solskjaer needs the right players to build a successful team, and the club’s summer transfer activity does little to inspire confidence that he’ll be able to sign them.

United was a club that went into the summer with high expectations when it came to signings. Want-away Real Madrid star Gareth Bale was at one point viewed as a near certainty to arrive. Paulo Dybala had talks with the club. Even ex-Liverpool star Philippe Coutinho was discussed as a realistic prospect, as was Tottenham's Christian Eriksen. Instead of any of those big-name players, United ended up with Daniel James, Harry Maguire, and Aaron Wan-Bissaka. With no disrespect to the trio, and for all the positive spin Solskjaer tried to supply about 'investing in youth,' that had to be considered a poor result.

The fact that United needed to strengthen a leaky, aging defense isn't in question. The team conceded too many goals last season, and Maguire and Wan-Bissaka were welcome additions to shore things up. The issue is that they should have been the start of the rebuild, not the end of it. Where United have been crying out for inspiration is the area that they've arguably gone backward in - attack. Last season, they had Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez. Both of them were underperforming, but both of them are known as quality players. Both are now scoring goals at their new club, Inter Milan. United let them go, and didn’t replace them.

When £85m was spent on Harry Maguire, United broke the world transfer fee for a defender. For all his qualities, there's a common piece of wisdom in soccer; you should never spend 'striker money' on a defensive player. Strikers earn the big money because they win the big games. That's why the popular mobile slots game is called 'Striker Goes Wild,' not 'Defender Goes Wild.' If gaming companies start making mobile slots based on defenders, the game will have changed. Until that point, a team will win nothing if it can't score goals. Mobile slots gambler play online slots such as 'Striker Goes Wild' and win big money. Manchester United, without any firepower, is likely to win nothing.

Apologists for the club’s transfer policy will point out that the club has been unlucky with injuries when it comes to forwards. Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford were expected to lead the line this season, and their youthful brilliance was supposed to demonstrate why United never needed Lukaku or Sanchez anyway. Rashford has struggled for fitness. Martial has spent weeks on the sidelines. In the absence of one or both of them, the only recognized first-team striker at the club is seventeen-year-old Mason Greenwood.

Greenwood is a player with a lot of potential, and may in the future be a first-choice Manchester United striker. That's the future, though, and not the present. Here in the present, when a single injury leaves a seventeen-year-old leading your forward line, you have a serious problem. Manchester United badly needed to invest in at least one more quality forward player this summer, and they didn't do it. That might be because they couldn't identify the correct target. It might because they spent all their 'striker money' on Harry Maguire. In either event, it's a failure of strategy. The blame for that lands firmly on the shoulders of the club's increasingly unpopular chief executive, Ed Woodward. Unlike most modern clubs, United do not have a Director of Football. Woodward is the man who carries the can for transfer policy. He is therefore also the man who, based on every visible measure, is failing miserably at the task.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer may or may not be the right man to move the club forward. Unlike the two managers who came directly before him, he does not have a long and successful resume in soccer club management. He does, however, love the club, and understand the culture around it. If he isn’t supported in his role, and United continue to move backward, it’s hard to imagine any big-name replacement who’d be interested in filling his shoes.

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