Commentary Editor Chris Lierly discusses the Premier League team’s shockingly poor performance at the start of the season.
A new Premier League season means everyone gets to start their record anew and forget about last season’s mistakes. That is, unless you are Ole Gunnar Solskjær and Manchester United. The Red Devils fired manager Jose Mourinho mid-season last year after the Portuegese legend did a less than stellar job for the Red Devils. That led to the hiring of Solskjær who had formerly played for the team.
Under Solskjær, United went on a run of eleven unbeaten games to start the Norwegian’s tenure as manager. The rest of his time as last year’s manager paled in comparison to that dreamlike start, but fans knew what he could do and were ready to see that same potential on display this season.
Over the summer, two major stories swirled around United, and both are likely to impact at least the first half of the 2019/20 season. First, the Red Devils added center-back Harry Maguire for a whopping $97 million, making him the most expensive defender in the world. The English National Team and former Leicester City anchor was a much needed addition to United, but simply adding a player of Maguire’s caliber will not solve all the problems that plagued United before and after Solskjær arrived.
The second story that will no doubt play a role in the Red Devils’ success is the eventual fate of midfielder Paul Pogba.
The French star seems to be more compatible with Solskjær than he was with Mourinho, but that did not stop Pogba from attempting to leave United during the summer.
What looked like it was going to be one of the largest transfers in history again ended up being a non-story, and it looks like Pogba will stay in Manchester until at least January. Alexis Sanchez and Romelu Lukaku will both be spending the season at Inter Milan, but neither had the kind of impact that Pogba has had while at Old Trafford.
So what have these developments meant for United after four matches?
Harry Maguire, like Virgil van Djik, the most expensive defender before him, seems to already proving his worth as both a defender and leader for the team.
Maguire has had his share of blunders in the past, but thus far in the season he has put up some decent performances despite the team getting off to a mediocre start at best.
However, whether he was worth the exorbitant fee will, also like van Djik, likely depend on United’s ranking come season end and whether they fare well in the Champion’s League. He represents a step in the right direction for United, since he wants to play for the Red Devils and fills a role the team desperately needed. Pogba on the other hand reminds everyone just how hard the United front office can make it for their managers.
Mourinho deserves little praise for his time at United, but few can blame him for the fractured relationship he had with Alex Ferguson who acts as an ambassador for the club and Ed Woodwar the chief executive of Manchester United.
First, it is extremely intimidating for a manager to try and work from under the shadow of one of the greatest coaching figures in sports history and the person behind Manchester United being a world-wide brand. Secondly, whether Paul Pogba comes back from his injury ready to make the best of his United season isn’t really relevant. He has expressed a desire to leave the club and the Premier League.
Woodward’s unwillingness or inability to sell the superstar for what would likely be a record breaking price tag and help United put together a squad that can challenge Liverpool or Manchester City might be part of the team’s key flaw.
Yes, some lackluster players have passed through in the past few years, and no Jose Mourinho has never really been liked by anyone for anything else other than winning.
If the current run of mediocre play from Manchester continues, however, then the front office will be more at fault than any one who stands on the field during matches.