The media and fans fell into disarray after Manchester United were thrashed 6-1 by Tottenham Hotspur on October 4th. Anthony Martial was suspended for three games, Harry Maguire was woeful and Paul Pogba was clearly unfit after dealing with COVID-19. With the international break around the corner, all set their eyes on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
Manchester United finished third in the Premier League last season. The Red Devils reached the semi final of all three cup competitions. The expectation was that United would then strengthen in the transfer market. Borussia Dortmund’s Jadon Sancho was the main priority, with Solskjaer also looking at an attacking midfielder, a striker, a holding midfielder, a left-back and a center-back. That is a long shopping list. However, United bought neither of their main targets. Ed Woodward attempted to haggle with Dortmund but the price-tag never changed. United settled for Donny van de Beek instead of Jack Grealish. On deadline day, United also acquired Porto’s Alex Telles and free-agent Edinson Cavani.
The atmosphere among fans slumped massively over the course of the off-season. The never-ending Sancho saga frustrated supporters while no consideration was given to a holding midfielder. Fans were also worried about the arrival of Cavani after flops like Radamel Falcao and Angel di Maria. Paul Pogba’s positive COVID-19 test only made matters worse for the Old Trafford faithful.
A terrible start
The feelings that Manchester United fans had during pre-season were compounded by a 3-1 defeat against Crystal Palace. Everything went wrong for the Red Devils on the day, although Donny van de Beek impressed off the bench with a debut goal. The following week United would scrape a 3-2 victory against Brighton with a 100th-minute penalty from Bruno Fernandes. The Seagulls hit the woodwork three times, and the full-time whistle had blown before VAR saved the day for United.
The relief Manchester United had after that game would be short-lived though, as they would be humiliated in Old Trafford by Tottenham Hotspur. Spurs were the better team at 1-1, but United were definitely still in with a chance until Anthony Martial’s farcical red card. United were lucky to only lose by five goals. Liverpool’s 7-2 defeat to Aston Villa also helped take some attention away from the horror that occurred in Old Trafford hours earlier. The international break offered little hope to United fans. Harry Maguire’s terrible performances continued, Eric Bailly was sidelined once again and the Portugal squad were hit with COVID-19.
Return to form
In spite of all the barriers that Manchester United faced in the first portion of the season, there was an acknowledgement that things could get a whole lot worse for the Red Devils. With PSG, Chelsea, RB Leipzig, Arsenal and Everton among the fixtures ahead for United before the next international break, fans and media alike felt that this run could decide Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s fate. However, United had a convincing win against Newcastle before a deserved, hard-fought win against last season’s Champions League runners-up PSG. Axel Tuanzebe’s performance in that game raised the spirits of all involved with the team.
Fixture congestion was on the minds of the team after this point. United dominated against Chelsea last weekend, but could not break the Blues’ defense down and had to settle for a draw. Next up was German high-flyers RB Leipzig. The young side were unbeaten in all competitions and top of the Bundesliga heading into their Champions League tie against the Red Devils. What happened during the game was a spectacle to behold for United fans, as they obliterated the Red Bull side 5-0 with a hattrick from Marcus Rashford, a first Champions League goal for Mason Greenwood and a much-needed goal from Anthony Martial. The defeat was both Julian Nagelsmann and RB Leipzig’s worst defeat as a manager and a club respectively. United were vicious in the second half of the game and provided a vintage Old Trafford performance.
A torrid turn
After the huge performance against Leipzig, United were limp in their showing against Arsenal. The game finished 1-0, and Solskjaer’s men were tame at best. Paul Pogba was disappointing, and the diamond formation that worked so well midweek clearly hamstrung the side. A miserable 2-1 defeat against Istanbul Basakeshir followed three days later. Former Chelsea and Newcastle striker Demba Ba embarrassed the United defense to grab the first before half-time as the pressure piled on top of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. The baby-faced assassin was left red faced in the aftermath of yet another dismal display. With the manager’s job seemingly on the line, Bruno Fernandes came up clutch with two goals in a 3-1 win against Everton in United’s last game before the international break. The high-flying Toffees were no match for United on the day.
No rest for the wicked
As we head into December, Manchester United face more fixture congestion. Luke Shaw and Paul Pogba are currently dealing with injuries and fitness problems. The return of Alex Telles should bolster the squad and Solskjaer will hope that Anthony Martial can return to form. The Christmas period is a notoriously difficult stretch for Premier League squads, but in these times the struggle could be far greater on the players.
After a terrible start to the season, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and his side seem to have gotten themselves on track. Although Solskjaer has overseen hot-and-cold spells in his time, this run of performances looks set to continue.
What do you think? Can United continue this run of form? Where can the Red Devils expect to finish in the Premier League and the cups? Is Solskjaer still the right man for the job? Sound off in the comments below! Check out more of my content here. Also. keep an eye out for more quality soccer content on the No Limit Jumper website.