Less than half a season ago, the answer to this question would have been a no-brainer. Not only did the majority of the footballing fraternity believe Manchester United needed more players, but most thought a new manager was a must, too. Fast-forward six months and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has proved the doubters wrong, leading the Red Devils to the top of the Premier League.
However, this hasn’t prevented club legend, Gary Neville, from expressing his desire for two new signings to see United compete with the likes of Manchester City and Liverpool. With the landscape looking very bright at Old Trafford, it would be tempting to dismiss Neville’s advice. However, here’s why the former right-back is spot on.
A Lack of Belief
The Liverpool game at Anfield proved that Man Utd is a club that is still behind its eternal rivals. Although they played well, creating chances on the break and nearly scoring towards the end of the game through Bruno Fernandes, United stood off their opponents, scared to ram home their advantage.
This is typified by the team’s 34% possession rate, compared to 66% for the home side. As a result, Solskjaer’s men only managed eight shots, four of which were on target. Neville highlighted that a central defender would give the club more confidence to step forward and win the ball back in crucial areas, such as Liverpool’s players do through Jordan Henderson and Fabinho.
It appears bookmakers share the lack of belief within the squad, with many still positioning them as clear second-favourites behind Man City. For example, the Space Casino football betting odds have Man Utd at 5/1 compared to Man City at 2/5 and Liverpool, who are going through a bad period, still at 8/1.
The Right Side of Midfield
Of course, the squad is by no means complete. Another area Neville talked about was the right side of midfield, the region of the pitch where Liverpool had a lot of joy during their encounter. And it isn’t only The Reds that have exploited the weakness, with Solskjaer having to play a host of players out wide, including Paul Pogba, Juan Mata, Daniel James and Mason Greenwood.
The balance on the left is much more in sync, which is highlighted by the fact that Marcus Rashford has seven goals and five assists, and Luke Shaw has created four big chances and one assist while keeping four clean sheets. Jadon Sancho could tip the scales, especially with Aaron Wan-Bissaka behind him, but one thing is clear – the United manager doesn’t trust his current crop of players on that side.
The message behind Neville’s comments is clear – the current Man Utd side lacks the squad depth necessary to win the league. Even with their good run of form, it could all change if Bruno Fernandes ends up on the injury list.
The midfielder has been incredible, scoring 27 goals and making 17 assists in 50 games, stats that rival Cristiano Ronaldo’s first 50 games at the club. However, they are almost too reliant on his creativity. Pogba seems to be growing, but the Frenchman hasn’t had the impact the Portuguese has, while Donny van de Beek barely features, which could lead to a string of bad results without a suitable replacement.
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) January 24, 2021
Manchester United fans will be happy that they finally have something to cheer about with the current crop of players. However, the club’s hierarchy can’t afford to be complacent if they plan on challenging for major honours for the foreseeable future.
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