Manchester United displayed signs of progression at the end of last season, qualifying for the Champions League after finishing in third place in the Premier League.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer delivered a strong end to the campaign as Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood were firing on all cylinders to edge the Red Devils ahead of Leicester City into the top four.
However, they’ve not been able to sustain their momentum from last term and it has put the Norwegian’s position in the dugout in peril. United failed to win any of their opening four matches in the top flight for the first time since 1972/73 season.
Fans of the club are slowly beginning to become accustomed to underwhelming performances in the Premier League. And although there have been encouraging displays in the Champions League, continued failure in the top flight cannot be tolerated on a regular basis.
United are backed in the Premier League betting odds at 5/2 to finish in the top four, therefore, there is plenty of optimism that the club can turn around their horrendous start to the campaign, which has included defeats at Old Trafford to Crystal Palace, Tottenham and Arsenal.
However, Solskjaer has to get a tune out of his team quickly to avoid following in the footsteps of David Moyes, Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho to have been sacked by the Red Devils since the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson. There don’t appear to be easy solutions, although getting his key men operating at the peak of their powers must be the first step.
Bruno Fernandes was a difference-maker last term following his move from Sporting CP in January. The 26-year-old scored eight goals and assisted a further seven in only 14 matches. Fernandes was helped by the number of penalties United were awarded, especially in the second half of the term, with four of his strikes coming from the spot. However, he was also a dynamic threat in feeding Martial, Rashford and Greenwood in the final third. Fernandes has not quite had the same impact at the start of the current season as teams have adjusted to his style of play. It will be up both player and manager to unlock the Portuguese’s best to elevate the Red Devils up the table.
Rashford has been excellent to start the term and perhaps a tad unfortunate to have netted more goals. His decisive strike against Paris-Saint German won the game for United in the Parc des Princes, while he was even better against RB Leipzig, notching a second-half hat-trick. The 23-year-old cannot do it all on his own in the final third, putting the spotlight on Greenwood and Martial to carry their weight.
Martial has been one of the disappointments of the new season. The Frenchman appeared to have solved the issues that had led Mourinho to contemplate allowing him to leave Old Trafford. Still only 24, the forward has time on his side to become a consistent player that at his best is a world-class operator. On the other hand, Solskjaer does not have time to waste, which could prompt him to start Edinson Cavani at the apex of an attacking three with Rashford and Greenwood on the flanks.
United cannot be held hostage by the form of the Frenchman. It’s bad enough with Paul Pogba’s mercurial performances in the middle of the park. Unless he starts to fire, especially in home matches it could well be a death knell for his career at Old Trafford as well as Solskjaer’s.