Manchester United’s inconsistent season continued with a 2-0 defeat to Liverpool on Sunday. After a reasonably successful December where it felt as if United were finally showing some consistency, the panic amongst fans about the direction of the club has returned in January. So how can United salvage this season from now until the summer?
After news circled that United’s top scorer Marcus Rashford would be injured for 2-3 months with a double stress fracture, fans were left wondering where the goals were going to come from. The long-term injuries to Rashford and his teammates Paul Pogba and Scott Mctominay combined with the January transfer window being open, has put pressure on United to strengthen their now incredibly thin squad. The quickest way for United to salvage their season would be to take the easiest route and buy their way to success with 2 or 3 signings.
A club as big as United should not have their seasons hopes rested on a 22-year-old (Rashford). Furthermore, what would happen if more injuries to occur? With United still in 4 competitions, games will come thick and fast. Relying on teenagers is unsustainable and quite frankly unfair on them. Further injuries to key players could mean United are out of everything by the time Rashford returns. Bruno Fernandes rumours have resurfaced, and there is a sense within the club that they will eventually get a deal done for the Portuguese international. Edinson Cavani has been declared surplus to requirements by Paris Saint Germain manager Thomas Tuchel. Therein lies two players who would give United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer the much-needed reinforcements his team needs. Teenage sensation Jude Bellingham (Birmingham City) and Boubakary Soumare (Lille) have also been linked. There has been a myth created by the football world that making big signings in January is impossible. However, a club with the financial power of United should be able to make offers that clubs cannot refuse. A club with serious ambitions would do what it takes to get back into the UEFA Champions League and salvage a relatively poor season.
Solskjaer opted for a 5 at the back formation against Liverpool, which was unsuccessful in the end. However, with a little bit of tweaking it could be something United turn to for the rest of the season. Right-back Aaron Wan-Bissaka has clear flaws in his game which are really exposed by his position, and the lack of a world class right-winger. Although he struggles to make an impact in the opposition’s half, Wan-Bissaka is one of the most exceptional out and out defenders in the league. Could Solskjaer use him on the right side of a back 3? This has several benefits for not only Wan-Bissaka, but for the whole United back 5. Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelof get an extra defender to help them which would give the leaky defence the extra protection it needs. Diogo Dalot could take up the right-wing back position as he is far more comfortable up the pitch than further down. Brandon Williams has surprised many with how much he can offer going forward. This would become more effective if he could play left-wing back without worrying too much about defending. This tactical change could help United keep more clean sheets and more importantly hold onto leads, which would do wonders for their season.
The possibility of Solskjaer being sacked before the end of the season is unlikely. CEO of United Ed Woodward is backing his man, and it would look embarrassing on his part if he has managed to get another managerial appointment wrong. It has to be said that although Solskjaer has made many mistakes, he has done some good work especially with the youngsters at United. If he takes the right action, he could turn United’s average season into a successful one.