The negative comments and opinions continue to pour in on Manchester United after a less-than-impressive start to the season. The current United squad is plagued by injuries, a common occurrence for many top sides but one which they should deal with due to the vast resources available to them. Last Word on Football will look at the latest comments from a former player and analyse the current Man Utd squad to see if all of this criticism is warranted this early into a new campaign.
Club Legend Offers Verdict on Man Utd Squad After Summer Spending
Gary Neville Speaks After Man Utd Beaten by Brighton
A first home defeat since the first game of the 2022/23 season will always give ammunition to any pundit wanting to speak out against the club. Neville has been an outspoken critic of the current ownership and the sporting model for a prolonged period.
He spoke again on Sky Sports, outlining his dismay that every manager of the club in recent times has had too much of a say on transfers during their time in charge, leading to a disjointed squad since the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson. It was towards the end of this piece that he made known that the business done in the summer transfer window was not sufficient to improve the current squad:
“The amount of money that Manchester United have spent on that squad, it should be a lot better.”
“And they’ve signed Onana, they’ve signed Hojlund and they’ve signed Mount.”
“And does that make them better than they were?”
“The Hojlund lads got promise, but I feel for him a little bit that he’s been asked to carry almost the whole of the team.”
Rounding off his opinion on the current state of the squad mid-way through September with the transfer window shut, he stated:
“It doesn’t look right at this moment in time, and it needs to stabilize.”
Watch: What Manchester United to learn from Brighton
Stability Comes From a Solid Foundation
That final comment about the need for the United squad to stabilise is where it is best to start. Andre Onana was previously heralded as the most in-form keeper in the world after some impressive outings as Inter Milan reached the Champions League final. There have been questions asked about his shot-stopping ability, but I think he may need time to settle as the former Ajax goalkeeper is world-class and has proven himself at former clubs. Altay Bayindir and Tom Heaton provide adequate backup if they are required to step in for first-choice Onana.
The lack of stability through injuries in front of the keeper has likely affected his confidence, with Raphael Varane missing the defeats at Arsenal and at home against Brighton. If all of the current options were fit, Lisandro Martinez and Varane would continue what looked like a solid partnership, which helped the club to relative success last season.
Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelof have been ridiculed at times, but both have put in big performances in top matches throughout their career and can step in when needed – with Jonny Evans signed to provide further cover. It could be argued a younger, more mobile defender could be drafted in as a replacement for Maguire, but with the England centre-back turning down a move to West Ham, it seems he will remain at United.
The problem at full-back is currently all injury-related. If Luke Shaw, Tyrell Malacia, Sergio Reguilon, Diogo Dalot and Aaron Wan-Bissaka are all available, the depth is as good as most sides in the Premier League this season.
Midfield Struggling to Play With Any Control
It is hard to pass judgment until Sofyan Amrabat is in the United squad. Casemiro has struggled on his own at the base of midfield -but the Moroccan international provides a different set of attributes to those on display from the current options – providing a sense of control with his excellent passing range.
Scott McTominay has played his best football on international duty, but if he can transfer some of those stand-out performances to the club scene, he should be a more than able deputy to the first-choice options.
Christian Eriksen, Bruno Fernandes and Mason Mount are more attack-minded midfield players, with the former Tottenham player capable of sitting in a slightly deeper role. There is a nice balance on paper that has yet to transcend itself onto the pitch. Fernandes and Mount can impact games, provided they are supported by deeper-lying midfielders.
Pressure on Rasmus Hojlund to Increase Productivity in Forward Areas
The absences of Antony and Jadon Sancho are leaving the squad thin in attacking areas. Neither player has set the world alight at Old Trafford, but both are experienced wingers who always carry a threat. The amount of money spent on these players makes it unlikely that another winger will be brought into the club. Marcus Rashford can hold down the left wing with a promising deputy in Alejandro Garnacho – despite his ineffective cameos in the opening fixtures.
Facundo Pellistri could be given more game-time so the 21-year-old may see more minutes as the season wares on, making it more appropriate to comment on his ability at a later stage. Anthony Martial can be an able backup for Hojlund, but the club would need to find a potential suitor if they were to bring in a replacement.
Time Is Required for United Squad to Lift Fortunes
It may seem almost nonsensical to suggest the squad depth at United is better than many people are making out, but the quality is there. There has been a major problem tactically and a mounting injury list to contend with.
It is not a perfect squad by any stretch of the imagination, but Erik ten Hag must start to get it right tactically. A shorter injury list over the coming weeks will also go a long way to reviving fortunes.