Maguire, CR7 And The Whole Midfield - The Issues Man Utd's Next Boss Must Solve

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's replacement has plenty to improve within the current squad
06:55, 22 Nov 2021

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has gone, but Manchester United’s problems – for now at least – remain. The Norwegian’s emotional departure on Sunday has given supporters hope of a turnaround in fortunes in the weeks and months to come. But whether his replacement for the rest of the season is Michael Carrick or another interim appointment, the next man in charge will have to address some familiar issues in the United squad.

There are numerous areas in which the Red Devils need to improve.

Harry Maguire

It was Solskjaer who signed the England centre-half, and when Ashley Young departed for Inter the Norwegian decided that rather than hand the captain’s armband to one of the more senior United figures in the dressing room, Maguire would be the next leader.

The problem is that Maguire has had significant spells of poor form since arriving at Old Trafford, and right now he is playing about as badly as he ever has in a red shirt. His sending-off at Watford on Saturday means he misses the trip to Chelsea next week, but longer term there needs to be a solution found for his regular lapses. Far from being a leader at the back, he has often been one of their biggest problems, and the lack of shape in the defensive line at times has been a source of serious concern. United skippers of years gone by would not have let it come to this.


The midfield


This has been an issue for United for years. The club failed to strengthen in the middle of the park in the summer of 2019, then brought in Bruno Fernandes the following winter to dramatic effect. But having bought Donny van de Beek at the start of last season they have simply not made the most of his ability and thrown him on the bench for the majority of his stay. Instead, Fred and Scott McTominay have been given the nod so often that they have become an iconic duo among fanbases of a non-red persuasion.

United have the spending power not to have had this become an issue, while even within their current squad there are potential solutions which have not been explored. They still haven’t got the best out of Paul Pogba, Fernandes’ form has taken a nosedive since Cristiano Ronaldo returned, and the inability to control the pace of a game has helped to expose a defensive line which has conceded 19 goals in seven matches.

The Ronaldo conundrum

How does a scorer of nine goals in 12 starts qualify as a problem? Well, when the 36-year-old’s inability to press the ball causes greater strain on other areas of the park, this United side gets weaker.

After scoring that memorable stoppage-time winner against Atalanta in September he was benched for the following match against Everton, and while United were far from convincing in his absence they did at least lead 1-0 before he was introduced in the eventual 1-1 draw. Solskjaer said at the time that it was important to pick the right games for Ronaldo to play given his age, but since then the Portuguese has started every game and United have won once.

All the while, United have been forced to defer their plans for...


Jadon Sancho


The summer signing from Borussia Dortmund was meant to get a real run at a place in this United side. A young, vibrant English attacker, Sancho was everything that Solskjaer was looking to build around in this squad. But then the club signed Ronaldo and the whole plan went out of the window.

Sancho has started only three Premier League games since Ronaldo arrived, with Saturday’s game at Watford being the first in which he has played a full 90 minutes. The odd 60 here and 20 there are not what Sancho was about in the Bundesliga, and a bit-part role with England has not really got the best out of him yet either. Only when given a chance and a bit of confidence has he really thrived, but that is still to happen for him at Old Trafford.

Rather than having an exciting, dynamic forward line of Sancho, Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood, United are doing the ‘Give it to Cristiano’ thing that plenty of mid-level outfits attempt with their star player. They ought to be better than that.

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