Manchester United are in a sorry state as issues on and off the field heighten the pressure on the Glazer family, executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward and manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
Wednesday’s 2-0 defeat to Burnley at Old Trafford was the nadir in a troublesome campaign, with fan discontent growing, Solskjaer’s side slipping and the chance to bolster the squad rapidly running out.
Here, the PA news agency’s Simon Peach takes a looks at the current situation.
What happened on Wednesday night?
The vast majority inside Old Trafford rose to their feet shortly after Jay Rodriguez made it 2-0 as chants of “stand up if you hate Glazers” echoed around the ground. The divisive owners are currently enduring their biggest attack since the green and gold campaign following their takeover, while Woodward was also subjected to abuse, and at times sinister chants. The anger has been bubbling for a long time now and has reached the surface in the previous two home matches. While there was something to shout about in the 4-0 win against Norwich, the meek loss to Burnley saw tensions increase to a toxic level given frustration over the way the club is being run.
Is Solskjaer under similar pressure?
The loss to Burnley meant the Norwegian has lost 12 Premier League matches since taking permanent control in March. By contrast, he has only mustered 11 wins during that period. There have been some alarming performances along the way, yet supporters inside Old Trafford sung Solskjaer’s name in-between furious chants aimed at the club’s hierarchy. The PA news agency understands the manager’s position is not currently in jeopardy, while fans appear to be giving the 1999 treble hero more leeway than others would get as he is promoting youth and driven to help a club he loves while juggling a variety of issues.
What are some of the problems?
It certainly does not help that key players like Marcus Rashford, Scott McTominay and Paul Pogba are out injured – nor does the fact the latter’s happiness has been a regular topic throughout his reign. Solskjaer has been charged with undertaking a cultural reset at United, where he inherited a bloated, overpaid squad that was not only considered unfit but to have a questionable attitude. There have been improvements on the latter front since replacing Jose Mourinho, but Solskjaer’s work has been hampered by a lack of transfer business. Daniel James, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Harry Maguire have been the only arrivals, with the summer focus on only getting top targets has left the squad short and stretched. Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez were allowed to leave without replacement, while the exits last year of Marouane Fellaini and Ander Herrera have left the midfield light.
Are United doing anything to improve the squad?
United are looking to bolster midfield and attack before the transfer window shuts next Friday – but that is easier said than done. The PA news agency understands Solskjaer has wanted a central midfielder since the summer and the club have recently been targeting Bruno Fernandes, although Sporting’s valuation is proving a stumbling block for a player who wants to leave the Lisbon side. United are analysing other targets, both permanent and loan deals, while Erling Haaland’s decision to join Borussia Dortmund has compounded Rashford’s injury. Solskjaer would also like a right winger at some point, while leaders would be welcome especially after club captain Ashley Young was allowed to join Inter Milan earlier in the month. Sanchez is currently on loan at San Siro and is not understood to have a recall clause. Chris Smalling, who has been impressing with Roma, does not have one either.
What can United achieve this season?
Despite the issues and poor performances, fifth-placed United are still in the hunt for Champions League qualification given they are just within six points of inconsistent Chelsea in fourth. Lifting the Europa League offers another route back to European football’s top table and they take on Club Brugge in the round of the 32 next month. Solskjaer’s side also remain in the hunt for domestic honours. They will travel to either Watford or Tranmere in the FA Cup fourth round on Sunday, before playing the second leg of their Carabao Cup semi-final against Manchester City. But after losing the first leg 3-1, reaching Wembley next Wednesday will be a tough ask.