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Five answers to Manchester United’s prayers as their mediocrity continues

As recently as last summer, things seemed to be finally on the up for Manchester United. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was about to become the longest serving manager since you-know-who, while crucially their transfer business was excellent, bringing in elite fare to address long-standing flaws. 

After a seemingly eternal pursuit, Jadon Sancho was purchased, a young, pacy and brilliant attacking talent, unquestionably one of the finest around. At the back meanwhile the recruitment of Raphael Varane significantly improved their defence at a stroke.

Only then, just as the club were entering into negotiations with Renne for Eduardo Camavinga – a gifted teen who would have breathed new life into United’s moribund midfield – Cristiano Ronaldo became available and the moneymen deemed only one of them affordable. They went with the aging megastar.

It would be quite wrong to blame all of United’s regression to mediocrity this season on the Portuguese forward: after all he has been directly involved in 29% of their league goals. But once again, with a predictability that is as formulaic as United’s build-up play, the club decided to forego the necessary overhaul of broken parts under the bonnet and instead give their vehicle a shiny new paint job.

We are now deep into February and the Reds are already out of both domestic cups while in the league they’ve won fewer than half their fixtures. Solskjaer is gone and he has left behind a back-line in chaos, one that’s kept just five clean sheets all term. At the reins is a caretaker boss who may move upstairs next year or may stay in the technical area, depending on results. 

So once again it is said that Manchester United are in dire need of a cultural reset; a change in approach that will at least begin the process of bridging the seismic gap between themselves and those with genuine title aspirations. 

Will they commit to such a dramatic reconfiguration of who they are and what they stand for? Doubts persist. But if they do, these five actions will surely propel them forward, or at least get them heading in the right direction.  

Target Ten Hag and bring him in early 

Though Mauricio Pochetino is rumoured to be United’s ideal choice, under a system manager like Erik Ten Hag the club can implement a methodology that runs through the levels, from the first team down. The Dutchman’s success at Ajax has been forged on progressive football, with pressing from the front and purposeful possession prized. 

The attacking ‘DNA’ that Solskjaer overly lauded will be in safe hands with the 52-year-old but more so, United will finally have an elite coach at the helm in his prime who fits their profile. For a club of United’s standing that’s not a lot to ask for. That’s a given.  

Continuity and patience 

If Ten Hag’s appointment would potentially signify a quantum leap forward, there is a danger of any progress being compromised by a muddled mess behind the scenes. 

Director of Football John Murtough and Technical Director Darren Fletcher may often be on the same page but by virtue of both roles overlapping that leads too often to confusion and mixed messages. It’s a state of disarrangement that will only worsen when Ralf Rangnick takes a seat ‘upstairs’. 

A clear chain of command is needed and crucially everyone’s ideology must be aligned to the manager’s especially as regards to transfers. United absolutely need to get their infrastructure right off the pitch, streamlined and efficiently run. 

Gravenberch and Rice

No, not a new meal to replace the prawn sandwiches in hospitality. Rather, a new – if expensively assembled – midfield that will stoke their engine room for seasons to come. 

The highly-rated Gravenberch has emerged as one of the most dynamic box-to-box talents across Europe but it’s when he sits as a number 6 for Ajax that his true value to United stands out. Still a teen – or a ‘wonderkid’ in tabloid vernacular – the Dutch international would be a sizable upgrade on McTominay, Matic and/or Fred and by developing under Ten Hag in recent seasons that would put the Reds in the driving seat for his much-sought after signature. 

Future England captain Declan Rice meanwhile has taken his game to an even higher plateau in 2021/22, exhibiting an attacking prowess that surprises and vitally taking games by the scruff of the neck. 

Together this pairing improves United ten-fold while signaling a new dawn.

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Bite the bullet on Pogba and Ronaldo

With his heightened status and refusal to press, Ronaldo has been the cause of, and solution to, some of United’s most significant problems this term and though it would cost a small fortune to release him early from a two-year contract it’s a sacrifice they must make. CR7 will forever be associated with a glorious past. He has no part to play in a possibly bright future.

As for Pogba, it frankly astounds that the club are considering offering their French star a vastly improved contract this summer, with speculative figures ranging from £400,000 to half a million a week and all for five or six decent showings per year. Let him go, take the hit, and move onwards and upwards. 

Felix and Isak

Ronaldo and Edinson Cavani have a combined age of 71 while it is exceedingly likely that Mason Greenwood will never again wear the famous shirt. In short, United need a new forward line.

Which, to put it mildly, does not come cheap but by boxing clever it might be feasible to lure Atletico’s unsettled gem Joao Felix and Real Sociedad’s Alexander Isak to Old Trafford for roughly the same sum they would have been more than willing to splurge on Erling Haaland. 

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Both are 22. Both have the capacity to excel in Manchester. Both could help spearhead a new era for a club that has been reactive, not proactive for far too long now, at great cost.

Read – Eric Cantona’s first Premier League hat-trick

Read Also – Iconic Duos: The Tank and The Rolls Royce, Vidic and Ferdinand

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