Graeme Souness believes Manchester United are ‘five years’ away from being able to challenge for the Premier League title.
Jose Mourinho was sacked as manager last week following United’s worst start to a season in 28 years, and as the club seek a permanent manager following Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s appointment as caretaker, Souness believes there is no ‘quick fix’ to the Old Trafford outfits troubles.
‘There’s no quick fix for Manchester United, no magic wand to wave after sacking Jose Mourinho,’ Souness writes for the Times.
‘If they’re lucky, if it all goes swimmingly well, they will need five years before they can challenge again for the Premier League and Champions League.
‘I can fully understand why they have gone for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer until the end of the season and he could be a success and stay on beyond that. Every manager has a failure, like his at Cardiff, on their CV, but his United connection, the goodwill fans feel towards him, might buy him the time required to turn it round.
‘You could write a book, never mind a column, on what’s wrong with the team. There’s no future in Ashley Young and Antonio Valencia as full-backs – they should be squad players. Mourinho never settled on a back four, so the defence is a shambles. None of them have stood up and said: “I’m your man in this position.”
‘My advice to Solskjaer would be to decide on his best back four and stick with it, to develop a unit in front of David de Gea, the only United player to make the composite XI that I chose from their team and Liverpool’s before the 3-1 defeat at Anfield seven days ago finished Mourinho off. I’ve not had many arguments from United fans about that since.
‘Further forward, there’s a player in Anthony Martial. The jury is still out on whether Marcus Rashford can be that main man for United, but he has all the equipment to become precisely that. Romelu Lukaku looks demoralised and devoid of confidence, but if Solskjaer is able to get a tune out of those three, who are all pacy and young enough to develop, it would certainly be a start.
‘In midfield, Paul Pogba’s got to be a different player to what he’s shown so far. You need a midfield behind him that fills the holes he empties and allows him to get forward at every opportunity, arrive in the box late and score. In return, Pogba must be willing to sprint rather than jog back when United lose possession.
‘Can Solskjaer come up with a system that gets Lukaku, Martial and Rashford in the team and a midfield that compensates for Pogba’s indiscipline? Good luck to him with all that.
‘As I said at the start, United need five years, at least, to fix the mess they’ve managed to get into since Fergie retired five years ago.’