At the beginning of the current top-flight campaign, Manchester United were predicted to be challenging for a top-four spot come the end of the season. While the Red Devils remain in the mix for a Champions League place, their inconsistency has undoubtedly made the task trickier than many expected.
Due to this, we’re going to assess why United have struggled while also considering what needs to change to ensure a top-four finish.
Troubled with Inconsistency
Throughout the 2019-20 Premier League season, United has found consistency hard to come by, especially against teams that, on paper, they would be favoured to beat. At the time of writing, the 20-time league winners find themselves sat in fifth place in the table, but only three points behind fourth-placed Chelsea. Over the course of the opening 27 matches, the Red Devils have been victorious on only 11 occasions, evenly drawing and losing the other 16 fixtures.
Fundamentally, Solskjaer’s team struggle against sides who are more than content to get bodies behind the ball and look to catch United on the break. Despite wins against Chelsea, Manchester City, and Tottenham, as well as being the only team to take points off Liverpool, the Premier League’s runaway leaders, supporters of the club have also seen their side lose to Crystal Palace and Bournemouth.
Moreover, as a result of the size of Manchester United, supporters have travelled from all over the globe, including from Australia, to see their team fall to a two-goal defeat at Old Trafford to Sean Dyche’s hardworking Burnley. Following a run of inconsistency, it raises the question as to whether fans from the world’s sixth-largest country would be better off staying at home and watching the Australian Football League, where, for example, Greater Western Sydney have more favourable odds of winning silverware than United, with Aussie Rules betting placing them at 15/2 to be crowned the Grand Final winners as of February.
A Need for Big Players to Step Up
Despite their problems in relation to breaking down low-block teams, the arrival of Bruno Fernandes from Sporting Lisbon should significantly help the Red Devils turn a handful of draws into victories between now and the end of the season. The 25-year-old Portuguese international, who was signed on a five-year deal at the end of the January transfer window, provided an all-important assist for United’s second goal in their 2-0 victory at Stamford Bridge on February 17th. With Marcus Rashford expected to be out for the majority of the season with a double back fracture, it’s more crucial than ever that the club’s other stars step up to the plate and deliver in the forward’s absence.
The Manchester-based club still have plenty to play for this season and, despite not being the favourites for Europa League or FA Cup glory, in addition to being outsiders for a top-four finish, a sustained run of consistent results and performances will leave Solskjaer’s team in with a chance of getting back into Europe’s elite competition next season. With Anthony Martial now leading the line, and Harry Maguire marshalling the defence, the impetus is on the key members of the squad to prove that they have the capabilities to deliver the success that is engrained in the history of Manchester United.
There Are No Excuses
Having spent big in the summer on the likes of Aaron-Wan Bissaka, Daniel James. and Maguire, as well as now adding Fernandes, there is nowhere to hide for the current crop of United players. Although the fans are realistic enough to acknowledge that closing the gap on Liverpool will not happen overnight, there’s still an expectation to play expansive, free-flowing football that drives them into the Champions League.