Wednesday, February 1, 2023

The Manchester United Show: Is It Time For Heads To Roll?

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Abhinab Ghosh
A 26-year-old sports writer and an aspiring football coach who has road-tripped across the Scottish Highlands, but has never been to Wales. Sucker for cliff-hangers and catchy riffs. Known to be a grunger and not to be a stranger.

A season that started so well has panned out really badly for Manchester United in the past few weeks. The Red Devils at some point regarded as serious title contenders, look anything but that, just 10 weeks into the season. They’ve been schooled by teams they would have easily walked over with the talent and profiles at their disposal.

Manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer admitted he is at his lowest following a 5-0 thumping at home – the Theater of Dreams – by Liverpool. The coach was not just schooled; his tactics played well into Liverpool’s plans and by the 12th minute, he was already exposed and beaten.

Going to the break against Liverpool, it was clear they could only try damage limitation, as they trailed 4-0. There was more bad news in store. Paul Pogba was introduced in a tactical change, replacing Mason Greenwood but that proved to be just another bad decision. A few minutes after his introduction, he had a big hand in Liverpool’s fifth goal.

It would turn out badly for the Frenchman in the 60th minute, just 15 minutes after his introduction, a poor lunge at Naby Keita earned him an early shower. The picture of a smiling Pogba as he walked off red carded would not endear him so much to the United fans.

This has been coming; the late wins over Atalanta and Villarreal, the losses to West Ham United, Aston Villa, Leicester City and Young Boys pointed to something not working at United.

They are already out of the League Cup, which in itself should be a consolation, as they would be facing Manchester City in the round of 16 otherwise. At least they have time to reflect before the next game.

In the said next game, they face Tottenham Hotspur, a team that handed them their heaviest defeat last season.

United won’t have very strong odds for a win in North London going by their recent form, but this doesn’t mean fans can’t win big from the game, as there’s a Bwin bonus of up to £20, profiled on Wincomparator, for new registrations. The welcome offer is activated upon verifying a newly registered account and depositing an equivalent of £10 and staking qualifying bets.

With what has already been seen at United, there are deafening calls for heads to roll. The first definitely is Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. His status as club legend remains, but he has failed to deliver, despite assembling one of the best squads in Europe at the moment. United lack a particular style of play and have been shambolic at times. As manager the buck stops with him and fans have been vocal about it.

Paul Pogba is the other one in focus. It isn’t a secret that he plays better and is happier at France than Manchester United. Lately, he has been used sparingly, after a dip in form at United which coincided in helping France win the Nations League. It is hard for fans to take and the fact that he’s stalled on contract talks doesn’t help. His smile as he walked off the pitch will definitely be remembered by the hurting fans too.

Harry Maguire has regressed badly. It is no longer unusual to find him at fault when Manchester United concede, and opponents should be rubbing their hands at the prospect of facing him. He had nowhere to hide as a Salah-inspired attack ran rings around him in the 5-0 loss. Perhaps benching the skipper is a necessity now.

The fact that Liverpool missed Thiago Alcantara and Fabinho in midfield but still ran United ragged paints Fred and Scott McTominay badly as well, and in the flanks, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Luke Shaw were too lightweight for the marauding Reds.

Clearly, it is time for heads to roll for the Liverpool performance.

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