Manchester United’s defeat at home to Burnley had been coming. This was the worst performance of the season, and it plunges the team into crisis.
Previous defeats away at the likes of Newcastle and West Ham were just put down to a poor away record and glossed over. A defeat like this on home turf was a shock to the system, even though it was not a surprise.
It came up against a backdrop of fan anger, and discontent, directed at the board.
United came into January full of hope. But our season appears at risk of falling apart.
Silverware and top four chances draining
United are effectively out of the Carabao Cup already, losing the semi-final first leg 3-1 at home. We head to City next week without Marcus Rashford too, and it could get really ugly.
At the weekend in the FA Cup we face either Watford or Tranmere away on Sunday, most likely the Hornets, who beat us at Vicarage Road in December.
In the league we remain six points off fourth. But frankly we are lucky to be so close, fortunate that Chelsea keep dropping points. They won’t do so forever, and with our squad the way it is, we will drop more.
Squad at breaking point
Manchester United’s squad is at breaking point. Key players Marcus Rashford, Paul Pogba and Scott McTominay are all dealing with long term injuries.
Meanwhile the players who are fit, look exhausted. Fred has started 17 league games in a row and his form will inevitably dip.
Dan James looks shattered, and even Aaron Wan-Bissaka is showing signs of tiredness, while Harry Maguire is playing through injury.
United’s attack without Rashford is so sub-standard it’s scary, so factor in tiredness and mental fatigue, and the lack of quality is exposed even further. There is only so much Mason Greenwood can do at 18.
Most importantly, the team is lacking a cohesive style of play. There is no pressing from the front, and the side lacks shape. It’s really worrying.
Changes are needed
The big change is needed at the top. New ownership, a new chief executive, and a director of football to be appointed.
Realistically that’s unlikely, so our hopes go to players. New signings are needed, desperately.
Bruno Fernandes looks no closer to joining. And aside from that, United do not even have any serious targets. An embarrassing lack of planning has been displayed by the board.
United can still change this. Nine days remain in the transfer window before it closes. The club need four or five new signings. If we get two, we will consider it a success.
The Burnley defeat highlights that doing nothing is totally unacceptable and United simply cannot settle for inaction. It will lead to more poor results, more injuries to players and stronger fan protests.
One problem which has been clear for years is that this board is out of it’s depth. Can they really conclude one transfer in nine days, let alone multiple? It will take a big effort.
The Glazers will be challenged to show their hand too. They don’t seem to care about the team’s plight. If they do not put money up to push deals through, their lack of interest in United’s sporting success will never be clearer.
This embarrassing defeat could be a turning point. But based on the past seven years, we write that out of desperate hope rather than expectation that it will bring about real change.
The drastic solution
The big change United could make would be to sack Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. #OleOut and Poch both trended on Twitter last night.
It’s an option, and it can’t be ruled out. Imagine a scenario where United lose to Tranmere, they win their replay with Watford, and then get hammered at The Etihad next week.
Any new manager, even Mauricio Pochettino will struggle with this poorly built and half-destroyed squad.
But if the board are unable or unwilling to sanction new signings, then a change of manager is one way to try and arrest a slump and add some energy in. Solskjaer looks out of ideas right now.
Right now everything is in play. The Burnley defeat felt significant. What happens next is down to the board. The combination of Solskjaer and the current squad can’t do more at this point.
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