Manchester United’s tough start to the season has seen supporters go through a range of emotions already.
There have been a couple of special moments where this team has looked better than ever, with wins over Champions League finalists PSG and semi-finalists RB Leipzig.
Then there have been woeful, shambolic displays like defeats to Crystal Palace and Tottenham, and depressing losses to Istanbul Basaksehir and Arsenal.
Even the league win over Brighton was a rollercoaster ride, where United were incredibly fortunate to emerge with three points.
So it is tough to gauge exactly where United are. A league position of 14th could be improved if United win the game in hand against bottom side Burnley.
If we were to win it by four goals or more, three points would take us up to seventh on goal difference.
And, whisper it… United would be just three points back from a Champions League spot and five points off first place.
Anything seems possible this year. Liverpool are facing an injury crisis, while Manchester City are also struggling with inconsistency.
Leicester and Southamton are among the teams making up the top four.
Dig in with Solskjaer or make a change?
Amid this chaotic start to the season, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s job has been called into question, with the Manchester Evening News reporting United had approached Mauricio Pochettino.
These rumours have subsided after the win over Everton, and will be back if United suffer any defeats later in November. That’s just how it works at this point.
Currently, the Pochettino rumours are just gossip. United are standing by Solskjaer.
And there is a case United should consider this campaign as a ‘freak season’ and disregard results.
The reasons for this are two-fold. Firstly United had no pre-season, and as such, Solskjaer had no time to implement any fresh plans.
Secondly, United’s home form has been the big problem. A lack of fans is a contributing factor.
Conversely, this has probably helped United away from home. The club have won every away game this season in the Premier League so far.
Solskjaer must solve the home conundrum, but United may factor in the lack of fans to the team’s struggles, especially when looking back favourably on the last match at Old Trafford with supporters in attendance, a riveting 2-0 win over City – one of the best atmospheres in recent memory.
To be more critical, you could argue this is merely excuse making. Sure, United had less preparation time than other teams, but Solskjaer also has a bigger squad and better players than many competitors.
14th place, even with a game in hand, is under-performing so far.
This season is wide open, and another manager could do better. It’s the type of campaign in which Sir Alex Ferguson would have swept the league and had it wrapped up by April – with an inferior set of players.
So this is the dilemma facing United’s board. Do United indulge Solskjaer and essentially give him a free pass, until football returns to normality next season? Or do the club get ruthless and make a quick change?
Amid the club’s commitment to Solskjaer’s long-term project, keeping Solskjaer seems to fit, but there is also a minimum standard for the manager to achieve.
It is essential the club qualify for the Champions League again next season, and considering the poor standard and unpredictability of the Premier League this season, United should be targeting the title, still.
United need to buckle up and start putting a run of wins together. The table could look very healthy in a month or so if United can get victories in the next four league games.
Then there will be no need for any excuse making. This is a freak season, and yet it feels like United can still achieve something at this point.
Winning the title could be the biggest freak result of all.
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