Despite making 11 changes against West Ham, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had a team of full internationals packed with experience, but despite that it was glaringly obvious that United lacked leaders against the Hammers.
With the likes of Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw, Raphael Varane, Paul Pogba and Cristiano Ronaldo all given the night off, a much-changed starting XI looked lost at times and didn’t know who to turn to for inspiration.
Making his first start of the season, Jesse Lingard looked to drive his team on and turn the game around for his club.
But beyond United’s number 14, it was hard to see who was going to grab the game by the scruff of its neck and lead by example.
It wasn’t until influential duo Bruno Fernandes and Mason Greenwood came on that the team looked like they had a sense of direction and purpose.
Clear who the leaders are at United
Following the blockbuster signings of Varane and Ronaldo this summer, United’s squad has had a much-needed injection of serial winners and leaders.
But the worry is for Solskjaer is that the first-team fringe players, the more introverted personalities, will rely on the likes of Ronaldo, Fernandes, Pogba and Varane to bail the team out when things get tough.
Ronaldo has scored in all three of the games he has played in since returning, but even at the age of 36, it’s going to take the great man some going to maintain that rate.
Other players are going to have to step up to the plate, in Marcus Rashford and Edinson Cavani, Solskjaer will have another two leaders to call upon when they return.
Solskjaer has assembled a squad packed with talent and depth, but United won’t win big trophies if the team becomes reliant on its leaders.
Every player has to take responsibility and the only way we will challenge for major honours is if we perform as a collective and not as individuals.
Solskjaer has a number of on-field managers in his best eleven, but on last night’s evidence it doesn’t go beyond that.
- Edinson Cavani sends one word message to Manchester United fans
- Manchester United and Atalanta are polar opposites in one specific category
- Brandon Williams may have to be patient to regain Norwich starting spot
- Lack of Pogba to Ronaldo connection is biggest attacking disappointment
- How Manchester United could line-up v Atalanta in 3-5-2 formation