While for moments the Ole Gunnar Solskjaer era was full of hope, history will not be kind to the Norwegian’s spell at the club.
A rebuild only counts if it leads to success. The house Solskjaer built is instead going to have to be torn down.
The 4-0 defeat to Liverpool in midweek was not a one off. United have lost four games against Liverpool and Manchester City by a combined score of 15-1 this season.
Although they were not the only players to start both games, it was striking that Solskjaer’s £130 million double signing of Aaron Wan-Bissaka (£50m) and Harry Maguire (£80m) started all four games.
Two expensive deals look so costly
£50 million spent on Aaron Wan-Bissaka was expensive, although in line with fees Manchester City had themselves paid for full-backs Benjamin Mendy and Kyle Walker. This did not mean it was good value for money.
United hoped Wan-Bissaka could be coached into a well rounded full-back, improving his attacking output. His 2021/22 season statistics read zero goals and zero assists.
Harry Maguire has regressed badly. Despite his own inflated opinion that his form is good, its not. Against Liverpool he was partly or directly at fault for three of the four goals conceded, and this was far from a one-off. He cost a staggering £80 million.
While perhaps at the time, the Wan-Bissaka move could be rationalised, given the desperate need for a right-back, £80 million on Maguire felt like a foolish excess.
There was still concern with both deals, a big one, that United were overpaying for shopping in the Premier League.
The test of time has only proven these concerns correct, with the £130 million a gigantic mis-step which United could not afford to make.
The doubts were that United 1) could have signed better players, and 2) could have used the money more efficiently to buy more players.
Part of the big reason the Maguire and Wan-Bissaka deals have failed are not just their regression on the pitch. It is the opportunity that the mis-spent £130 million also missed.
You only have to imagine what Ralf Rangnick could do with £130 million at his disposal. He certainly would not have blown £80 million of it on Harry Maguire.
United’s defence improved initially, but has since regressed terribly. The early improvement now looks like a honeymoon period, like a ‘new manager bounce’. The team have conceded 48 goals this season, more than Burnley, and fast closing in on the 54 conceded in 2018/19, the year before Maguire and Wan-Bissaka arrived.
United needed so much in 2019. A centre-back and a right-back should have been signed the year before, and United were left playing catch-up. A midfielder, a winger, a striker and a creative midfielder were all needed.
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The Maguire and Wan-Bissaka deals meant all of these recruits would be stretched out over 2019 to 2021, and a defensive midfielder has still not arrived, with striker additions only short-term patch-ups.
There were so many smarter ways for United to spent £130 million at the time, and the one thing you absolutely cannot do, when laying out that kind of money, is to miss and sign the wrong players. Sadly it looks like United have bungled it entirely.
Even if Maguire and Wan-Bissaka can be coached up by incoming boss Erik ten Hag to look like the top level footballers United need, which is growing more and more unlikely, their signings will remain an example of how not to spend money in the modern game. Smarter deals are required, with players who fit a manager’s playing style. It really is time for United to start again.