Ole Gunnar Solskjaer finally has what Sir Alex Ferguson had at Manchester United
Manchester United have had problems aplenty in the six years since Sir Alex Ferguson brought the curtain down on his 27-year Old Trafford reign.
Three established managers have been and gone, none of whom oversaw a credible title challenge and none of whom implemented a style of play that pleased the punters.
At boardroom level the club’s transfer strategy has been flawed. From Marouane Fellaini to Radamel Falcao and from Romelu Lukaku to Alexis Sanchez, United’s approach in the market, this summer partly aside, has lacked coherence.
And then there is the matter of the club’s ownership. United’s rotten form since Fergie’s farewell has given the anti-Glazer movement renewed momentum in recent months – particularly in the digital realm.
But perhaps none of those issues have been as glaring or as frustrating to supporters as the one that has slowly developed at the base of United’s team.
United haven’t had a clear and obvious back four since John O’Shea, Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic and Patrice Evra turned out together with regularity under Ferguson during the 2008-09 campaign.
The following season that quartet was prevented from lining up together too often due to Ferdinand’s persistent injury problems. Chris Smalling arrived in 2010 and Phil Jones the year after that.
United have been making do ever since.
Jonny Evans, Daley Blind, Marcos Rojo and Eric Bailly have all filled in with Smalling and Jones along the way over the last decade but none – bar Bailly in his debut season and perhaps Smalling the campaign prior – looked like establishing themselves as top-class defenders.
United boasted an impressive defensive record in City’s painful Centurions season but come May 2018 Jose Mourinho knew serious reinforcements were needed at the back.
The Portuguese was overruled, though, and by the time he was axed last December United had already conceded more goals in the Premier League than they had over the course of the previous campaign.
United’s 2-0 home loss to Cardiff three months ago ensured the Reds finished last season having shipped more league goals than Newcastle and Crystal Palace.
It was little surprise that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer entered this transfer window deeming the strengthening of his defence a matter of priority.
United secured Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s services from Palace at the end of June and his performances in pre-season eased supporters’ fears that, at £50million, United paid too much for him.
Harry Maguire’s £80m transfer fee has derived sniggers from rival supporters but he is exactly what United require: a leading presence with the ability to play out from the back.
Alongside Victor Lindelof and Luke Shaw, both of whom impressed last term, United finally have an indisputable first-choice back four once more.
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