Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer must deliver trophies now he has sanctioned several key signings during his reign, says football writer Andy Mitten.
United have spent well over £250m on players since Solskjaer took the job permanently in March 2019, including big-money moves last season for Harry Maguire, Bruno Fernandes and Aaron Wan-Bissaka.
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Donny van de Beek arrived in September this year and Edinson Cavani is the latest high-profile signing at Old Trafford, with the club completing a deal for the former Paris Saint-Germain forward – as well as Brazil left-back Alex Telles – on Deadline Day.
United finished third in the Premier League last season but have started 2020/21 disappointingly. Home defeats to Crystal Palace and Tottenham – the latter a 6-1 thrashing – and a fortunate last-gasp win at Brighton have seen the club heavily criticised once again.
Speaking to Sky Sports News, Mitten – the editor of fanzine United We Stand – says although supporters don’t trust United’s recruitment policy, Solskjaer has to start delivering results on the pitch with the players he has signed.
“There’s just so little faith in the recruitment system because it’s been so mish-mash since 2013 and the club have spent a huge amount on players, but most of it has been spent really badly,” Mitten said.
“I did have confidence that Ole Gunnar was bringing in better players and was identifying better players and if you would have asked me three or four months ago – Harry Maguire, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Bruno Fernandes, Dan James – I would have spoke pretty well about all of them. Less so now after the start to the season.
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“They’re players who have played well in the past and I hope they’ll play well again in the future, but it is baffling how players who have looked so good collectively are now looking so bad.
“United need to start getting results. It will not be acceptable if the club start this season and in the runup to Christmas with as few wins as they had last year. There are minimum expectations and Ole Gunnar’s got to get results.
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“I think the fans are still behind him. He’s been criticised because any team should that concedes six goals at home in a Premier League game – following on from another home defeat – and I think he holds his hands up himself and takes the blame for that.
“United fans would love it to work out with Ole Gunnar but are there doubts? Absolutely. Just as there were with Jose Mourinho, with Louis van Gaal, with David Moyes. It’s this rinse and repeat cycle which frustrates Manchester United fans.
“Ole will have been in the job for two years this coming December. I’ve long maintained that he needs support, but he’s now brought in a lot of players which he’s sanctioned. He didn’t get Jadon Sancho and I understand the reasons why. £108m is way too much in this current environment.
“United have conceded 11 goals in the first three Premier League games. It’s been a really turbulent start to the season and I think everybody’s got to take some part of the blame for that – the players and the manager as well. Ole’s got to deliver now. He’s got to deliver trophies.”
‘Man Utd fans are frustrated’
In April, United executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward said the club had the financial capability to be competitive in the transfer market, although he did admit they were not immune from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
United completed four signings in the 24 hours that followed their 6-1 mauling to Spurs even though Jadon Sancho, who United had chased all summer, remained at Dortmund and potential moves for Barcelona’s Ousmane Dembele and Watford’s Ismaila Sarr failed to materialise.
“It’s caused a lot of frustration among fans and a lot of the goodwill which built up towards the end of last season has faded away,” Mitten said.
“Up until yesterday Manchester United had only signed Donny van de Beek and then the four signings on Deadline Day. The mood wasn’t good, especially after the game at Old Trafford on Sunday and I wouldn’t wish that on any Manchester United fan. It was absolutely horrendous.
“The four signings have come in and I’m looking forward to seeing Cavani in a Manchester United shirt – as I am with all the players – but the fans have got very little faith in the club’s recruitment system and in the club’s ownership structure.”
‘Cavani will be a leader’
Thirty-three-year-old Cavani – who has scored 341 goals in 556 club appearances during his career – has signed a one-year contract with the option of a further 12 months and is expected to wear United’s iconic No 7 shirt.
The signing of Cavani has already faced scepticism, with Sky Sports’ Paul Merson among those to question the deal, but Mitten is hopeful the Uruguayan will be a success.
“I actually quite like the opportunistic signings,” Mitten said. “I called Diego Forlan who knows far more about Cavani than I ever will. I said ‘just be straight with me – is he still a good player?’ and he said ‘yes, absolutely’ and I know him well enough for him to say to me ‘no, he’s gone’.
“He will be a leader at the club. We know he can’t speak English yet – but with his professionalism and the way that he trains.
“That left me thinking I hope he’s more of a Zlatan Ibrahimovic rather than a Radamel Falcao, but we’re going to have to wait and see.”
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