Manchester United is the only team left in four major competitions. Is it time to set priorities?
First, the good news: Manchester United I started on the crest of a wave. With 11 victories out of 12 men’s matches, Erik ten Hag is fourth in the Premier League Table, preparation of the Carabao Cup semi-final meeting with Nottingham ForestAnd reading To come in the fourth round of FA cup.
The happy run included favorable opposition, but in this run of victories the side played close to the fans’ ‘perfect’ United. There is more speed in attack as well as a sense of solidity in defence. victory over Fulham It came from a last minute winner from an academy graduate Alexander Garnacho Through the moment of clever play on the wing. They have the longest winning streak since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer began his caretaker spell in January 2019, and are the only English club still to be involved in four competitions.
Ten Hag appears to be a confirmed employee and has put together a capable soccer team from what appears to be a deranged and troubled team. Marcus Rashford He is one of the strikers of his form in the country and critics have turned away from writing about him Lisandro MartinezImpressive peak of his defensive timing.
Almost every interview with a United player features a section where they talk about the improved discipline and collective team spirit brought in by their manager, and Ten Hag himself talks about the high standards and rules that must be upheld so that progress can be maintained. Many observers were outside contenders for the top four spots before the season began. However, in early January, site analytics FiveThirtyEight It gives United a 59 per cent chance of qualifying for the Champions League Champions League – Third highest probability behind Arsenal And Manchester city.
This is the good news. Things are on the surface and the environment at Manchester United is positive at the moment.
Now for the not so good, below the surface.
It begins with the club’s precarious financial situation, a series of debtors having to be paid before future projects can match Ten Hag’s ambitions. The manager wants a new striker for his team, however More than £300m ($365m) owed in transfer installments to other clubs And Glazer’s ownership seems reluctant to greenlight another big buck to get the kind of player they desire. It is believed that a proposed redevelopment of Old Trafford has since been paused United owner statement November 2022 Consider all strategic alternatives, including new investment in the club, sale, or other transactions involving the company.
There is a gulf between Tin Hag’s wants and needs, which means the wave United fans are currently riding is in danger of collapsing. With the approval of the Special Director, Anthony Marcial He currently cannot afford the financial burden of playing three 90-minute matches in one week – when his club are scheduled to play 12 games (including the Manchester derby) between now and the end of February. Despite Martial’s (relative) lack of goals and limited minutes this season, he remains near irreplaceable within the United squad, with a style of play that would be difficult to replicate without going transfer market shopping. Wout Westhorst He joins the team on a short-term loan, but the team still lacks the kind of 20 goals per season personality that their opponents have.
midline axis Christian Eriksen And Casemiro It’s a big upgrade over that of “McFred” (Scott McTominay And unique) partnerships of the past, but both men will be subject to more aggressive pressing regimes against Arsenal, Manchester City and Barcelona in the coming weeks.
United is still a work in progress, slowly adapting to the style of play. Their manager has to rotate a number of boards on and off the field, and there are questions about whether his team is ready to run so soon after walking forward again.
This leads us to a thought-provoking question: Is there value in ceding one of their competing goals, so they can redirect the energy to something else?
The last time United “fell” was in the 2016-17 season, when Jose Mourinho prioritized winning the Premier League. European league (and subsequent Champions League qualification) to chase the top four spots in the league. United went five games without a win in the Premier League from late April to the final game of the season, but reached the Europa League final, eventually defeating Ajax and winning the club’s most recent trophy.
There were tough moments, like John Guidetti’s last-minute chance that she would have Celtic Vigo Winning a delicate semi-final, but history sees Mourinho’s gamble as more successful than the 2019-20 season, when United finished third in the league and lost in the cup semi-finals three times. Tanks can be useful to Manchester United, as long as you win the league you choose to prioritize; The sixth place position in the Premier League in the 2016-17 season has faded from memory.
Ten Hag himself has given little indication that he is the type to forgo cup competition in order to focus on league performance. The 52-year-old gave the answer ‘we want to win every game’ when asked about his goals in the Europa League during the group stages, and has spent most of his time in the FA League Cup Complement the format of each contest. Winning leads to more wins, and this promising trajectory of performance has enabled Ten Hag to gain goodwill and engagement from the players and fan base.
In an effort to do it all now, he’s building a team that’s better equipped to win more things in the future. A Europa League play-off against Barcelona means progression in the continental championship is tougher than fixtures against Reading and Nottingham Forest, but if United are to win any silverware in the coming seasons they will need to get used to defeat. The most challenging opposition.
Qualification for the Champions League and other glories will be the ultimate goal for this group of players, but it cannot be achieved against ‘unbeatable’ teams alone. There is an advantage in prioritizing your goals to minimize potential risk and maximize return, but there is a risk in limiting the amount of rewards you can win in the future.
(Top photo: Ash Donelon/Manchester United via Getty Images)