| 5.8°C Dublin

Worrying times

United fans spooked by Solskjaer horror show

Once-great club can't continue trading on past glories


Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side are16th in the table with just three points from three games

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side are16th in the table with just three points from three games

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side are16th in the table with just three points from three games

The Theatre of Dreams has become a haunted house.

A place where a mysterious fate befalls anyone who steps inside.

No one is safe. Not even England captain Harry Maguire.

Signed a year ago for £80m, a world record fee for a defender, this elite footballer was said to possess all the skills required to make him the best on the planet.

Following a season at Old Trafford, Harry looks unsettled and frequently seems clueless, indecisive and clumsy.

And there was that unfortunate incident on the sunshine isle of Mykonos, which resulted in a night in the slammer, a hasty trial, a prison sentence, an appeal and a future re-trial.

Things are even worse for Paul Pogba.

The French international set a world transfer record when he signed for Man United in the summer of 2016.

Today, the midfielder lopes around the pitch as if searching for something he's misplaced. He's certainly lost what was an impressive asset, the ability to accurately pass the ball and tackle successfully.


Angered by his lack of urgency, the Red Devils' court of opinion has already found the rangy player who once played box-to-box guilty of ineptitude and laziness.

After what his manager described as "a fantastic season", much was expected of the club's 18-year-old ace Mason Greenwood this season.

But things got off to a dubious start with an off-pitch incident in Iceland which resulted in the player being sent home from international duty for breaching Covid guidelines.

Spurs boss Jose Mourinho exploited Greenwood's inability to defend in Sunday's 6-1 drubbing of his former club.

All across the pitch, as if struck by Kryptonite, Manchester United players appear to have been losing their special powers.

Even Bruno Fernandes, the Portuguese midfielder who's incendiary performances rejuvenated Ole Gunnar Soleskjaer's side and helped drive them to a Champions League place last season, is looking frayed and worn.

Currently 16th in the league with just three points from a possible nine and with league matches against Newcastle, Chelsea, Arsenal and Everton over the coming weeks, and nine midweek games on their itinerary, including against PSG and RB Leipzig, Manchester United might feel they're being tested to destruction.

United manager Solskjaer might have had a glimpse of what was knocking on the door when his side were beaten 2-1 by Sevilla in their Europa League semi-final tie in August.

The twin horrors of defensive errors and missed chances, which continue to torment United, were evident that night.

Those who wondered why Solskjaer waited until the last three minutes of playing time to bring on fresh legs may have received an answer when the manager noted, "We need to strengthen squad depth."

As the clock ticked down on the transfer window, it seemed the manager had changed his tune.

Last weekend, when Spurs overturned United's 1-0 lead and ran out winners 6-1, Solskjaer refused to be drawn on the possibility of new signings, saying, "We need to look at what we've got here and make more of what we've got."

Solskjaer had already made a signing. While he lavished Dutch international midfielder Donny van de Beek with praise, supporters wonder why he's used him so sparingly.

Now the supporters are split on the wisdom of United's last minute shopping spree.

What appeared to some like a panic buying rush prompted one wag to cruelly comment, "Next he'll be buying toilet roll and chicken."

If the reinforcements were expected to provide a quick fix to United's understrength and under-performing troops, then it looks like the manager will have to get creative and display both the proactive decision-making and tactical nous that's been absent in recent months.

United's next match is tomorrow week, October 17, away to Newcastle .

Anthony Martial, currently serving a three-match ban, will be unavailable.

Uruguayan striker Edison Cavani has been self-isolating since arriving from France on Sunday.

The 33-year-old's last match for PSG, in a season blighted by injury, was in March so it may be some time before he slots into Solskjaer's side.


Brazil left-back Alex Telles, who has joined from Porto, says: "The manager has a clear plan and direction for this team and I can't wait to pull on the famous shirt."

It will be January before we get to see inexperienced Atlanta winger Amad Diallo (18) in a Manchester United shirt.

Also added to the Old Trafford books is Facundo Pellistri, an 18-year-old Uruguayan who's unlikely to turn the club's fortunes around overnight.

On the evidence of three underwhelming-to-disastrous league performances, Manchester United have a problem with the centre of their defence. They also lack a dependable striker.

And their midfield partnerships have been creaking like a rusty door.

The late arrival of Cavani suggests a gamble rather than a strategy.

While Telles should quickly slot in at left-back, Solskjaer has yet to figure out how best to utilise the talents of van de Beek and how to accommodate Cavani in attack.

Questions of first choice goalkeeper, central defence pairing and most effective midfield need to be solved. And quickly.

To outsiders, it looks as if Solskjaer has been hobbled by his chief executive Ed Woodward, with the club's owners content to trade on reputation and past glories rather than compete in the marketplace with more ambitious rivals.

No wonder the fans are spooked.