Football news - Paul Parker: Manchester United are 10 players short from challenging again
There’s no getting away from it – Manchester United’s first half against Manchester City on Tuesday was awful. It was particularly embarrassing due to the manner that the goals were given away, as Paul Parker explains...
Published 08/01/2020 at 13:20 GMT | Updated 08/01/2020 at 17:01 GMT
Don’t take anything away from City – you earn the right to score goals sometimes. But it was poor decision-making, poor defending from Manchester United. The general performance, with and without the ball, was awful.
The 3-1 defeat killed the illusion that United play well against big teams. This has brought the club back to reality after the win at City in December, and that reality is that there aren’t enough players who are good enough to be wearing the United jersey. As much as they’re capable of doing it in the odd game, they’re not a side that are going to even attempt to achieve success in the long-term. You need to have big balls, as well as quality. This team hasn’t got either.
We can talk tactics all day long, but tactics only work if you’ve got players who can understand and execute them, and United don’t have good enough players to do that. We can question Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, we can look at his CV. But there’s a bigger problem here. If you’re going to change the manager, then the next one that comes in has got to be able to go out and buy six very good players and four world-class players, because what’s there right now just isn’t good enough.
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You can look at last night and say there’s maybe two players in there that came out of it well. Marcus Rashford scored a goal, and after that you’d have to say that Brandon Williams was the best player. Williams is only a young boy, and for some reason he can’t get regular football in that team. That tells you there’s something wrong at the club if that player can’t get regular game time. Williams should be playing at left-back every single week. He’s a young boy who’s done well every time he’s played. He’s had maybe one game where it didn’t go right for him away at Sheffield United. But then Solskjaer made changes – he went to three at the back and Williams was asked to play as a wing-back.
I’ve learnt from my own experience that when you have a young player who is doing well, you play him because it’s good for their confidence. It happened when Gary Neville came through and took my place. Sir Alex Ferguson said to me he couldn’t afford to leave Neville out because he’s done well and he didn’t want to affect his confidence. It’s the same thing now with Williams. He has to stay in the team.
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It’s the same too with Mason Greenwood. He’s another player who needs to know that he’s playing week in, week out, rather than coming in and feeling like he’s having to save Manchester United all the time. You can’t put the kind of pressure on a young player, but at the same time he needs to know he is valued. No one is sure about Harry Maguire yet, and Victor Lindelof has had too many games. So the manager should look at those two youngsters.
The whole club is labouring under a weak structure. The club is being run all wrong. It’s being run as a business, that’s why it’s Manchester United and not Manchester United Football Club anymore. The football club has to run right if everything above it is going to run right, but United haven’t gone that way, and instead they’ve looked at business first before the football. And now we see the result is that they’re trying to chase and catch up. The last two managers have been employed on the strength of their big names, they’ve thrown money at the problem and it hasn’t materialised.
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I’d even look at Solskjaer and ask if he’s got the right people sitting with him on the bench. Does he need someone next to him who has been a manager themselves to sit with him and help him? I would say that maybe he does.
It doesn’t have to be big names that come through the door in January to fix it. Apart from anything else, how many big-name players want to come to Manchester United at the present moment? I don't believe that's the answer.
The bulk of the problem is midfield. They need at least two players in midfield and at least one of them is going to have to be creative. They also need someone who is happy to sit in the middle of the park and show for the ball, to start the play. They're missing someone who’s willing to go wide to get the ball, and someone’s willing to drop off. I’m thinking of players like Andy Cole and Mark Hughes and Teddy Sheringham. It’s a link player that they’re missing. Someone that you can give the ball to and trust, someone who’s going to keep hold of it for you.
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You can’t rely on Anthony Martial because you don’t know what his mood swings are going to be like. Daniel James too still has a lot to learn. You can see him running out of ideas. He needs help around him. He needs players who understand when to take the ball back from him when it's clear he can’t work in certain areas. That all comes from having intelligent players around – players United don’t have.
Every time Solskjaer looks at what his midfield’s going to be – well, let's just say I’m just surprised he’s not gone bald already because it must paralyse his brain that there is no midfield at all at United. Whatever he puts out there, there’s absolutely no guarantee it’s going to work. If you’re playing up font, you know that you’re not going to get the ball. If you’re in defence, you know that the ball’s going to come straight back. The midfield is the problem at United. They have absolutely no middle ground.
Scott McTominay is a good example of the problem. He just runs around trying to kick people, thumping the badge. He’s like a modern-day Robbie Savage. You need more than that. If people are saying United are missing McTominay, they’re not really Man United fans. The reason he’s out injured is because he tried to kick someone and hurt himself. If that’s what people think United are, then they weren’t around for the good times.