There are seven or eight teams involved in the title race. It’s great because there’s been nothing like this since the early days of the Premier League, when it was really up for grabs. It’s like the old football leagues. The inconsistency and struggles of the campaign have allowed us to identify the mentally strong teams, and it has exposed those who are mentally weak.
However, that doesn’t mean that United are necessarily psychologically resilient. They are failing to do their jobs properly, despite their comebacks. When you’re away from home, when there’s a crowd, you have to make sure that the home fans don’t get a lift. You don’t want the opposition to get the first free kick or corner, let alone the first goal. That should be the same task even without fans.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer must know that his time is running out in these situations. When they went behind against Leipzig, it was against a better team who could control the situation. And when they did go in front against Leicester City, one of the better sides in the league, they lost their lead - twice.
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If they want to maintain their title challenge then the squad they have is not good enough. I’m a fan of Kieran Trippier at Atletico Madrid, because he’s become a better defender there. If you can’t defend well then Diego Simeone will not pick you in defence. He’s become more disciplined playing for Simeone, and is exactly the type of player that United need for their current weaknesses.
He’s a player of real stature on the right-hand side, who can offer plenty in attack. That’s not really on offer from Aaron Wan-Bissaka. However I wonder if Trippier actually wants to leave Spain. I don’t see why he would want to swap Madrid for Manchester, unless his family aren’t enjoying it.
Even though he’s 30, he might still get one more big move as people are prepared to gamble on his experience, but I wouldn’t rush back from a side like Atletico - he might regret having to start again at that age.
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Max Aarons is also a decent option. For Norwich he bombed up-and-down a lot in the Premier League, and while they conceded a lot of goals, it certainly wasn’t all down to him. I am not sure if at his age he is the right one to sign, but I’ve liked what I have seen of him, more so in the first half of last season. He wanted to attack, cover ground, and was tenacious.
While I still think Liverpool are the favourites for the title, they are looking vulnerable. They have lost key players, but I think mentioning that too much is a bit of an excuse. In the past, clubs had smaller squads and suffered just as many important injuries, but were more willing to use the rest of their players and just get on with it. Teams like Liverpool talk about the strength of their squad and their replacements, but now they have to prove it.
Everyone seems to be trying to play up their misfortune, to feel sorry for themselves. But in football, nobody should feel sorry for you. Whoever wins the league, that’s what matters, not how you do it. History won’t record whether you lost your players to injury. Yes, they’ve been unlucky, but hundreds of teams have had just as many or worse injuries.
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Football now has a lot of money, particularly in the bigger teams, and they all have large squads. The best way to deal with their problem is to encourage the younger players - don’t talk about what you haven’t got. Remind them that they are valuable and demonstrate the importance of the whole squad. Maybe owners will take note of this and wonder what they are paying all these reserves for.
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I think the bigger sides, like Liverpool and Manchester City, might try to influence the league when it comes to the decision on whether or not to suspend games, and maybe whole rounds of games. It seems like nonsense to me. Players will still train together, and some clubs will take advantage of the window to get players back from injury.
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