Okay, so the title doesn’t quite fit the famous Wizard of Oz line, but it does sum up the areas where Manchester United need to recruit.
The United manager is wrong to suggest his side can still win the Premier League title this season. As far as performances go, they are nowhere close to matching the quality of football being played by Manchester City, Arsenal and even Leicester.
Wayne Rooney’s winning goal epitomized the phrase ‘against the run of play’ and only came from a corner kick- against a Liverpool side most recently famous for their inability to defend crosses. Anybody can score from a corner against Liverpool at the moment, literally.
Chris Smalling needs another partner at centreback. It just seems pointless having Daley Blind in there when he isn’t making an impact with his forward passes out of the defence. Even Phil Jones fails to convince when he is fit to play at centre back. He is poor with the ball at his feet and isn’t consistent enough nor does he have the intelligence and awareness to be classed as a top class central defender- something Chris Smalling has the potential to become.
United have been fortunate enough to get some good results since the turn of the year, but the obvious issues lies with the performances. Van Gaal seems to have imposed a fear philosophy into this Manchester United side and an impetus towards safety, reassurance and no risk. Compare that to the risks taken by a Manchester United side under Sir Alex Ferguson- high pressing, committing lots of men forward and being confident with the ball. Not only did the risks allow them to play scintillating and intense attacking football, but it also brought results and success.
Bar a few signings, this current United squad is made up of players who can make a difference if they were to play by this attitude. They just aren’t creating enough chances or looking anywhere near as dangerous in attack as they should be when you consider the players they have. They really do struggle when Wayne Rooney isn’t playing well.
Some main concerns come in the central midfield area. Marouane Fellaini has to be left out of plans if Van Gaal wants to see his side challenge for the title. There is no doubting the impact the Belgian has in the air in both penalty areas at times, but he doesn’t perform consistently enough in the bullish manner fans expect him to do so in central midfield to warrant a place in the starting lineup as a key player for the next few years.
Morgan Schneiderlin is clearly the more favoured holding midfielder, which simply displays Fellaini as a man unsure as to where he is most effective. The midfield is crying out for a world class passer of the ball that can be the reliable link between defence and attack and requires the attention of the opposition midfield.
The irony at the moment, is that United risk being over powered by other teams without Fellaini in the side, which is why another commanding central defender is crucial. Someone to be vocal at the back and to help Chris Smalling develop, someone to bring the added class needed in front of a world class goalkeeper in De Gea.
Despite getting himself back amongst the goals of late, Wayne Rooney cannot do it alone upfront. Memphis Depay has to start showing his quality in the Premier League in order to allow Anthony Martial to take his place up front. Martial is streets ahead of every other United player in terms of quality, and has the talent to play for the very best in the world should he continue to work hard. I can’t quite understand why Van Gaal isn’t playing Martial upfront more regularly.
The former Monaco man has the beating of any defender he comes up against and has the ability to turn a game on its head. His pace in behind opposition defenders has to be taken advantage of. He just needs that experience to help him take responsibility for his team and that little bit of arrogance to realise he is the best player and the best chance of his side doing well.
Who knows how much longer Wayne Rooney will play for? Nobody knows, which is why it would be a good idea for the club to bring in another world class striker- one that can feed off of Rooney’s creativity and one that can perhaps play alongside Martial for seasons to come.
It doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom at Old Trafford. They are only a few players off in my opinion. If they add to the squad and address specific weaknesses then they are capable of challenging at the top of the Premier League for years to come.