In Europe Manchester United are bullish and brilliant but in the Premier League they have lost direction

The difference seemingly can’t be measured when Manchester United play in Europe and then switch to domestic football. Here we have a club whose form this season in the Premier League has been amongst the best, but United under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer keep having their dips in form.

Every team of course has form problems and can go on an average to bad run, the problem with Manchester United is that it seems to hang around longer. The flipside to this is that they can pull out 5-6 game winning runs. But in this moment it feels as though the Red Devils have lost some direction in the Premier League.

Perhaps this is down too the fact that their city rivals Manchester City have shot away from the rest of the league and are now 14 points in the lead over United who are in 2nd place. It seems as if United have given up the chase and let’s face it they will not claw those points back now. However at the same time any United fan and anyone associated with the club would love to see them finish 2nd if being champions was always going to be too much for them to achieve this season.

The truth is, at this point, United will have a challenge on their hands to finish in the top four. Currently they are in 2nd and have 51 points and the gap to 5th where Liverpool currently are is 8 points. The Reds have a game in hand and those points could be reduced in midweek.

Manchester United have won just once in their last 5 games and have earned just 15 points from their last 30. With their standing that just isn’t good enough. Leicester could be poised to take 2nd place from United too and they have a chasing pack of West Ham, Chelsea, Liverpool, Everton and Tottenham to contend with. Jose Mourinho’s side do not look a threat at present being 12 points behind United but they have 2 games in hand and all could change rather quickly if teams find more consistency.

In drawing 0-0 with Crystal Palace, United also have gone their last 2 games without a goal and when one looks at their strike force including Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial, Bruno Fernandes and Edinson Cavani one would expect better. After all Palace were not fighting for anything when the clubs met this week.

United fans will know this form isn’t just a blip, not under Solskjaer who has had a good 5 dips of form since becoming manager of the club, those dips have stretched out for two months at a time. And that form would have cost Solskjaer his job at many clubs especially a club like Chelsea which Frank Lampard found out just a few weeks ago.

So in the Europa League when United were pitted against Spanish side Real Sociedad it was thought that the club were going to struggle and could get knocked out of the competition. Sociedad had led La Liga this season for several weeks and had taken points from the bigger teams. In Portu Sociedad have their own Bruno Fernandes, a versatile attacking midfielder who also scores plenty of goals. Just last weekend his goal helped the club to take 2 points from Real Madrid away from home as that match finished 1-1. In short Sociedad are a very good side. And yet Manchester United in poor form beat Sociedad 4-0 and knocked them out of the Europa League.

It feels as if United have that fire in the belly and man for man one could say that United have the better team than Sociedad, but one would also have to agree that they thought this match up would have been very close and not settled with such a large score. In Europe in this cup competition under Solskjaer United seem to have found their footing, their place where everything clicks and they should be among the favourites to go on and win the competition.

The players seem more focused in Europe and there is a goal to reach, and perhaps domestically United understand that they need an extra push to stay in the top 4 but apart from that not much can be achieved now, but in Europe and also the FA Cup the fire in the belly remains.

United will play Milan in the quarter finals of the Europa League and should be content in the fact that this isn’t the Milan of 15 years ago. Milan are a good side of course but United over two legs, one would think, would have too much for the Italians.

But Solskjaer needs to be mindful this his side do not lose focus in the Premier League, it is a tough and competitive league that takes no prisoners. If you start to lag and stop winning you will be punished and United are not certain for a top four place. They would be foolish to put all of their eggs in one basket and go for the Europa, they need to maintain some desire to pick up points in the Premier League also.

The next few months will reveal the story more and Solskjaer will be well aware that his job despite an overall good season is far from safe.

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Why Manchester United could have a nightmare start to the Premier League in 2020/21

There has been a clear pattern with Manchester United since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer took over the club in December 2018, the Red Devils are either brilliant or poor. There’s been no in between and maybe that has cost the club a trophy or an extra league position.

The Norwegian manager and United great currently has a 54% win rate with the club, which is very decent. Jose Mourinho who Solskjaer replaced had a 58% win rate. So there is certainly room for improvement. However the way United finished last season left everyone slack jawed. It was a fantastic run that saw the club not only qualify for the Champions League but leap frog Chelsea and finish 3rd.

However new season and perhaps a new United. The club at home in their first game lost against Crystal Palace 3-1. The score felt like a big loss for the club, this was a game that was supposed to be made simple, they have the players and yet all that goal scoring talent in Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial, Paul Pogba and Bruno Fernandes could not pull them back into the game. True they did have 17 attempts on goal but only 4 shots on target at home is not good enough. Palace finished with more shots on target and the first surprise result of the season had been sealed.

United fans will be hoping that it is a one off and that the club will win their next few games and be able to move on. But that isn’t how Solskjaer teams have worked up until now. A blip quickly turns into a few games. Now when we look at the clubs upcoming fixture list it isn’t going to be an easy ride for them.

This weekend United will play Brighton who, like last season have started brightly. Even when they lost against Chelsea many observers said that they were the better team. Graham Potter’s side made amends with the defeat against the Blues by beating Newcastle away from home 3-0. That was a statement win and the club will be up for producing another upset.

After that game United will face the likes of Tottenham, Newcastle, Chelsea, Arsenal and Everton. Many tricky ties in there plus the beginning of the Champions League will kick off in October adding further games and travel for the club.

Could it be that United will start the campaign off poorly and lose touch to the likes of Liverpool and Manchester City so early on that they will have no touching distance and chance of a league challenge?

Of course it is still early days but their fixtures do not look to have piled up well for the club. History says they will come good, but only after they have gone through the ‘Ole’ struggle once again.

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Premier League player of the season? Manchester United’s Bruno Fernandes has to be a contender

Make no mistake players stepped up and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had an amazing period since the restart, but the reason Manchester United finished 3rd and will be playing in the Champions League next season is because of Bruno Fernandes.

Here is a fact about Fernandes which may blow you over: He has not lost a game in a Manchester United shirt. Fernandes may have only been at United since January but his contribution has been outstanding. Time and again the Red Devils have dipped into the transfer market to find the ‘United playmaker’ that would change their fortunes, players have come and gone, some in the form of Paul Pogba are still there. But in Fernandes United finally have a player that fans can get excited about once again.

Is it any coincidence that he is Portuguese? The last great United player was of course Cristiano Ronaldo, but that was a decade ago. Fernandes has done so much in just the last seven months that one has to compare him to Ronaldo. Maybe he will never get up to Ronaldo’s level but is Fernandes possibly United’s best buy since Ronaldo?

Despite only joining halfway through the season Fernandes ranks as the 4th best player for United on the Euro Fantasy League statistics. He got 62 points with Anthony Martial ranking 1st with 79 yet Martial has played 17 more games. This just underlines had Fernandes started from the beginning of the season surely he would have been ranked as United’s best player?

Fernandes like Ronaldo is adept at scoring and creating goals, he was an instant impact when he arrived and that is what got everyone excited at the club. He scored 8 goals in the league and assisted in a further 7. That’s a contribution of 15 goals, more than any other player in the league from that time period.

It’s incredible to think that he could have been bought for your fantasy team at just 4m. That is sure to rise for next season.

Fernandes will be relishing playing in the Champions League next season and helping his side bridge the gap to both Manchester City and Liverpool.

Should he be given the player of the season? In reality it would be harsh not to give it to a Liverpool player looking at the season they have just had, with many suggesting that club captain Jordan Henderson should get it. But Fernandes should be a contender, and he may well win it next season or the season after. He has been the player United have been looking for for some time. He is so good that maybe the club will feel confident enough to sell on Paul Pogba now.

For now the future looks very good at Old Trafford under Solskjaer’s guidance and the sublime playing skills of Bruno Fernandes.

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Facts are facts Manchester City have been poor this season

Manchester City lost to rivals Manchester United 2-0 yesterday in the infamous Manchester derby as they came up short once again this season.

For Ole Gunnar Solskjaer the Manchester United manager has seen his side knocked out of the Carabao Cup against City, although they did win the second leg, but he has now done the league double over Pep Guardiola and the current champions.

For bragging rights between the two teams, that will reside in the red half of Manchester and whilst Solskjaer and United will be praised for their upturn in performance and form can the same be said for City?

City’s season really seemed to collapse around November when everyone was admitting and seeing that Liverpool were going to win the league, the Reds after the disappointment of last season had more hunger, passion and commitment, the gulf between them and any other club but including even City was huge, there was always going to be just one winner, and everyone knew it even if some tried to pretend that the title race was still on, it really wasn’t.

What came to light was quick and that was after conquering the league and winning it two times in a row Guardiola set in motion the objective for the team to win the Champions League, which would be the clubs first ever win, and with time running out on his contract Guardiola knows it could be this season or never. It’s why City went to the Bernabeu and put in such a professional performance to come out of the game leading 2-1 going into the 2nd leg at home. City had just beaten a team who had won the competition four times in the last decade including three in a row, this was a huge statement. Could you think of an equal huge statement City have made in the Premier League this season?

Liverpool have blown everyone away domestically and let’s not pretend that even if City were much stronger Liverpool would be winning the league. But seeing a gap of 25 points, which could be 22 if City win their game in hand is simply embarrassing. City as champions, with the money they have spent on players, their infrastructure and having one of the best managers in the world should not be almost a quarter of 100 points behind Liverpool, and we’re not even at the end of the season.

Of course City are in 2nd place where they will most likely finish and have just won the Carabao Cup, for almost any other team this is a huge success and would be amongst their best ever seasons. When you’re City winning the 2nd domestic cup and being so far behind in the league isn’t going to cut it, no matter how harsh that sounds, it simply isn’t.

City have gone backwards this season, and even if they won every game from now on they would finish with 87 points, last season it was 98 and the season before it was 100. Indeed City are on a par to finish with the same points as they did (78) in Guardiola’s first season with the club. This all confirms that the Citizens have gone 1 step forward this season but two back.

City have lost 7 games this season and that’s more than they lost in the previous two seasons combined. There is no question that this season up until now has been disappointing for the club. You can finish 2nd and lose, but this has been a major step down for them. It is obvious that only seeing the sight of the Champions League trophy gleaming back towards them when they lift it aloft will be the only redemption for the club this season.

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A resurgent Paul Pogba can fire Manchester United into the top 4, if he wants too

How will Paul Pogba be remembered at Manchester United and on the bigger picture how will he be remembered in world football, if for example, he was to stop playing this second?

Obviously Pogba is a world class player, you don’t win the World Cup and play for Juventus and Manchester United. But at the same time it does feel as if Pogba at times has not given everything to the cause. Was he ever 100% committed when he played for Juventus? His time at Manchester United in reality will be remembered for magical moments, bursts of inspiration and some great goals, but it will also be remembered for confrontations with managers especially Jose Mourinho and niggling injuries.

Pogba can still change that attitude and end the season on a high and it was telling how good Pogba looked when he made his return against Watford a week ago. True United in United fashion this decade lost the game, and against the bottom side but Pogba came on from the bench and in the 30 minutes he had changed the way United were playing. He was fearless in his attacks from midfield and his pace and vision were also superb. We were seeing the very best of Pogba, the same version of Pogba we saw at the 2018 World Cup where his performances especially in the knock out rounds were superb. There is no doubt that when Pogba wants it, Pogba is a wonderful player to witness.

It should have come to no surprise then that in United’s next game against Newcastle they would win 4-1 with an outstanding performance and another confident game for the Frenchman. So now one wonders if United has a chance to finish in the top 4?

At this moment Chelsea are making it rather easier for them than it should be. The gap to 4th should be and could have been 15 points at least instead it is just 4 points and United do have a genuine chance to make a top 4 challenge. Of course other teams have bunched up in the league because of Chelsea’s bad form and United are in 8th place.

Wolves, Tottenham and Sheffield United stand between Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s team and 4th. But United do have fire in their belly and before the Watford loss there is no doubt that the club had found their form again and we were seeing a United side who looked the business when Solskjaer first took over from a sacked Jose Mourinho a year ago.

United though need Pogba to be on his game if they are going to challenge for a top 4 spot. Sure form came to the club when Pogba was ironically injured and on the sidelines for a few weeks. But now he is fit he will play and if he doesn’t find consistency then that will be an extra ‘ghost’ player on the field for the club which will help no one.

Does Pogba want to be mentioned in the same breath as some of the United greats? He could be and still has the time to be. Now much like he did with France in that glorious World Cup win he needs to drag his team across that line, or he may just forever be known as a player that could have instead of something that did.

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An important couple of weeks for both Manchester United and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

Manchester United have been on a good run in December as a whole, beating Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur whilst qualifying for the knockout stages of the Europa League. Despite there being a lot of inconsistencies on and off the pitch, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and his men are now hitting into their fine form as several of their experienced players have now returned from injury.

Solskjaer hasn’t had a lot of good moments since becoming the permanent manager of Manchester United, and one could probably say that there has been a few games at best of what the Old Trafford faithful of seen of how the 46-year-old Norwegian international wants his team to play with and without the ball. But given the side’s lack of quality and depth as a whole, the United supporters and the key people within the board are willing to have faith in him and give him the time he wants.

The Red Devils will be coming up against Watford at Vicarage Road, with a potential victory helping them to progress towards a top four position, but when it comes to an important and meaningful game like this, they have the tendency to drop their concentration levels and fail to simply show up.

Regardless of the end outcome on Sunday afternoon, it will not make a huge difference to Solskjaer’s future at the club, as the people in charge as well as Ed Woodward will feel it would be too early to make a managerial change or decision, and it could potentially push the Manchester United fanbase to protest against them given their lack of ability to plan and succeed effectively.

It’s now time to see the upcoming fixtures that Manchester United will take part in…

Watford, away in the league

Given the opposition’s overall form and their position in the league table, United should feel the upcoming match at Vicarage Road should be a straightforward one, where they should be able to pick up the much needed three points and score a couple of goals. And with Paul Pogba travelling with the match-day squad, the side have someone who can unlock a stubborn and low-block defence, something they were struggling to do over the last few weeks against mid-table teams.

However, many of the United supporters will not be confident going into the game, especially when you consider the side’s away form so far this season, only picking up nine points away from home, which is less than the likes Bournemouth, Crystal Palace, Sheffield United and West Ham United.

Newcastle, at home in the league

The Toons have hit into a good stride of results in their recent fixtures, beating the difficult teams in Crystal Palace and Sheffield United whilst pushing forward in the top half of the league. Though, with Manchester United’s record at home being decent and have only lost on one occasion, there shouldn’t be much problems for Ole’s men to achieve the victory and continue their fight to get into the top four positions. With the likes of Arsenal, Leicester and Wolves expected to drop points in that gameweek, it would be a huge moment if United were to take the advantage for the first time.

Burnley, away in the league

Going to the Turf Moor is not easy for many sides, no matter whether you are one of the best teams in the league or one on of the mid-table teams. Sean Dyche’s men are one of the toughest types to deal with, as they play out in a 4-4-2 setup, and are very difficult to break down whilst the physical presence in midfield and attack do more than enough to be effective in the final third of the pitch. Burnley have one of the best home records in the league from the teams outside of the main top-six sides, so United will have to offer a lot more than they usually do in order to gain all three points.

Arsenal, away in the league

Although the fixture is just over a week away, United would have loved to play Arsenal at this moment of time, as they go through a managerial change and with majority of the squad lacking the desire and motivation to fight for the club they play for. With the Gunners facing Bournemouth and Chelsea within a matter of days before they play United, Mikel Arteta will have to get down to work as soon as possible and try to prevent the ship from sinking further, which will not be an easy job.

Wolves, away in the FA Cup

It’s fair to say Wolves have become a bogey time for United, as they have failed to beat The Wanderers on a few occasions since they have been promoted to the Premier League. And with Nuno Espirito Santo turning the Molineux Stadium into a fortress, the FA Cup fixture may result in only one way, with the hosts beating the visitors with their direct and counter-attacking approach. Depending on who is available and free to be used, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see United’s away form go from bad to worse, as Wolves will be very dangerous with their pace and movement.

There is no certainty with where United will stand in the Premier League following these fixtures, but if they were to pick up at least 10 points whilst seeing the other teams around them drop points, it would potentially see them in the top four positions just as they go into the new year on a high note.

Overall, the results over next couple of weeks may affect any plans they have in the January transfer window, as a majority of rumours within the English media have began to state that a number of players could be leaving and moving to Old Trafford next month. Let the big run of games begin.

Manchester United remind the Premier League who were kings for 20 years

Let’s not walk around the situation this has been a hideous and largely terrible six years for Manchester United a club so used to picking up trophies and being England’s if not Europe’s best team. Those days look long gone but in the past few weeks the Red Devils have shown hints of their qualities which will always be festering in the clubs DNA.

Manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer started life at Old Trafford in such terrific form that he was soon given a full time contract and it was at that precise moment that United collapsed. The club couldn’t buy a win at the tail end of last season and that poor form has dogged them into this one. And yet there has been flashes that United do, in fact, have a quality team in them, it’s just been Solskjaer’s job to try and find it.

A more testing board would have sacked the Norwegian a couple of months ago to be fair and replaced him with Massimiliano Allegri who is currently without a job. But Allegri has stated that he doesn’t want to return to football until next summer. But maybe then after United’s recent up turn there is a case in keeping your manager and not sacking them at the hint that is everything is going downwards. Of course this stance can’t work every time but it is a thought.

Manchester United have had some difficult fixtures recently and it looks evident that these players are at their best when they are motivated by the bigger and stronger teams in the Premier League. Look at the evidence. United are the only team in England to take points from Liverpool this season as the two teams drew 1-1 at Old Trafford. United beat 2nd placed Leicester. They beat Jose Mourinho’s Tottenham 2-1 a week ago and then followed that up by beating the champions Manchester City by the same score line at the Etihad. It has been a fantastic few weeks for the club who are unbeaten in their last five matches.

This form has taken United up to 5th place and they are just 5 points behind Chelsea for a top four place. The club are scoring goals too and have 12 in those matches and there is a positive vibe around the club. Marcus Rashford genuinely looks like he has stepped up a level and looks world class. Daniel James is super quick and Jesse Lingard is doing a terrific job of late. It is all clicking for United.

One suspects though that it will be in the other games when United will be judged more, when they have to travel away to teams that are around them and in the bottom half of the league. Win those and get some consistency and then we can start talking about the return of this famous club. For now they remain a threat to the top 4 and Solskjaer looks like he has saved his job.

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Why Jose Mourinho should never have been sacked as Manchester United manager

Since Sir Alex Ferguson left Manchester United in 2013 it has been quite a nightmarish ride for the fans who were so used to seeing multiple successes, good players and great games at the club.

It’s been a shock for United at how many plans have failed since Ferguson left. David Moyes, Louis van Gaal, Jose Mourinho and current manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer have all tried to put United back on the map. But the club are certainly going backwards albeit with a certain glimmer of light, which just about still shines in the halls of Old Trafford.

In the 6 years since United have won 3 trophies, 2 of them the Europa League and League Cup were won with Jose Mourinho in charge, and he also led the club to 2nd place in the league- their best ever finish post Ferguson. One wonders if United made a huge error sacking Mourinho? Of course at the time it did look like the best option. United were losing every week and misery seemed to be engulfed with the club. For reasons we will most probably find out in a players book Mourinho had lost the dressing room, but how is that different from the other coaches who have managed at the club.

When David Moyes arrived at Everton, then defender Rio Ferdinand admitted that he had no respect for the ex-Everton manager, this before Moyes had properly overseen his first game. Van Gaal seemed like an odd appointment, a brilliant one had it been the 1990s, but in 2014? The Dutchman was well past his sell by date, he lost some games you would have expected United to win but he did win the FA Cup as a parting gift. Solskjaer started well but has been a nightmare coach for the club, some of his buys have been inspired and he wants to do his best, but he simply looks like a small fish in a vast ocean.

Mourinho needed a clear out of players if he was to stay, and the one negative you could say about him is the special one is pretty useless at rebuilding teams and leaving some sort of legacy for the next manager. But what he does deliver are trophies, he just needs the sort of players that will train hard and work hard for him, that wasn’t going to be the case at United.

Records of Manchester United managers since Sir Alex Ferguson:

David Moyes win rate= 52.9%

Louis van Gaal win rate= 52.4%

Jose Mourinho win rate= 58.3%

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer win rate (so far) = 51.1%

Bournemouth 1-0 Man Utd: Solskjaer’s men lacked the creativity and quality to overcome the Cherries

Although the main focus of gameweek 11 was to see how the table is beginning to shape up on both sides of the league as we are only a few weeks away from the busy December period, Manchester United and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had an important fixture of their own as they faced difficult trip away to Bournemouth. This was the perfect chance for the side to show consistency in front of goal and in terms of going on a winning run, however, they were unable to overcome Eddie Howe’s men.

In terms of the game as a whole, it was quite balanced between both teams as they were able to see a good amount of possession and had a few opportunities here and there to create some decent chances. Though, most of the action came in the second half, with Joshua King’s well-taken goal just before the half-time break had allowed the game to be more open and entertaining for the neutrals.

To be fair to Solskjaer’s side, they had seem quite tired and lethargic, assuming it has been difficult in containing all the recent matches as well as the long trips in the Europa League. But focusing back onto the Bournemouth match, Ole’s in-game management will have to improve soon or later, as his timing of the substitutions are really poor and it could possibly cost him his job before he knows it.

In the end, the Cherries were able to pick up the much needed three points and their second league victory at home this season as they go up to seventh-place in the table. Meanwhile, the Red Devils drop down to the middle of the table, as they have achieved only three victories in 11 league games, leaving them closer to the relegation zone rather than the top four area of the Premier League table.

Here are the three valuable factors we learnt from United’s latest league fixture…

Andreas Pereira and Fred are simply not good enough

Given the lack of midfield quality and squad depth that is offered to Solskjaer this season, it leaves him with no choice but to utilise Andreas Pereira and Fred on a regular basis. For sure, the Brazilian duo show some work rate and passion on both sides of the pitch, but other than that, they are unable to control and dominate the midfield battle to help the team to consistently win games.

With neither of the pair having the ability to play as a box-to-box midfielder or as an advanced playmaker, it does leave the cold question of what do they bring and offer to the team week in and out. If they are not able to make a breakthrough like Scott McTominay has done so over the last 12 months, the United supporters will be desperate in wanting Paul Pogba back from injury or a new midfielder in the January window, as the quality in the middle of the pitch is not good enough.

United’s defensive issues are beginning to rise once again

In the first weeks of the season, it had seemed like United’s defence were really hard to breakthrough and difficult to get passed, thanks to the arrivals of Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Harry Maguire. However, in the recent fixtures, the feeling and presence of the backline has instantly turnaround, as the opposition have been able to be effective with their physicality and pace.

The criticism of United’s back-four has increased from time to time, as the Old Trafford faithful are starting to point out many weaknesses in each individual, such as Maguire’s decision making and lack of pace, Ashley Young’s incapability to defend and attack or even Victor Lindelof’s difficulties in facing forwards who are superior in height and acceleration. And if this begins to continue, the team may find themselves in a defensive dilemma which they have experienced over the last few years.

The lack of creativity and urgency is what had let the side down  

Manchester United finished the defeat at Bournemouth with zero big chances created, one decent counter attack and 15 shots with four of them being on target. On that note, the attacking figures produced by the Red Devils at the Vitality Stadium on Saturday afternoon were really below-par, especially for a side that are aiming for a top four finish in the league and have an expensive squad.

If the team are looking to create more chances and complete more shots on target, they will need to start getting both Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford more into the game, which they were not able to do as Daniel James had become to go-to-man in recent matches. With the attacking options being limited, United have to work around the movement, pace and the quality of the front three, who have the potential to create chances out nothing and could prove to be deadly on the counter.

Norwich 1-3 Man Utd: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men pick up the much needed victory

Although the main focus of gameweek ten was the thrilling game between Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester United and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had a crucial game of their own as they faced a tough trip away to Norwich City. It was the most ideal and perfect chance for the Red Devils to get back to winning ways, as they had been sitting in the bottom half of the table for quite some time.

The match as a whole, was really one-sided in favour of the visitors in terms of the command in possession and the amount of successful passes that were achieved. However, the hosts managed to pile on some pressure in the first half and were not afraid to attack United’s defence, as Norwich’s midfield had the required hunger, stride and pace to get to the final third time and time again.

But it didn’t take much for Solskjaer’s men to get the breakthrough, as they were able to have a confident lead over Norwich by the half-time break through Scott McTominay and Marcus Rashford, even though they had missed two penalties which were well saved by Tim Krul. A number of questions were raised about the host’s individual defending and their lack of positional awareness, as they could have done a lot more to prevent both goals from happening in the first place.

Towards the last 20 minutes of the game, the Red Devils got the third and final goal to put the game to bed as Anthony Martial scored in his first league start since the end of August. Norwich continued to play the way that Daniel Farke had set them up to play from the first minute, which allowed them to gain a late and well-deserved consolation, as Onel Hernandez was able to get his goal in the final moments of the game, which could have been easily avoided from a United point of view.

Here are the three valuable factors we learnt from United’s latest league fixture…

Penalty issues need addressing urgently

Manchester United have received four penalties so far this season, more than any other side in the league, but have only managed to convert half of them into the back of the net. It’s normally not a big problem or a worry as an individual could miss a few here or there or the goalkeeper could generally be a quality shot-stopper, but this is now becoming a rising issue for Solskjaer and his men.

One of the reasons to why it needs addressing is because the main two options at the moment happen to be Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford, who have recently failed to step up and become the main penalty take for the side. And with Paul Pogba expected to remain on the sidelines for around 6-8 long weeks, the boss may need to keep a close eye on the likes of Andreas Pereira, Daniel James or even Ashley Young, who could potentially be an expert at taking penalties.

Quality and depth in midfield is still lacking

When comparing United’s midfield to the likes of Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur, it can easily be stated that former’s potential and quality in the middle of the pitch is respectively nowhere near the latter’s. For sure, Pogba’s presence is being missed in recent weeks and is badly required for the upcoming months, but even when he is playing on a regular basis, the team is still lacking the defensive steel as well as the attacking creativity to help the side on both sides of the pitch.

United’s midfield has been recently been viewed as a double pivot involving both Fred and Scott McTominay within this role, and despite their work rate and their effort on and off the ball, the class and ability of the pair isn’t good enough to lead the team to a top four finish. Neither of two have the intelligence to be the difference maker or the game changer when needed the most, which may lead the club and the manager with the thought of buying a midfielder or two in the January window.

Anthony Martial is back, so are the goals for Man Utd

There is no secret that Anthony Martial is United’s best attacker, whether he is utilised in the number nine position or on the flanks, he is still able to cause a number of problems for the opposition’s defence and their goalkeeper. Despite being unavailable for quite some time due to an injury, he has recently come back and shown his quality once again, from scoring the winner on Thursday night away to Partizan Belgrade and now bagging a goal away to Norwich City.

If the Frenchman was to stay injury-free from now till the end of the season, it wouldn’t be an absolute surprise to see him finish the season as the club’s top goal-scorer as well as one of the best finishers within the Premier League. United’s chances of reviving their season and still aiming for a top-four finish in the league would come down to the contribution of Martial himself, who has the capability of creating chances and space for his team-mates along with placing them into the net.