All things considered, the recent international window came at a good time for Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
Prior to the break, the Red Devils had only tasted victory once in four games across all competitions. That run also included a pair of dismal Premier League performances at Old Trafford, where United took just a single point from a possible six against Aston Villa and Everton.
It’s far from the sort of form that supporters were hoping for when the club spent big in the summer to recruit the likes of Jadon Sancho, Raphael Varane and Cristiano Ronaldo. Solskjaer will be well aware that he needs to address the slide – beginning with Saturday afternoon’s visit to Leicester City.
United’s downturn in fortunes over the last month came as a shock to the many pundits who were expecting them to challenge on all fronts this season after such heavy investment in players.
Former United duo Roy Keane and Gary Neville – who both played alongside Solskjaer in the club’s treble-winning side of 1999 – warned fans not to expect too much from Solskjaer’s men before the start of the campaign, arguing that the team still had a way to go before they could be considered true Premier League contenders.
Liverpool legend Jamie Carragher, however, doesn’t believe that to be true in the slightest, naming Neville and Keane’s regular defences of Solksjaer’s reign as the thing that most annoys him during an appearance on the BBC’s ‘Tony Bellew is Angry’ podcast.
“It must be something to do with football…and it must be something to do with Neville,” Carragher told the former world cruiserweight boxing champion.
“He’s permanently making excuses for his mate Ole, isn’t he? I did a newspaper column on it – I was with Gary Neville a few days before and we did this YouTube chat about the season with Roy Keane.
“The two of them just make excuses for Ole because they played with him and he’s their mate.
“They were saying, ‘they can’t win the league, they still lack this, they still lack that, the Glazers aren’t putting enough money in, they should be going for Harry Kane’.”
Carragher works alongside both Neville and Keane for Sky Sports, but pulled no punches when it came to calling out the pair for going easy on their former colleague.
“I’m sitting there thinking, ‘you’ve just signed a player that’s won the Champions League four times, you’ve just spent £75 million on a winger. You finished second last season, you didn’t lose a game away from home all season’, and I’m like…’there’s only one step to go!’.
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“Honestly, it wound me up so much. I went, ‘that is it. I’m doing my newspaper column on it’.
“The excuses have got to stop at Manchester United, I’m sick of it. Every player is over £50 million, it’s unbelievable.”
If Solskjaer is to retain his job long-term, will almost certainly need to turn United into genuine title contenders. The club’s owners haven’t invested a nine-figure sum in recent times without the expectation of seeing progress on the field – despite the opinions of Neville and Keane.
Strong performances in upcoming games against Liverpool, Tottenham and Man City are likely to be crucial for the future of the under-pressure Norwegian.
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