Once again, Manchester United have found themselves in the market for a new manager, as the unenviable task of replacing Sir Alex Ferguson continues nearly a decade on from his departure.
Club legend Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is the latest to fall following his side’s dismal showing in a 4-1 defeat to Watford, suffering a similar fate to David Moyes, Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho before him.
Solskjaer did outlast all of his predecessors, despite going trophyless in his three-year run at the helm. However, after a poor run of form has seen any hope of Premier League success all-but written off before December, United must begin their search for a new boss once again.
Originally, the club had announced that Michael Carrick would take charge immediately, with an interim boss stepping in for the remainder of the season and a long-term appointment being made in the summer.
Mauricio Pochettino’s reported interest in the role could lead to the scrapping of that idea though, should he be willing to step in sooner than next season. The likes of Ajax’s Erik ten Hag and former Barca coach Ernesto Valverde have also been linked with the role.
Whoever is next in line at Old Trafford would be stepping into a very mixed bag of fortunes. On the whole, the squad is almost certainly in a much better place than it was before Solskjaer took over, however, the difficult last few months speak for themself.
Below, we’ve run through ten key areas that would need to be addressed almost immediately by whoever the new manager end up being.
First choice centre-backs
The signing of Raphael Varane in the summer felt like a huge moment for United. We’ve seen the effect world-class centre-backs have had on both Liverpool and Manchester City in recent years, so the excitement was understandable.
However, injuries have hampered his start to life at the club. That combined with Harry Maguire’s sticky spell has raised a few question marks over who, when fit, should be at the heart of the side’s defence.
Jadon Sancho’s role
Very publicly pursuing a player for the best part of two years, only to then struggle finding a starting spot for him has left many fans bewildered.
At Dortmund, Sancho was consistently brilliant and often, simply unplayable. Getting the best from him is an absolute must for whoever steps in.
Back four vs back five
The back five setup was something Solskjaer experimented with on occasion, to varying success. Given the defensive fragilities, and those question marks over first-choice centre backs, it’ll certainly be interesting to see what the new boss opts for.
Paul Pogba’s future
When Pogba notched seven assists in four games at the start of the season, it finally seemed as though we were seeing the absolute best of him in a United shirt. Things unravelled quickly though, and with that the murmurs surrounding the six months left on his contract returned.
That now poses a tricky situation. Does the club’s most expensive signing of all-time walk away on a free in the summer? Or does the new boss try and convince him to stick around?
Finding a defensive midfielder
The inability to bring in a dominant defensive midfielder has been a long-term issue. Nemanja Matic, who is now very much seen as an experienced squad player, remains the closest thing the club has, which is surely a massive oversight from those in charge of transfers.
Last year, it seemed as though Dean Henderson was destined to finally replace David de Gea between the sticks. The Spaniard though, has been back at his best this season and is probably the one player in the quad spared of any criticism for the last few months.
With that being said, it’s tough to see Henderson sticking around as a back-up and he’s unlikely to accept another loan move at this stage of his career.
Managing Ronaldo’s minutes
We’ve seen multiple times this season that Cristiano Ronaldo is still more than capable of producing the big moments. With that being said, we also saw Solskjaer completely alter his setup to make room for the 36-year-old on a weekly basis.
The biggest concern with that, is how much it could hinder the progress of fan-favourite Mason Greenwood. Ronaldo’s arrival has also seemingly spelled the end of Cavani’s regular appearances, which is unfortunate given he was convinced to stay another year over returning home to be closer to his family.
Does Donny have a future?
Donny van de Beek’s situation has been generally baffling since joining. He came with glowing reviews from his time with Ajax and the Dutch national side, but since arriving last year, to say it hasn’t gone to plan would be an understatement.
It’s not so much that he’s been disappointing, more that he’s either surplus to requirements, or just wasn’t trusted by Solskjaer.
Jesse Lingard back to West Ham?
Another slightly confusing situation is that of Jesse Lingard. The 28-year-old was electric while on loan at West Ham last season, though the decision was made to bring him back to Manchester.
Given his lack of appearances this campaign, it’s difficult to fathom the thought process behind that choice…
A chance for Alex Telles
The signing of Alex Telles came at a time when there were serious question marks over the consistency and fitness of Luke Shaw. Immediately after though, Shaw hit the best form of his career, and was probably the best left-back in the world throughout the course of last season.
This year though, those concerns may have crept back in slightly—which could finally open the door for Telles to string together a run of games in the starting XI.
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