“For me, we’ve got enough good centre-backs here at the moment.”
After conceding five times in the opening two Premier League games of the season, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s assessment of Manchester United’s defensive talent raised more than a few eyebrows.
For many, signing another centre-back was the No.1 transfer priority for United in the summer. Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelof had started to look a capable partnership, but there were still more questions than answers.
Was it a partnership capable of keeping up with the top teams in Europe?
Did United have enough competition behind their first-choice pair?
Coud Axel Tuanzebe and Eric Bailly keep fit long enough to become viable options?
Unfortunately for Solskjaer, the answer to all three questions has since been discovered to be ‘No’.
United’s Champions League rollercoaster was ended on Tuesday night, with Solskjaer’s men shipping another three to RB Leipzig in Germany. That brought their total in that competition to 10 in just six games.
And their Premier League form doesn’t make for much better reading, with 17 goals allowed in their opening 10 domestic fixtures.
Solskjaer, perhaps three months too late, now looks resigned to the fact that his options at Old Trafford are simply not good enough to mount a genuine title challenge.
In recent days, it has been reported that United have pinpointed three centre-backs to potentially arrive in 2021, with Dayot Upamecano, Ben White and Raphael Varane on the radar.
However, Ed Woodward has made it clear that the club’s long-term policy is to spend more in the summer window, while in January it may be a case of more incremental improvements.
How many signings do Man Utd need to make in January? Have your say here.
Upamecano and White, are both likely to stay with their respective clubs until the summer, while Varane is a signing that will take up much of any team’s budget.
“When you concede chances and concede goals, there are two different things you can look at – it’s either the team shape, or are there any individual mistakes,” Solskjaer added back in September.
But with no reinforcements and no consistent formation, the Red Devils have suffered from both issues.
Solskjaer’s U-turn may be enough to save United’s season, but his detractors will point out that it was clear to see all along.
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