Following a start to the season that has seen hopeful highs and lackluster lows for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and his squad, Manchester United’s true grit is bound to be tested over what appears to be a challenging upcoming fixture period. Whilst United’s Norwegian gaffer is bound to be biting his nails over the international break, the Old Trafford faithful will be eagerly anticipating some top fixtures; to be the best, you have to beat the best.
Despite the thrashings of Leeds and Newcastle so far this campaign, Reds fans will have expected more from a side that has had Cristiano Ronaldo, Raphael Varane and Jadon Sancho added to it over the summer transfer window. Scrappy wins against Wolves, West Ham and Villarreal have seen the team play poorly in possession despite bagging the points, and slip-ups against Southampton, Young Boys, West Ham and Aston Villa have exposed the pragmatic and underwhelming aura of the style of play in the early stages of the 2021/22 campaign. Even the staunchest supporter of Solskjaer will tell you that the football has been far from the style of the ‘United Way’ that Ed Woodward consistently preaches about. Lots of supporters want to see a reshuffling of the pack behind the scenes, with the coaches under pressure to deliver.Embed from Getty Images
Wherever the ‘Ole-inners’ and the ‘Ole-outers’ stand on the management, however, one thing that surely unifies all United fans is wanting the team to win games of football, with the scintillating style that fans have come to love in generations gone by. From the infamous days of the Busby Babes in the 1950s, right the way through until Sir Alex Ferguson lifted his 13th and final Premier League title on a magical Monday night in April 2013, fans have been blessed with true class. Since then, fans have been deprived of such class. Only on a handful of occasions have we seen a vintage United performance during the current manager’s tenure, which absolutely has to change. Otherwise, supporters will rightfully demand a switch-up takes place, with some already demanding it. The Glazers will undoubtedly be as happy as ever with the current rise in the club’s stock price after the signing of Ronaldo, making the sacking of the manager seem an impossible scenario, but the voice of the fans cannot be ignored. After all, “football is nothing without fans”, the great man once said.
And what better way to start changing the minds of critics with an eyebrow-raising run of games in October and early November. After the international break, United are set to face Leicester City, Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City consecutively in league football, with a Champions League double against Italian outfit Atalanta wedged in between. Results against these sides will be the paramount priority in the eyes of the manager, but the fans will hope for a better style of football to be played.Embed from Getty Images
It would be naïve to speak on behalf of all the fans, but I’m confident many would rather be watching the team win games 4-2 as opposed to the usual 1-0 or 2-1 in this current context. With such an abundance of talent in the attack, coupled with a solid back-four, the upcoming games provide the platform for the boss to show the tactical abilities he may have. Albeit you can hardly go all-guns-blazing against Guardiola and Klopp, but games against Spurs, Leicester, and Atalanta are perfect for Ole to show how he can comfortably dismantle a tough team. Theoretically, if the attack plays higher up the pitch for long periods in games, can one of the best defences in world football be trusted to handle counterattacks? Many, like myself, think it could.
The return of Marcus Rashford, who is expected to be back in the matchday squad on October 16th, is bound to offer the side another dynamic going forward; all the more reason for Solskjaer to let off the handbrake and let his world-class squad do their thing. Whether or not that will be the case is a completely separate argument.Embed from Getty Images
Manchester City are not currently at their best following a 2-0 loss in Europe. Whilst Leicester City aren’t firing on all cylinders, Nuno and Spurs have lost their last three league games by 3 goals to nil. Atalanta are surely no match for United’s quality of player, with Liverpool soon due to a loss after an unbeaten start to the league season. There are wins to be had there if the Red Devils play their cards right.
Like the title suggests, the upcoming run of games could well and truly be make-or-break for United and Solskjaer. The possibility of sacking the manager will be far, far away in the minds of the Glazers, but fan voices are bound to be heard if the style of play doesn’t get better. Immense talent in the attacking third coincides gracefully with games against underperforming Leicester and Spurs sides. There are little excuses left for Ole to pull out the hat in what is a make-or-break next 6 weeks. The Reds face Everton in the early kick-off on Saturday afternoon, as they look to head into the international break on a high.
United’s tough run of games in full after the international break (kick-offs in BST):
Leicester City vs United, Saturday 16th October, 15:00
United vs Atalanta, Wednesday 20th October, 20:00
United vs Liverpool, Sunday 24th October, 16:30
Spurs vs United, Saturday 30th October, 17:30
Atalanta vs United, Tuesday 2nd November, 20:00
United vs Man City, Saturday 6th November, 12:30