Manchester United are one of the biggest clubs in world football, and with that comes an expectation of excellence.
Since Sir Alex Ferguson retired in 2013, the Red Devils have fallen short of that. Silverware has been won by way of the FA Cup and the Europa League, but a club like Man Utd demands higher.
Last season, they salvaged qualification for the Champions League after some stirring late-season form and the expectation is that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer builds on that this time around.
Manchester United: The season so far
The end of the 2019-20 season promised much for Manchester United. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer led his side to a 14-game undefeated run in the Premier League, including a victory over Manchester City, and to the final of the Europa League.
They were scoring goals and playing a brand of free-flowing football that United crave to be associated with.
Less than three months on following a disappointing 2-1 loss to Sevilla in Cologne, the Red Devils have once again lost their way.
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Sure, there have been high points in the early part of the 2020-21 season, but the most damning statistic is that they find themselves 14th in the Premier League standings after eight games.
To the positives first. United were magnificent in defeat Paris Saint-Germain 2-1 at Parc des Princes in the Champions League. The scoreline barely reflects their excellence that evening, upon which they dominated the runners-up from the previous edition.
That was followed up by a thumping 5-0 home win over RB Leipzig.
The European campaign, though, has served to highlight that Solskjaer’s side only remain capable of consistent quality when allowed to play on the counterattack. Asked to make the play, they become intensely vulnerable. Never has this been more apparent than with the two shambolic goals they conceded against Istanbul Basaksehir in a shock 2-1 defeat.
Domestically, this problem has manifested itself in the form of a wretched home record. Their record at Old Trafford reads: played four, won none, drawn one, lost three. Former manager Jose Mourinho inflicted their most embarrassing result: a 6-1 mauling by his Tottenham side.
United do have a couple of decent scalps, but wins away against Brighton, Newcastle and Everton can scarcely disguise what has been a disappointing start to the season.
Manchester United: Grade C
Manchester United may be going well in Europe, but such is the stature of the club that they demand to be competitive on all fronts. In the Premier League, their record is quite simply not strong enough.
It is an unacceptable state of affairs for any manager at United to experience such a run and has only been mitigated by the two excellent European results.
Goodwill, though, is running short among the fans after such a barren period of success, and while Solskjaer continues to have the board’s backing, he could very quickly find himself out of a job if there is not an improvement before Christmas.