Legendary goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar has attributed Manchester United’s struggles to the disappearance of strong characters in the dressing room, and said the situation at Old Trafford is “a long way” from the club he left eight years ago.
Van der Sar spent the final six seasons of his decorated career with the Red Devils, winning four Premier League titles and playing in three Champions League finals with Sir Alex Ferguson’s side. However, United have fallen on hard times since Ferguson’s departure in 2013 and are in the midst of their worst-ever start to a Premier League campaign.
Julian Nagelsmann is on Manchester United’s radar, while Jose Mourinho is plotting a Premier League return, according to the latest gossip.
As pressure builds on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, there is speculation Manchester United are already looking around for future managers.
According to reports, one such potential candidate is a man making waves in the Bundesliga, now with RB Leipzig.
Even though Solskjaer appears to have the backing of United’s hierarchy, the time might come to look to the future – just like the club’s former manager Jose Mourinho, who has his eye on a comeback.
Manchester United are interested in Julian Nagelsmann as a future manager, according to the Daily Mail.
Just 32, Nagelsmann has impressed in the Bundesliga, initially with Hoffenheim and this season at RB Leipzig.
Although Ole Solskjaer still has support at the club despite their worst league start for 30 years, it is reported by the newspaper that United are “gathering information” on Nagelsmann with a view to a future approach to take charge of the first team.
When asked to comment on the difficult times Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s team is facing, the former Netherlands international, who was a teammate of Solskjaer’s at United, told ESPN FC in an exclusive interview: “Of course it’s difficult. I left there eight years ago and it was a tremendous last six years of my career, winning four Premier League titles and playing in three Champions League finals.
“So it’s a long way from the position where they are in now,” van der Sar said. “And of course they have changed managers a couple times now and the real progress is not seen yet, only the thing that they bought in the summer. They bought younger, inexperienced players with a certain desire and hunger, and not like the big names they bought the last six, seven years.”
Upon joining United from Fulham in the summer of 2005, the former Ajax and Juventus star walked into a dressing room full of established veteran leadership — a makeup, he says, that is much unlike today’s team.
“I think for ourselves, when I came in the dressing room we had Ryan Giggs, you had [Paul] Scholes, you had [Rio] Ferdinand, [Gary] Neville and even Roy Keane at that time. So I think there’s always been strong characters. And I think for the last couple of years the strong characters have disappeared and [are] not making a difference anymore,” van der Sar said.
Though despite the recent rocky times, van der Sar said he believes that United still have the power to attract top players capable of leading them back to glory.
“Of course, the name is there. And of course the following they have all over the world,” he said.
Manchester United’s season-opening 4-0 win over Chelsea feels like it was years ago. At this point, the Red Devils are in shambles, look as far from a contender as imaginable, and it could get worse before it gets better. One of the biggest clubs in the world with one of the highest standards, United is in an unthinkable position. Through eight games, United is 2-3-3 and closer to relegation (two points) than it is to the top four (three points). Of course, a couple quick victories in a row could get this team going in the right direction, but with Liverpool next on Oct. 20, things aren’t looking up.
The club has dealt with injuries, as all clubs do, but the problem here is the attack. The team sold Romelu Lukaku to Inter Milan and never replaced him, going with Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial as strikers. It hasn’t worked out. Since that 4-0 win over Chelsea, United has gone 11 games without scoring more than a goal in any of them. That’s either a one-goal performance or shutout for every game in about two months.
They’ve created some chances, though not really golden ones, but there just isn’t enough there in attack. Rashford and Martial are simply talented wingers or secondary strikers, and it has shown with the team feeling most likely to score off a penalty kick than anything else.
Let’s be clear — a striker alone probably isn’t going to fix the problem. There is a lack of creativity in the middle, and the problems run deep. But you need somebody who can put the ball away consistently to overturn some of these terrible results we’ve seen as of late. If they want to come close to sniffing the top four or even the top six, they need to make a move in the January transfer window.
Here’s a look at three short-term fixes at striker United should consider:
You can watch Manchester United on fuboTV (Try for free).
Callum Wilson, Bournemouth
This isn’t the sexiest pick you’ll see here, but Callum Wilson is a good striker who has a knack for being in the right spot at the right time. The 27-year-old has played for the English national team and is the man in attack for Bournemouth. He’s far from prolific, but he is coming off a 14-goal campaign in the Premier League last season and already has five this season. He’s quick, he’s unselfish, and he could thrive in the box for United. Chances are Bournemouth would demand quite the high fee and would prefer to hold on to him.
Jamie Vardy, Leicester City
I love Jamie Vardy. He’s a great story and a fine striker. He turns 33 in January, so his Premier League is winding down, but he has a fantastic scoring record. He’s scored 24, 13, 20 and 18 goals over the last four seasons in the league. Having his former Leicester teammate, Harry Maguire, now at United could help the Red Devils’ chances. Because of his age, one would think Leicester would be tempted to sell him for a good fee if they can bring in somebody else to lead the front line. The Foxes are in the top four right now though, so if they are there or even close to the top six, they probably wouldn’t agree to a move unless it’s an offer they can’t refuse.
Ashley Barnes, Burnley
He’s one of the most underrated strikers in England. He’s consistent and does a lot well but won’t ever blow you away. He had 12 goals last season in the league and he had double-digit goals in both of the last two seasons in all competitions. He’s a pure striker that likes to camp out in the box, and that’s what United needs. He isn’t the striker to lead this team to glory, but if the Red Devils want to finish in a European place, they need somebody like him who can finish inside the box, contend in the air and hold the ball up well to get others involved.
“But for a player [...] you want to play at a certain level, you also want to have an idea that you can win trophies and they must take that opportunity also to improve the squad and make the world-class players they have, or the players that they’re going to sign, that they feel welcome and that there’s a good path to where they’re going to go to.”