SINGAPORE – Manchester United have hit the ground running in pre-season with three wins in as many games, beating Perth Glory (2-0), Leeds United (4-0) and Inter Milan (1-0).
There is a noticeable spring in the step of the Red Devils, and not just from extra fitness work emphasised upon by manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer who has also added new blood to the squad in full-back Aaron Wan Bissaka and winger Daniel James.
But United’s pre-season form should not disguise the fact that more work lies ahead if they hope to break into the top four, Fox Sports Asia presenter John Dykes said at Wednesday’s (July 24) Singtel Premier League Season 2019/20 curtain raiser at Zafferano Italian Restaurant & Lounge at Ocean Financial Centre.
Dykes, 54, said: “He (Solskjaer) seems to be quite keen to try and rekindle the old days the glory ways of the past by relying on young players, bringing young players through, doing the sort of things that Sir Alex Ferguson did. That’s okay to an extent, but things have moved on, which means you can’t just throw the kids out there.
“They still need to go into the market place and buy established stars. Ole can get only so far by making his team run harder and train harder.”
Since former boss Ferguson left in 2013, the club has struggled for consistency, going through several managerial changes and splurging on big names to lift themselves out of their sorry state. Last term, United lost 10 league games to finish sixth and a staggering 32 points behind champions Manchester City.
Before the arrivals of Bissaka and James, they had spent £686.7 million (S$1.17 billion) on reinforcements, but with little success.
Angel di Maria arrived at the club for £59.7 million in 2014 only to leave after one season while other signings like Alexis Sanchez have failed to deliver.
Paul Pogba, who returned to the club from Juventus for a club-record £89 million three years ago, has also disappointed. The French midfielder has made clear his determination to leave Old Trafford and his tepid displays have infuriated many United supporters.
Solskjaer again defended the French midfielder yesterday and insisted it was only a “loud minority” who want Pogba out of the club and insisted “our fans know what Paul has given the club and can give us.”
Dykes however, remained unimpressed by Pogba’s contribution. He said: “I am not 100 per cent convinced by him. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a really good player but I don’t know if he controls a game if he drops deep and if you let him express himself further forward, I don’t know if he rips teams apart.”
While a tough road lies ahead of Solskjaer, Dykes was more optimistic about Frank Lampard’s chances of success in the league with Chelsea.
Despite losing their star player Eden Hazard to Real Madrid, Dykes said the Blues were still in a strong position. He noted:
“He’s an articulate, intelligent and a very ambitious guy. Unlike a lot of super players who become managers, he actually has some hunger to succeed as a manager.”