Here are five players who, for various reasons, are responsible for United’s problems this season and who will be key to a reversal of fortune in 2024.
There is no shortage of opinion on what is going on with Manchester United this season. It has been a little bit bizarre at times. Consider that United are the form team in the Premier League, and they are only a handful of points off the top of the table. Yet, most fans concede that the performances have been mostly dire.
Many of the victories should have been draws or defeats. It’s for that reason that, despite being not far off the table, United’s Premier League odds remain as high as 66/1. Manager Erik Ten Hag is under pressure, but it ultimately comes down to the players, many of whom are underperforming this season.
You might make the argument that the entire team has to improve, but we have whittled down to five players who, for various reasons, are responsible for United’s problems this season and who will be key to a reversal of fortune in 2024:
It seems strange that less than six months ago, pundits were arguing that Marcus Rashford should be getting the PFA Player of the Year award ahead of Erling Haaland. His decline in form has been spectacular. To put it in context, Haaland has 19 goals already this season, whereas Rashford has two. This is an important season for Rashford, who wants to earn a starting berth for England at Euro 2024. He needs to get going soon.
It’s perhaps unfair to list Mason Mount here, given he hasn’t really been given a chance to prove himself, and injury has also halted his progress. He joins a long list of post-Alex-Ferguson signings that United didn’t really need, and it’s not quite clear Ten Hag knows what to do with him. Nonetheless, he is a £50-million player, and he needs to play like one when given the opportunity. Mount has just returned from injury, so he has a chance to make his way back into the team. He needs to look at it like having a fresh start.
Varane has largely escaped criticism this season. He was one of the world’s best defenders at Real Madrid, and he has shown glimpses of that since joining Manchester United. Yet, the decline in form this season has been a deep one, and perhaps the only reason that few pundits are talking about is due to the fact Varane has spent a lot of time on the bench. Can he bounce back and be the “Rolls Royce” defender United need? Or is he a declining power in football?
The signing that may define the Ten Hag era. The coach was the one who wanted the player at United, and he convinced the board to pay Ajax one of the biggest transfer fees in history, a price tag that Antony has not lived up to. The player and coach’s futures seem intertwined. If Antony can look like the player we were all told he is, he may save his boss’s job. That’s a big ‘if’, though.
The goalkeeper is the current man in the firing line for United’s critics, coming after those terrible mistakes in the Champions League. As with Antony, the player has to repay a lot of faith shown in him by Ten Hag. United fans have been patient so far. If he can cut out the mistakes, he may turn out to be an inspired signing due to his ball-playing abilities as a sweeper keeper. But he must improve in the coming weeks to keep his place as Manchester United’s number one.