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Brendan Rodgers' Leicester go to Old Trafford with chance to show they've moved ahead of United

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer hasn’t been given all of the tools he needs to do his extremely difficult job.

Brendan Rodgers.
Brendan Rodgers.
Image: Zac Goodwin

PREMIER LEAGUE SUCCESS demands a necessary level of artifice.

Just ask Brendan Rodgers, who told the author Michael Calvin in 2015 that “I’ve had to create a brand for myself around my philosophy, because I was never a big player.”

In spite of his very loose loyalty to the tiki-taka ideals he spouts on about, and the teeth and the shmaltz and the bullshit, Rodgers has proved to be a coach of substance.

Rodgers may not yet be as good as he wants to be, but he has improved most of the young players with whom he worked, was successful at Celtic and has made an instant impression at Leicester.

Only Liverpool and Man City have picked up more points in the league this season, and since he was appointed at the end of February, only those two sides along with Chelsea and Crystal Palace have been more successful than Rodgers’ side.

Tomorrow Rodgers takes Leicester to Old Trafford to face a club which should consider those notions of artifice: just how serious a football club are Manchester United?

Richard Arnold, the club’s Managing Director, infamously described United as the “world’s biggest TV show” in a 2016 interview, and subsequent on-field decisions have seemed to be made solely to attract the highest possible number of eyeballs. Hence the thoughtless flinging of money at star names like Alexis Sanchez, leaving the manager with a bloated squad and a clunky, incoherent team.

To emphasise the wild recruitment policy, Gary Neville made the point in an interview with The42 last week that the club signed Marouane Fellaini and Juan Mata in the same season. How do they make a coherent midfield?

United have appeared to have learned the error of their ways in that respect, so have since sold Sanchez and Romelu Lukaku, and this summer has seen some semblance of structure to player recruitment.

Daniel James, Harry Maguire, and Aaron Wan-Bissaka are young, British players who have plenty of their best years ahead of them. While it sometimes feels like the club have made it a policy purely for the sake of having a policy, all three have made good starts to their United careers and look like canny – if slightly overpriced – additions.

Privately, however, Solskjaer may now feel the club have gone too far the other way. Whereas once United were an image of the decadent, indulgent rich, now the squad looks under-funded and under-resourced.

Since taking over in December, Solskjaer has seen Fellaini, Ander Herrera, Lukaku and Sanchez leave without signing any true replacements, other than perhaps Daniel James in place of the latter.

The squad is frighteningly thin, particularly in midfield, where Scott McTominay and Paul Pogba have been forced to formed the uneasiest duo since Owen and Shearer.

In many other positions, Solskajer is an injury away from disaster. And on this, the fifth weekend of the season, things are already looking frail. Paul Pogba is out of the Leicester game through injury, as are Anthony Martial and Luke Shaw.

Wan-Bissaka is a doubt too, as is Jesse Lingard.

paul-pogba-file-photo Paul Pogba: injured. Source: Nick Potts

How have a club of United’s wealth and import been left with such a thin squad, and rendered so vulnerable to injury in a season in which they face the Europa League’s bruising Thursday-Sunday schedule?

So, just how serious a football club are United? In correcting the errors of the recent past, they seem to have lost sight of the need to seriously compete this year and left themselves too short in too many positions.

This may, in time, prove to be the necessary early pain on the road to some kind of redemption for United, but at the moment Solskjaer hasn’t been given all of the tools he needs to do his extremely difficult job.

Signing Harry Maguire proved United are well above Leicester in terms of finances and appeal, but on the pitch, can they really said to be that far ahead of Rodgers’ side?

Saturday afternoon may show that, in fact, they may have fallen behind.

Premier League fixtures (Kick-off 3pm unless stated)

Saturday

Liverpool v Newcastle (12.30pm) 

Manchester United v Leicester 

Sheffield United v Southampton

Brighton v Burnley 

Wolves v Chelsea 

Spurs v Crystal Palace 

Norwich v Manchester City (5.30pm)

Sunday 

Bournemouth v Everton (2pm) 

Watford v Arsenal (4.30pm) 

Monday 

Aston Villa v West Ham (8pm)

With the warm-up games out of the way, Murray, Bernard and Gavan discuss the renewed cause for optimism, impressive individual player form, and a potential quarter-final versus either South Africa or New Zealand.


Source: The42 Rugby Weekly/SoundCloud

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Gavin Cooney

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