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Taking Shape

Taking Shape

It's been a summer of frustration for United fans with many expressing their concern over the lack of transfers and the perceived procrastinating of Ed Woodward and the board over players like Harry Maguire and Bruno Fernandes. The signings of Wan-Bissaka and Daniel James have done little to appease the masses, despite being absolutely ideal for what Ole is looking to achieve, and there's a growing movement online to direct anger towards the Glazers (of course), Woodward and United's sponsors, all under the hashtag #GlazersOut.

Meanwhile, Ole Gunnar Solskjær has quietly got on with the most important job - coaching and managing the team and trying to make his vision for how he wants them to play a reality. This has been largely lost amid the moans, groans and gnashing of teeth but if fans actually took the time to analyse what's been happening away from the clickbait and utter bollocks that is the transfer market they'd have some cause for hope.

United have played a high line during preseason so far, adopting a pressing, high energy approach to each game. It's brought dividends too, with win after win. It's quite clear that Ole wants United to adopt the type of football for which the club is famous. Attacking football, giving the opposition no time on the ball and getting to the box much, much quicker. 

His preferred formation is a back four with two central midfielders in front of it, three attacking players and one central striker. 4-2-3-1 in other words. It works, though I fear it could be exposed against teams playing with a packed midfield. 

But maybe we could cope if the two central midfielders are on their game and whoever is playing wide is willing to drop back and assist when required. That certainly seems to be the intention. 

The front three and lone striker have been seen to swap positions during a game too, which will confuse the opponents if it's done smoothly. Rashford, Martial and Greenwood have all played as the main striker or out wide during periods of play with the 'number 10' player also changing too, albeit less often. It's has the potential to work very well. 

Fitness has been a major concern for Ole following the end of season collapse in the league. It's something he addressed immediately when training began and, if you believe the rumours, the players didn't like it. At first, at least, but that seems to have died down and the squad does look fitter. It'll have to be if they are to maintain the style of play for a long, hard season on four fronts. 

If I'm honest, it's not been perfect - but it's been much more entertaining to watch. 

At the same time, Ole has been blending youth with experience. Greenwood, Chong, Gomez and the rest are getting minutes alongside more established players as the manager tries to get back to promoting youth. It remains to be seen if this will carry forward to the league and cup competitions when the real action starts, but it's been good to watch so far. 

There are positives among the players too. Martial is training and playing with a smile again after looking like the most miserable bastard in the world for a couple of seasons. Pogba is being Pogba and, whether he moves or not, seems to be enjoying himself right now. McTominay is proving his doubters wrong though he still has a little way to go to cement his place in the starting XI for certain. 

It's clear where Ole's United is heading and while we're not there yet, it IS happening. Concerns, however, remain.

Frustration must be bubbling under the surface for Solskær as well as the fans. Central defence is still an area where United are desperate to strengthen and it's ridiculous they don't just meet Leicester City's asking price and get the Maguire move done. Even then, I'd say we need one more. Lukaku is clearly on the move if anyone can meet our asking price, which leaves a hole up front unless Ole really is intent on making Greenwood a regular starter - and I wouldn't be against that but it's a lot to ask of such a young player. It's fortunate we have Martial and Rashford to carry some of that weight. We can only hope they have the right mindset this season. 

In midfield the question mark remains over Pogba's head, Matic actually does appear to be well behind the pace - especially now Ole has upped it - and McTominay is still developing. Hence why we've been linked with any number of players in those positions. Newcastle's Longstaff and the aforementioned Bruno Fernandes have been the strongest rumours, but there's no concrete evidence from the club that there's any chance of a move. Pure speculation and best treated as such. 

None of the so called deadwood has been moved on either so Ole is having to try to implement his vision on a squad some of which he doesn't want there. Publicly he backs them, as he has to, even if the supporters don't like to hear such sycophantic spiel, but secretly he must wish he could offload players like Sanchez as quickly is possible. Trouble is, who wants underperforming and average players on massive wages? You can't sell players if nobody wants to buy them.

Ole has a plan for the team and he's putting it slowly into place whilst working under a regime that is all about the bottom line. That will be his biggest challenge, not the opposition on the pitch.