Everyone has a way of life. A certain look, a certain behaviour, certain attributes and quirks that make them who they are, an Identity if you put it simply.
So do football teams, at least the best ones.
The top clubs always have what they are known for the most whether it’s the style of play, scouting or recruitment, these teams have a certain body of work which their unique identity.
Put simply, the best teams undergo the least change if any change at all.
Most of the Premier League’s top six have an identity that does not change or rather, has not changed for a few years now. Although their styles are similar in one way or another, there are still unique differences here and there in their approach.
It could be in the way they press, how intense their passing is, their overall transition play or how they create their chances.
Most of them except Manchester United.
They have no identity or style, at least not that we know of or have seen this season.
Since Mauricio Pochettino took charge of Tottenham in 2014, United have had four managers come through in David Moyes, who was newly appointed at the time, Jose Mourinho and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer who is now at the helm and he may well see a fourth with the way United are going.
Recently, they were held to a 0-0 draw against AZ Alkmaar in the Netherlands in a game where they registered no shots on target and again put on an abysmal performance.
Clubs who have failed to have a shot on target in a Europa League game in the past three years include Skenderbeu Korce, Zorya Luhansk, Osmanlispor and Manchester United.
— Duncan Alexander (@oilysailor) October 4, 2019
Their failure to keep possession against what could be seen as an inferior team was hard to watch and any glimmer of hope that was created by supporters after the Arsenal match would have been dashed at full time.
For a team that wants to be the hardest working and fittest, they have looked slow and laboured in almost all their matches so far.
In transition, they have been ineffective in transition. According to whoscored, they ranked 9th in the Premier League with an average of 0.6 shots from fastbreaks per 90 and have only scored one goal from that situation.
The huge lack of collective technical quality on the ball is even more evident in matches where they dominate possession. They struggle to create chances and when they do, they do not covert those chances to goals.
This is the worst Man United team I’ve seen in my life (I am not THAT old, but I’m pretty old). They don’t have the cliched intangibles like “character” but main thing is quality. Simple skills: passing, control in tight spaces, speed: nothing. It’s so bad.
— Alex Shaw (@AlexShawESPN) October 3, 2019
As a young player, the chance to play week in, week out is paramount as it is key for your development but playing alone does not improve a player, the system and quality of coaching goes a long way.
There is no doubt that Manchester United’s young players have significant potential and together can be a real force in the future but they need to be exposed to the right system and play the right kind of football to develop and they are not getting that at the moment.
Rivals Arsenal’s convincing victory against Standard Liege on Thursday saw Unai Emrey feature lots of young players and they played really really well. They have been given the license to express themselves and play the way they wanted under the manager’s tactical instruction.
With United’s play under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, there probably has not been a worse time to be a Manchester United youngster even if you consider that the size of the first team squad may prompt the manager to promote some youth players into the senior team. These players will be walking into an inconsistent first-team squad lacking in confidence and character.
Promoting young players is part of Manchester United’s identity and so far that has been the only positive for Ole’s men and not much else. The swagger and ability going forward as well as the never say die attitude that was characteristic of the United teams of old have become a distant memory.
Is Ole Gunnar Solskjaer the right man for the rebuild? Most fans still have faith in him, and as well they probably should. The team is being torn down and built back again and the fans of the club should accept that fact or risk losing their sanity over results this season because a sharp improvement in performances and ultimately results this season looks unlikely but who knows, anything can happen.
The club needs a few transfer windows to have a crack at becoming a force again but before that, things may get worse before they get any better and patience will be key in that transition.
Lucky for them, they have the finances to quickly turn it around in that time and the decisions they make in all aspects of the club’s affairs are going to be really key to ensuring success and regaining their lost identity.