The biggest takeaway from the opening weekend of Premier League action is just how menacing and potent Manchester United looked.
They dismantled West Ham at Old Trafford in a 4-0 performance that left fans purring and several rather over excited analysts to talk about handing them the Premier League title already.
With Nemanja Matic providing a launch point for Paul Pogba, Romelu Lukaku, and Henrikh Mkhitaryan to slice up West Ham’s resistance, United looked dominant.
However, no team is perfect. There is always an Achilles heel to each side that could end up costing them over the course of a season. Let’s look at United’s potential problems.
Romelu Lukaku did exactly what he was brought in to do on Sunday. Tuck away chances and provide a threat even when United don’t have the ball. He looked every bit the fearsome forward United have been missing for years. However, what is the contingency plan? Lukaku can’t play every game this season, and if he gets hurt for an extended period of time then United run the risk of falling back into the same toothless, draw-every-game, nightmare they were in last season.
One potential replacement is already in-house in the shape of Anthony Martial, however his future is still very cloudy. With Inter Milan making moves toward him, and some frustration at the lack of starts, he may not be a Manchester United player come September 1st. Otherwise it’s putting Marcus Rashford inside, and he is far from Lukaku.
Manchester United have spent a lot of money this summer, but the lack of a backup plan for Lukaku is a worry.
Centre back question marks
Jose Mourinho parks the bus like no other, and he does have a good defensive record, but with consistently injury-prone Phil Jones and Chris Smalling still crucial parts of the squad, there are problems on the horizon.
Matic provided a strong shield in front of Jones and Eric Bailly on Sunday, but many sterner challenges await. Part of the solution is Victor Lindelof, who arrived this summer from Benfica. However, Mourinho has already said Lindelof will be eased into the side slowly, and with only 48 appearances for Benfica being his highest level of competition, stepping into the Premier League and expecting him to compete with some of the best attackers in the world week in, week out, is a big ask.
Full back weakness
Antonio Valencia has done a job for United at right back, and Daley Blind isn’t bad, but he’s not all that impressive either.
West Ham found some early joy down United’s left flank, isolating Blind with Pablo Zabaleta overlapping regularly. Of course, Matic cutting out the ball to an over-eager Zabaleta is what led to the first goal, but it was definitely in West Ham’s game plan to attack the flanks of United, and it will be the strategy of many others over the season.
While Matic shields the centre backs, there is little protection for the full backs. While Mourinho may tell the likes of Juan Mata and Rashford to play more defensively against the big clubs, it’s just not in their nature to sit back and track runners all day.
There is still plenty of time left in the transfer window for Mourinho to solve some of these problems, but I’m not sure he will. The focus seems to be on trying to bring Ivan Perisic over to provide more wide attacking options. While another option out wide, which would free Mata up to play more inside as well, is needed, it does little to address the problems we have highlighted.
Like I said, no team is without it’s flaws, United should do something over the next two weeks to strengthen the squad and find another powerful striker, a more dependable centre back, or a more impressive full back. There aren’t an unlimited number of places in the squad, but if sacrificing Ashley Young or Matteo Darmian to strengthen their weaknesses is what it takes, then surely that is a cost worth paying to get back to the top of the footballing mountain?
Want to share your opinion? Why not Write For Us?