Ole at the wheel. FIFA Ronaldo. Two-time world champion. Manchester United’s away fans remain as honest as any home fans and have done well too. But this impressive record of 29 games unbeaten was interrupted by Leicester.

There was still applause for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as he went on to acknowledge their support after United’s 4-2 defeat at King Power Stadium. But how long can such offers be tolerated with high expectations?

After nearly three years on the job, early signs this season are that Manchester United are still not good enough to contend for the title. Eight games, and they’re a long way from the three favorites – three teams all coached by Champions League winning coaches.

Can’t talk about bad luck. The performances were bad. Everton could have won at Old Trafford, a win over Wolverhampton was not deserved, and a late win over West Ham required an injury-time goal and a penalty saved by David de Gea.

Solskjaer was quick to stress that he allows his goalkeeper to save but the problem for United is that sometimes individual tournaments will not be enough. De Gea was impressive again at Leicester and yet he conceded four goals.

Mason Greenwood scored an amazing goal, a goal from nothing. Marcus Rashford has responded to his manager’s plea to prioritize football by coming off the bench on his return to the team and finding a quick equalizer. They were lagging again within seconds.

Manchester United have Bruno Fernandes, the player who has created the most chances this season. They have Luke Shaw, the player who has made the most steady plays, and Paul Pogba, the man with the most assists. They have Cristiano Ronaldo.

“When you play against Manchester United, they have a squad full of great players,” Leicester boss Brendan Rodgers said afterwards. In a way, it’s still not enough.

Synergy is not there. remain less than the sum of its parts. By sheer quality it’s still possible to finish in the top four, but if United want to win the title, and if they want to take the next step, it won’t be enough to put players on the pitch and hopefully click.

It’s been nearly a quarter of a century since a team won the Premier League without averaging two points per game – and Solskjaer will remember this for being united during his first season at the club as a player. Under his management, he continues to look further.

“When they play a team with an organization and methodology, they are going to be dismantled and that is what happens,” said Gary Neville. Sky Sports in a. Saturday.

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Gary Neville says United are the weakest of the big clubs without the ball

Leicester have had problems of their own as of late, as the win over United ended a four-game streak without a win. But it wasn’t an outcome that just happened. It was the result of a clear plan drawn up by the coach and implemented by the players.

Rodgers has talked about getting back to their identity and their blueprint. “We did some work on being better tactically in the game, but it was mostly about the emotional side of it, not being passive. We’ve been very negative in some of our games this season.

“That intent then spreads to your football. We talked about it. We are at our best when we put pressure on teams, being a bad team to play against. It turns the game up for us. It means we have the ball up the field.”

“So, fix it [was about] Filling in the gaps in the back, getting the speed on the sides, getting the two footballers in the middle of the field and having us press again, synced as a team. That’s what we talked about and worked on.”

This coordinated structure with and without the ball does not exist at United and it is not a problem that can be easily resolved. Ronaldo, for example, is a weapon that should be used rather than shaped at this point in his career. does not press. Others need to run for him.

How can Solskjaer find this balance when the same can be said of Fernandes and Pogba, players who have better possession of the ball than without it. The latter’s continued presence in a deeper role in midfield makes it very easy for United to play against him.

Manchester United line-up in their 4-2 loss to Leicester City

At Leicester, Pogba was alongside Nemanja Matic. “The central midfielders didn’t press, so we can be patient and move the ball across the field to some really good areas where we can put pressure on the backline,” Rodgers said.

Rodgers may have surprised opponents by picking three players in the back for the first time this season, but the presence of Kelechi Iheanacho and James Maddison, who started alongside Jamie Vardy for the first time since May, was significant.

The result was that Victor Lindelof and Harry Maguire retreated even deeper, fearing the pace at the front. They had little choice due to the lack of pressure on the ball up front, but that just opened up space for Madison to exploit. Enjoy the role.

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Free to watch: Highlights from Leicester’s victory over Manchester United

Some of the gameplay segments were awesome. It was Leicester’s Subbuteo stuff as United’s consistent midfield was bypassed, and Yuri Tillmans was able to peel and pick Madison into those little pockets. They didn’t even have to move it that fast.

“It was very easy for us to play,” Solskjaer admitted.

“I wouldn’t say it’s just Nemanja and Paul, it’s the team as a whole. We need to be compact, we need to be more aggressive. I think we handled the exercises in the back well enough but maybe by backing off a little bit, we gave them space. big “.

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Solskjaer admitted that he made the wrong decisions in the match

It strikes at the heart of another major question. What kind of team does Manchester United want to be? They are not committed to the game of pressing but there is no coherent strategy for holding the ball. Without this dominance, they will always appear vulnerable.

How does United deal with that? Neville wants working horses on the team, but the temptation will always be there to find a way to put the best players on the field. Could Solskjaer drop Sancho for Scott McTominay and bring Pogba back to the left wing?

It may bring a more stable structure but it will also highlight the imbalance of quality in this team. That would mean buying a £73m deal to join Rashford, Anthony Martial and Edinson Cavani on the bench while he played midfield for McTominay and Matic.

Perhaps that will spark calls for another expensive acquisition, the supposed last piece in the puzzle. But when the patterns of acquisition and out of possession are not entirely clear, this still seems to be a problem of training as much as a problem of individuals.

Sunday October 24 4:00 pm

Departing 4:30 pm


Once again, Rodgers’ words were revealing.

He ran into the list at his post-match press conference. “You have Bruno Fernandes and Cristiano Ronaldo. You have Mason, what a hit and what a young player he is.

“You have Jadon Sancho and Marcos to get into the game. There is a huge huge talent. As a team, you have to be in sync in your pressure to keep the ball from getting to them.”

Lister found that synchronicity. Manchester United still can’t. Until they do, the risk remains that Solskjaer’s embarrassment of fortunes will become just an embarrassment.

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