This is the second instalment of the series ‘Responding to Your Comments‘. Here, I will respond to the comments you have provided on Twitter under the relevent post. I will take a large handful of your comments, correct any linguistic errors due to professionality, summarise any parts that need summarising (the parts I will address) and will write them below. Underneath the comment I will reply.

So, let us begin!

Comment 1 (@shraman7):

“Should Rashford be sent out on loan? I feel it would benefit him greatly in a similar way to how it has benefitted [Tammy] Abraham.”

My Response:

This is a good suggestion in terms of concept. Younger players should only start for big clubs under a few circumstances: (1) they are an exceptional talent (e.g. Ronaldo, Messi, Neymar, Mbappé, etc), (2) they are surrounded by good leaders who will guide them mentally or (3) there is no other choice.

At this moment in time, Frank Lampard has no other choice except to start Abraham when factoring in all his options coupled with their transfer ban. Likewise, he does have a couple of natural leaders (or older, more mature players) in the squad such as Cesar Azpilicueta, Pedro and Olivier Giroud to help in guidance at times due to their overall experience. However, he will still find it difficult there due to a lack of quality with those players (today) to accompany their experience. With Manchester United and Marcus Rashford in particular this is worse.

Loaning Rashford would be a good decision if we had players to start up front and on the wings. However, with the departure of Sánchez and Lukaku, coupled with the injury concerns of Martial, it makes it really difficult to send him on loan. Now, he has become injured so the onus rests on 17-year old Mason Greenwood to carry us against Rochdale and, perhaps, Arsenal if Martial does not return.

Comment 2 (@mushi_twt):

“We need two transfer windows to fix both [the midfield and attack].”

My Response:

I am inclined to agree here. In order to fix the midfield and attack, United need at least two transfer windows and one could argue that they need a third. This winter there will be a transfer window, however, making the right signings in this period is quite difficult unless they come from lower-tier leagues (other than the top seven). Thus, we may need two summer transfer windows in order to fix our XI into something that is competent. Thereafter, we will need one or two more to fix our squad. If we are consistent in signing three or so players per transfer window then we would be ready to fight for the Premier League title in 2021-22 and all trophies by 2022-23 or 2023-24.

Comment 3 (@flex_khalifa):

“Chelsea did not sign anyone and sold their best player in [Eden] Hazard but their attacks seems to gel even with average players. Do you not think Ole is to blame for the bad United attack rather than the lack of quality players [being the reason]?”

My Response:

This is a good question. Firstly, Chelsea do not operate with average players. Willian is an above average to good player with some excellent qualities, Mount is the same with great potential and Abraham is similar to Mount. Likewise, Jorginho is a world class holding midfielder and Kanté is borderline elite. Thus, their personnel is better than ours man-for-man. However, I concede that Lampard has Chelsea playing a particular brand of football that is exciting. If one watched the game against Liverpool and removed the club circumstances of both clubs it would be difficult to conclusively tell which team had won the UEFA Champions League the season before and had achieved 97 points in a Premier League campaign and which team had lost their manager, brought in an inexperienced one, lost their best player – one of the best in the world – and entered the season with a transfer ban. This is the problem with Manchester United. If one looked at how both teams (United and Chelsea) entered the season they would give the advantage to the former. Solskjær must take some responsibility here.

Comment 4 (@ALDMUFC):

“We have no leaders or big characters.

My Response:

This is true. However, it is difficult to develop those characters without those particular characters to look at for influence. Manchester United under Sir Alex Ferguson had multiple leaders and big characters due to Ferguson himself. In a way they played his personality on the pitch: aggressive; ruthless; determined; passionate and more. Often, players’ personalities will reflect that of their coaches. This is a basic concept known through primary and secondary socialisation. A simple example would be to look at a child and how they imitate their parents. Likewise, students tend to behave in accordance to the way their teacher controls the classroom. Students are much better behaved in classrooms wherein the teacher has control over behaviour but, at the same time, is clement with them (van der Weide and Wilderom, 2004). Ferguson was able to find the balance between these two aspects and this allowed for players to develop their maturity at a much faster pace as well as learn when to use kindness and empathy.

The question is: do the players truly respect Solskjær enough to learn his character traits? He is enough of a dominating character that he will influence them gradually? He has been described in the past with terms such as “nice”, “kind”, etc. Whilst these are good traits this is usually how he has been described when asked about him as a manager. Is this the type of description needed at the club? There is a plethora of issues to solve.

Comment 5 (@Bridgart):

“We are lacking in midfield – defensive midfield in particular. The left back position is a possible concern, too, as Luke Shaw has struggled for a long time.

My Response:

There is a bit to unpack here – two separate points:

Ander Herrera leaving the club at the same time as the inevitable but conclusive decline of Nemanja Matić has essentially lessened our midfield in quantity by two. Scott McTominay, at this moment in time, is an above average (higher tier) player with a few good qualities, Fred is a good (lower tier) player and Pogba is, of course, a world class player. So, we essentially have one excellent or above midfielder in the latter whilst the former two are not good enough. Despite that, their replacements are not good enough either. So, we are left quite thin in quantity and quality in midfield.

We have a real concern at left back. Luke Shaw is injury prone and not physically proficient enough to be a full back in the modern game. He does not possess the required stamina to play in a possession-based, high pressing team. Rather, he is content with passing backwards or laterally in order to retain possession and rarely seeks to run beyond any attacker in order to create space. This severely harms the team. However, due to his positioning he is often present to make defensive plays which gives the appearance that he is a solid player defensively. Though, this is false. Shaw is an average player with a few above average qualities. He is not a good crosser of the ball, a good dribbler, a good passer, a good ball carrier and much more. His offensive position is negative, his mindset is too safe, he frequently halts counter attacks due to playing the wrong pass and his overall decision making is average. He is a fan favourite for many, however, this emotion-led attachment to him does not warrant any credence as the evidence is against him. Is he good as a replacement left back? Yes. However, it is an area we should look to bolster with a proper first team signing.

Comment 6 (@Sbuzi_):

“We brought on Lingard to replace Rashford as our striker. That alone says a lot about our current situation. Shambolic.

My Response:

This is a good summary of the problem. Jesse Lingard is an average player with a sporadic level of attributes. Nevertheless, he is merely a player who, ideally, should be brought on to as a replacement for a competent attacking midfielder. He should not be a go-to player which he currently is nor should he be a player who is turned to when we need to make a substitution. There are massive squad issues this season which will need to be resolved slowly but surely.

Comment 7 (@justkuda):

“Would it not make more sense to pray Fred ahead of Matić?”

My Response:

Matić has particular qualities which make him a useful player to have in the squad with most of them being situated around off-ball activity. On the other hand, Fred excels at on-ball activity whilst having some weakness off the ball. The reason Matić has started ahead of Fred so far this season is due to Solskjær being cautious. However, Fred has shown in his performances that he is much more capable than originally assumed both defensively and offensively. He came on against Leicester City and managed the game well, he performed excellently against FC Astana and then he contributed more to our offensive game against West Ham than Matić did despite the latter starting the game. It is about time Fred gets his chance.

Comment 8 (@BraaaaadB):

“We are three starting player injuries away from a genuine mid-to-lower table side.

My Response:

At this current moment in time United are missing Shaw (LB), Pogba (CM), Rashford (RW) and Martial (ST). If Maguire and Wan-Bissaka were to become injured United would line-up with a team that is befitting of mid-table. The squad depth is poor in both quantity and quality.

Comment 9 (@HGenemo):

“According to xG (expected goals) we should not be conceding as much as we have. Why do you think we have been letting in so many goals?”

My Response:

This season, United have conceded anywhere between 3.66-4.16 goals more than they should have conceded. In fact, Manchester United have the best defensive record in the Premier League according to xG. However, we have conceded goals this season that were a result of:

(1) – poor goalkeepeing (i.e. de Gea’s error against Crystal Palace)
(2) – excellent finishing

Ultimately, Manchester United are currently underperforming their underlying numbers and throughout the season this tends to level out.

Comment 10 (@IamHassanTahir):

“Please explain the midfield roles in a 4-2-3-1 formation and compare it to a 4-3-3.

My Response:

In a 4-2-3-1, a team lines up with two central midfielders who are both tasked with defensive and offensive duties. However, their primary focus is to recycle possession and hold their position. It is not for any of them to hold back their position (i.e. move into a defensive stance) or push forward their position (i.e. move into an offensive stance). Rather, they need to work together, moving forward and backward in co-operation.

In a 4-3-3, the midfield is usually split into a 1 and 2 set-up. The ‘1’ plays the role of a defensive midfielder. Their task is to break up play and retain possession. The ‘2’ ahead of him have the task of creating play.

In a 4-2-3-1, both midfielders have the role of a ‘1’ and ‘2’ whereas in a 4-3-3 this is split between the midfielders due to the extra number.

Comment 11 (@Moustafa_Medhat):

“I am not convinced with us playing in a 4-2-3-1 formation when we do not have a decent no. 10. Why don’t we switch back to a 4-3-3 with Pogba having a more attacking role?”

My Response:

At the beginning of the season, Solskjær did not want to do this because he did not trust Fred and McTominay to play in a two-man midfield. This is why he has opted for Matić to start ahead of Fred since Pogba has been injured. However, it is upon him to recognise Fred’s quality in midfield and what he has contributed to the team since coming on against Leicester and West Ham as well as his dominating performance against Astana. If he does that using Pogba as a no. 10 would work in a 4-2-3-1 if he wishes to proceed with this formation.

Comment 12 (@shyn9):

“If you want to give young players a chance then we need to have mature players with experience to help them.”

My Response:

Agreed. This is something I have mentioned multiple times. There are many fans who exclaim the likes of Greenwood and Gomes should be starting whilst parroting the narrative of United giving youth a chance. Sir Alex Ferguson did not start the Class of 92 for a few years up until the mid-90s. Also, when they were consistent starters the team will filled with leaders to help them. At this current moment in time who can lead the young players in both performance and mental maturity?

Jesse Lingard is statistically one of the most senior players at the club…

This is the last comment I have responded to for Part 2. I will be publishing this series on a weekly basis so if your comment did not feature this week it does not mean it will not get featured. I hold an opportunity every week for your comments to be heard and merely choose a selection of ones with the idea that they are not repetitive. For more, get it touch on Twitter.