Originally published on August 11.
“It’s no-where near as bad as people paint it.”
Jamie Carragher has backed Manchester United to prove doubters wrong this season. The Red Devils go into the new Premier League campaign with several questions surrounding the side.
Is Ole Gunnar Solskjaer really the man to bring the glory days back to Old Trafford? Is the squad good enough to compete with the rest of the top six? And why, after so many failures in the transfer market, is Ed Woodward still in charge of transfers?
Ahead of Sunday’s opener against Chelsea at Old Trafford, the bookmakers don’t think United will do much this season. You can get odds off 66/1 for the team to win the league this season – surely the longest odds United have ever been given for the title.
However, Carragher reckons that some have been too harsh on United over the last few months. The former Liverpool defender has said that, while they will not challenge for the league title, United should be good enough to finish in a Champions League spot.
“Too much has been made of Manchester United, this ‘demise’, really,” Carragher told Pundit Arena.
“I’m not talking about the last five or six years, I’m talking about last season. I think if you look at it over Solskjaer’s time they were still the third-best team in the league.
“So, I don’t think we should forget that. It wasn’t great, what happened at the end of the season. (United drew with Huddersfield and lost to Cardiff, two teams already relegated).
“I think everyone just wanted the season to finish when they went out of the Champions League and there was no chance of getting top four. I think they all would have liked to go home, and they played like that. Which is not great, I get that.
“But they’re not as bad as that, what we saw, those last three or four games.”
“You think of the games in the Champions League, the Paris Saint-Germain game, Solskjaer finishing third over that period. Now he’s got a full pre-season, I think Manchester United will finish in the top four,” Carragher continued.
“I don’t think they’ll challenge for the title, I don’t think they’re ready, that might be a couple of years away. But certainly not four or five years away as some people have been saying, I don’t believe that. Manchester United are one of the biggest clubs in the world and I don’t think you can ever write off the big clubs.”
Solskjaer recorded 14 victories from his first 17 games as a caretaker boss but won just two from 12 after getting the job on a permanent basis at the end of March. If the club had have waited until the end of the season to appoint a new manager, the Norwegian may not have been given the position. Many doubt if he is of the standard required to lead the club to trophies and some doubt if he will even last beyond Christmas. Solskjaer is the second favourite with bookmakers to be the first Premier League manager sacked this season – after Crystal Palace’s Roy Hodgson.
However, Carragher has said some have been “disrespectful” when speaking about the United coach. The Sky Sports pundit said that Solskjaer will benefit from having a pre-season with his team and will be aided by the addition of new signings Harry Maguire, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Daniel James.
“He’s got new players in and he’s got a full pre-season. But people are already questioning if it’ll last ’till November or Christmas, which I think is a little bit disrespectful,” Carragher said.
“I don’t buy all this Manchester United are miles away and they’re going to take years to recover. The season before last, Mourinho’s last full season, they finished second in the league. I know there was a bit of distance between Man City. The top six is very competitive, they’ll be there or thereabouts.
“I don’t see Man United miles away from all the other teams,” he continued.
“There’s a gap between them and Liverpool and Man City at this moment. But will it be difficult to bridge it this season? Yes. But over the coming seasons, I don’t think it will be. Man United are one of the richest clubs in the world, they continue to be able to invest in players, even if one summer doesn’t go too well. They still have the money to go do it again. So, eventually they will come back, it’s just how long it takes and if Solskjaer is that man. We’ll probably see it over the next year or two, but it’s no-where near as bad as people paint it.”
Man United get their season underway against Chelsea at Old Trafford on Sunday afternoon.