EPL TALK: Why crisis-hit Man United are still not changing manager

·7 min read
Manchester United's Cristiano Ronaldo stands dejected during their home defeat by Manchester City.
Manchester United's Cristiano Ronaldo stands dejected during their home defeat by Manchester City. (PHOTO: Martin Rickett/PA Images via Getty Images)

SINGAPORE — How have your favourite English Premier League (EPL) teams performed over the past week? Yahoo News Singapore looks at the key talking points surrounding the league in this weekly review:

Red Devils sinking to new depths with Man City surrender

WHAT HAPPENED: The hits keep on coming for Manchester United and their beleaguered manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

Two weeks after a humiliating 0-5 home thrashing by Liverpool, the Red Devils succumbed meekly to another major rival team as they were completely outplayed by Manchester City in a 0-2 loss on Saturday (6 November), again at Old Trafford. They have now amassed only four points from a possible 18 in the league, and have slipped to sixth in the table.

Despite the scoreline, it was arguably a worse defeat than the Liverpool rout. At no point in the match were Man United in control, as their city rivals stamped their class all over the pitch, toying with their opponents by keeping possession for long periods.

It was almost as if Man United had decided before the match that they could not win, and set about only to limit the damage. Needless to say, the plan failed miserably the moment Eric Bailly skewed his clearance into his own goal after just seven minutes.

To their irate fans, the Man City capitulation merely confirmed the fact that Solskjaer is out of his depth against the very best managers in the EPL such as City's Pep Guardiola and Liverpool's Jurgen Klopp. Far too frequently, the Red Devils looked confused and uninspired against sides whose managers were astute enough to prepare game plans for their players to counter United.

It is a stinging indictment on the Norwegian, considering he has a strong squad of top individual talents to call upon, and already has three years on the job to implement whatever philosophy and strategy amid United. Yet, it seems that United are nowhere near the clear footballing identities of City, Liverpool or even Chelsea, and rely primarily on moments of individual brilliance to get by.

It is clear that the current crisis at Old Trafford is crying out of a top-class manager to push United to title-contending levels. Yet, the board of directors, led by outgoing executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward, is curiously still backing Solskjaer to turn things around.

Could it be that, weeks before his imminent departure, Woodward is reluctant to pull the trigger as one of his final acts? Or could it be that he believes that there are no elite managers available in the market (which makes little sense given that Antonio Conte was available until he joined Tottenham early last week)?

Whatever the reason, Solskjaer is wearing an increasingly haunted look as he seems unable to stem the slew of abject performances amid this crisis. As more supporters turn on him on social media, it is a sad situation for someone who was a fan favourite in his playing days with United.

WHAT'S NEXT: Following the international break, Man United will travel to Vicarage Road to face struggling Watford. On paper it looks like a winnable match, but it is the Red Devils' next league match which could be season-defining - a trip to Stamford Bridge to face league leaders Chelsea. Can Solskjaer pull out more job-saving victories?

West Ham's Kurt Zouma scores his side's third goal during their Premier League match against Liverpool.
West Ham's Kurt Zouma scores his side's third goal during their Premier League match against Liverpool. (PHOTO: Alex Pantling/Getty Images)

Reds' unbeaten start ends amid poor defence, mounting injuries

WHAT HAPPENED: For 25 matches spread out across seven months and two European football seasons, Liverpool have stayed undefeated in all competitions, equalling a club record that has stood since the 1980s.

That streak came to a screeching end on Sunday at the London Stadium, as the Reds were outplayed by a magnificent West Ham side that attacked with speed and defended with resoluteness to earn a massively deserved victory that lifted them over their opponents to third spot in the EPL.

Jurgen Klopp was vocal in his criticism of the referee's handling of West Ham's opening goal - he believed goalkeeper Alisson Becker was fouled - and a reckless lunge by Aaron Cresswell on Jordan Henderson that went unpunished. But the German could have no defence for his side's poor second-half performance, as they were sloppy in both defence and attack, allowing the hosts to grab two goals for a 3-1 lead.

It is a worrying concern for Liverpool that, despite their unbeaten start to the EPL season, they have dropped points in five of their 11 matches. While their offence has been firing on all cylinders, it is their defence which is struggling uncharacteristically.

Aside from Virgil van Dijk and Trent Alexander-Arnold, the other defenders have looked tentative and out of sorts, especially Andrew Robertson, who has looked nothing like the feisty left-back so beloved by the Reds fans in recent seasons.

Furthermore, Liverpool have had to deal with injury absences to key personnel such as vice-captain James Milner, midfielders Naby Keita and Thiago Alcantara, and most crucially striker Roberto Firmino, who is vital to the Reds' pressing game. These absences have led to a sense of disjointedness in recent games.

While they are still within touching distance of leaders Chelsea so far, the biggest test for the Reds will come in the next months as Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane depart for the African Cup of Nations. Can they weather the absences and continue to stay within striking distance of the top of the league?

All these uncertainties are swirling among the Merseyside club, and Klopp would need all his famous motivational skills to revive his side for the major tests ahead.

WHAT'S NEXT: A tricky home tie against a resurgent Arsenal awaits Liverpool after the international break, before subsequent league ties against Southampton, Everton and Wolves could provide opportunities for them to regain some winning momentum.

Arsenal's Emile Smith Rowe (left) scores their winning goal in the Premier League match against Watford.
Arsenal's Emile Smith Rowe (left) scores their winning goal in the Premier League match against Watford. (PHOTO: David Price/Arsenal FC via Getty Images)

Resurgent Arsenal dispel doom-laden start to season

WHAT HAPPENED: It had seemed as if Mikel Arteta would be one of this EPL season's first managerial casualties when his Arsenal side began the season with three straight defeats and zero goals scored.

Yet after that third loss - a woeful 0-5 battering by Man City - the Gunners have steadily turned the corner under the radar. They have not lost in the league since that defeat, a stellar run of eight matches unbeaten, and are now sitting pretty in fifth spot - above arch-rivals Man United and Tottenham.

It has been a gradual process, but Arsenal's new signings - much derided at the start of the season - have begun to click with the rest of the squad. Aaron Ramsdale, Ben White, Albert Sambi Lokonga and Nuno Tavares have all contributed to stabilised the Gunners, allowing regular stalwarts like Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette to thrive again.

And of course, there's the rapid rise of 21-year-old starlet Emile Smith Rowe that is catching the eyes of neutrals. Already with four goals this season - including Sunday's winner against Watford - Rowe is also forming a potent partnership with fellow academy graduate Bukayo Saka down both flanks.

It is all looking rosy for Arteta and Arsenal right now after the doom-laden vibes at the start of the season. Admittedly they had the benefit of a comfortable schedule, in addition to not being involved in European competitions, but given time to prepare and drill his side, Arteta is seeing the results becoming increasingly positive.

The next couple of months would be a better gauge on where the Gunners could likely finish in the standings. If they continue to chalk up victories, then a European qualification spot should be within reach. If they falter, then perhaps they should focus on a good FA Cup run to build upon their burgeoning team cohesiveness.

Whatever it is, they are most definitely no long pushovers, and ready to take on the top teams with confidence again.

WHAT'S NEXT: The Gunners' revival would get a major test after the international break when they travel to Anfield to face Liverpool. Following that, they have a home tie against Newcastle, before facing Man United away at Old Trafford. Three intriguing ties to gauge how well they have progressed under Arteta.

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