It all started so well for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as the Premier League commenced. Opening day of the 2019/20 season and Manchester United cut through Chelsea with a quick, direct and clinical second half at Old Trafford.
A first-half penalty from Marcus Rashford gave United the platform to explode in the second half with Anthony Martial scoring just after the hour mark and Rashford making it three two minutes later. New boy Daniel James came off the bench to complete the scoring with nine minutes left on the clock.
After the game praise was heaped on United. Summer signing Harry Maguire looked like a rock at the back and with Aaron Wan-Bissaka joining the back four with him in the transfer window the well documented defensive troubles seem fixed.
Fast forward two months. The mood is very different around Old Trafford. A 1-0 defeat to Newcastle this weekend has brought fans of the club even closer to reality than they were before.
After the result against Chelsea on opening day, the Reds have managed to add five goals to their tally in seven games and add only one more clean sheet to the one they achieved in the first game.
All this added together sums up to six points from the seven games and a 12th placed Premier League position, fifteen points behind fierce local rivals Liverpool who set the pace at the top of the league.
So what exactly is wrong at Manchester United. While there are theories flying around about pretty much every aspect of the football club there are some issues that are crystal clear.
The squad is thin. United, chasing the game at Newcastle yesterday, ended with six players who have graduated from the youth academy on the pitch. While players like Rashford and Andreas Pereira have had a substantial amount of top-level European football experience Tahith Chong and Mason Greenwood are unproven.
It is true that Solskjaer is dealing with terrible injury issues. Victor Lindelof and Jesse Lingard both were resigned to watching on Sunday due to injuries picked up in the Red’s European duties in midweek. Joining first-team players such as Wan-Bissaka, Paul Pogba and Anthony Martial who are all sidelined.
Why is the squad limited in numbers after the amount of money Manchester United have spent?
Big names left in the summer. Romelu Lukaku ended his ill-fated stay at the Theatre of Dreams joining Inter Milan. The Belgian striker was joined, on loan, by Alexis Sanchez. Ander Herrera switched Manchester for Paris on a free transfer. With Antonio Valencia and Chris Smalling also making way.
Replacements were not brought in for the forward players. Smalling and Valencia left and United signed Maguire and Wan-Bissaka. Both ready-made replacements with Premier League experience. The only other notable arrival was James from Swansea who has performed above expectations.
No replacement for Lukaku, with the theory being Martial and Rashford were ready to lead the line with help here and there from youngster Mason Greenwood. But goals have been hard to come by.
Four players have scored so far for United, Rashford (3), James (3), Martial (2) and Scott McTominay (1). Considering two of Rashfords three goals have come from the penalty spot and Martial injured the lack of goals is beginning to prove a real problem.
It has not just been Premier League issues for the Red Devils so far this season. They scrapped by League Rochdale in the cup penalties at Old Trafford. Two games into their Europa League campaign and four points claimed is passable. But their home performance against Kazakhstani team FC Astana raised eyebrows as United struggled to a 1-0 win.
It is certainly a difficult time for Manchester United. A team that is patched together by youth players being asked to do too much. Of course, they will do well at times, but in the most competitive league in the world, consistency is not important but necessary.
Ole may be at the wheel. But the route back to the top is tougher than ever.