They are a team that does not look like scoring, with no identifiable style of play, with players who seem to be getting worse led by a manager whose appointment is starting to look a terrible mistake.

This is not Newcastle, in case you were wondering. They are, despite a difficult and at times shambolic start to the season, doing all right, all things considered.

The decision to make Steve Bruce the replacement for Rafa Benitez is still not overwhelmingly popular but his second victory lifted Newcastle out of the bottom three, and eight points from eight games keeps them on course for survival. Given the timing of his appointment, three weeks before the first competitive game, that is solid enough.


The same cannot be said of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. This is perhaps the worst Manchester United team for more than 30 years. And it has had some pretty stiff competition, under David Moyes, Louis van Gaal and in those dark, depressing final days of Jose Mourinho.

But this team look clueless, pedestrian, one-paced and predictable. They have no urgency, no flair and no flow. They create hardly any chances. Against a team that had not won at home since May, a side second from bottom before kickoff, they were outplayed.

After no shots on target against AZ Alkmaar last week, they had three against Newcastle. Yet still United fans are told not to worry. This is all part of a long-term plan, the vision, the strategy. It is all about the future.

Do not worry about what is happening now because it will all be worth it in the end. Once these young players have gained experience and been gelled into a well-drilled unit by Solskjaer, Manchester United will be back to their best.

Sounds good in theory but there is little to no evidence that this crop of youngsters are of the quality needed. Players such as Marcus Rashford look less effective than two years ago, while others, such as Andreas Pereira, at the age of 23, have probably had enough chances now.

The defence of Solskjaer is always the same. This is a team in transition, he is working with a young, inexperienced side and there are bound to be bumps in the road.

You may not like what you see, but you just have to believe it is for the greater good — short-term pain for long-term gain.

The problem is, the future is shaped by the present and Solskjaer's United look weak, flaky and easy to play against.


The stats are damning. Since securing their dramatic victory over Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League knockout stages in March — the win that secured him the job on a permanent basis — United have taken 17 points from their last 17 league games.

That is relegation form. Of all the teams in the Premier League last season, only Watford and Brighton have collected fewer.