Ole Gunnar Solskjaer might have left Old Trafford feeling a little disappointed following Manchester United’s tame 2-1 win over LASK Linz on Wednesday night.
Expectations were pretty low heading into the Europa League dead rubber, but United failed to meet them in the first half before being kicked into life by Philipp Wiesinger’s beautiful effort to give LASK a shock lead.
Last summer the United manager declared a good season would be one in which his side wins a trophy, and if he wants to achieve that ambition he knows his team will need a big improvement against Copenhagen next Monday night.
Solskjaer wanted his fringe players to boost their confidence against LASK and with nine changes to the side which defeated Leicester on the final day of the season it didn’t seem like much to ask, but there must be genuine concern over the performances of some of those players.
Solskjaer’s team selection against LASK was designed to give United’s second string a platform to put pressure on the undroppables who guided the club back into the Champions League, but the team’s performance acted as the umpteenth reminder of the season that this squad lacks strength in depth.
When Solskjaer fields his best XI United are the third best team in England, but the issue of squad rotation means we won’t always get to see it next season. With a packed fixture schedule and the regular occurrence of two games a week it is obvious that a greater quality of squad player is needed at Old Trafford if they are to stay competitive across all fronts over the next year.
This is not to say that the nine players that came into the line up against LASK don’t have individual quality, far from it, but when they are all selected together they make up an XI that would struggle to finish in the top half of the Premier League.
A new superstar signing this summer might be enough to take United up another level but if they want to become serious Premier League title challengers again it is clear the quality available from the bench needs to be improved as well.
Confirmation of Inter Milan’s decision to sign Alexis Sanchez is an important step towards freeing up crucial wage budget for such a transformation to take place, although there is a clear need for United to now remove more deadwood and freshen up a squad which remains overstocked with filler options.
Solskjaer has a huge job on his hands if he is to get United back to the level they were at when he was playing, but it will certainly become more achievable if he can strengthen not only the starting XI, but those available to replace them from the substitutes bench when necessary.