Are United lacking a leader?

Manchester United
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer happy with the win but not the performance.

Manchester United have had some big leaders over the years but they appear to be lacking that type of character this season.

Ashley Young was named as club captain of the Red Devils ahead of the 2019-20 campaign following the departure of Antonio Valencia over the summer.

David de Gea has worn the armband in the opening two games of the season but it’s often claimed that goalkeepers aren’t well suited to that role.

Of course, the captain shouldn’t be the only leader on the pitch and others are expected to chip in when times get tough.

But United, who have been able to call on the likes of Roy Keane, Nemanja Vidic, Gary Neville and Steve Bruce in years gone by, don’t seem to have too many ‘big characters’ ready to step up to the plate.

That quartet had a never-say-die attitude and would back their teammates every step of the way through tough times.


United have lacked personalities of that ilk over the past few seasons and it could be suggested they are even lacking a real leader in the dugout.

In the days of Sir Alex Ferguson, United players knew they had to fall into rank otherwise they would be moved on at the earliest possible opportunity.

However, more recently the players have wrestled control of the club and David Moyes, Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho have all come and gone.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer appeared to garner the respect of his squad when he initially took over due to his previous exploits with the club.

The Norwegian seemed to have cracked it when he led the Red Devils to a run of 11 games unbeaten across all competitions.

Inevitably, that streak came to an end and Solskjaer found himself in a familiar-looking position as he was unable to galvanise his highly-paid stars.

It’s when the chips are down that you get a better indication of a real leader and Solsjkaer failed to address their problems as United went on to finish sixth.

He has assembled a young squad for 2019-20, taking a leaf out of Ferguson’s book, but that comes with it’s own problems and needs a strong man at the helm.

Solskjaer’s latest comments, which came after Paul Pogba assumed penalty responsibilities from Marcus Rashford against Wolves, suggest he is happy for the players to take control.

He said: “We’re practising [penalties] still and Marcus and Paul are still on them.”

That decision proved costly as Pogba failed to convert and United had to settle for a 1-1 draw at Molineux on Monday.

It’s unlikely Ferguson would have allowed such an incident to take place and you would expect Solskjaer to be more assertive.

United will need players to show grit and determination if they are to force their way back into the top four and someone is going to need to motivate them.

At present, that candidate has yet to present themselves and we are only likely to see them come to the fore when the wheels come off.