Former Manchester United midfielder Luke Chadwick has spoken exclusively to CaughtOffside ahead of his old club’s big game against Leicester City this weekend.
The Red Devils are back in Premier League action on Saturday after a difficult spell before the international break, and it looks like an important period coming up for under-pressure manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
The Norwegian tactician has received some criticism recently, particularly as he rested Cristiano Ronaldo for the Everton game, which finished as a 1-1 draw at Old Trafford before club football paused for the Nations League and other international matches.
Chadwick is now a bit worried about Man Utd’s tricky trip to the King Power Stadium this weekend, especially as they’re facing a bit of an injury crisis at the back, with both Harry Maguire and Raphael Varane out of the game.
This will surely mean both Victor Lindelof and Eric Bailly starting the match, and they’ll undoubtedly be weak links, with Chadwick not sounding convinced about them as a partnership.
“It is a real shame. I think Varane and Maguire looked good together, they’ve been forming a partnership and getting used to playing together,” Chadwick told CaughtOffside. “To have the pair of them injured is a blow.
“You’d expect Lindelof to come in. He’s had criticism at times, even if he’s quite effective at dealing with what’s in front of him, it’s that space in behind that has been a problem in the past. Bailly’s played with him before, not always to great success, like in that League Cup defeat against West Ham.
“You’d hope that there’s enough there, they’re two very good Premier League players and it’s a hugely important game for United to bounce back in and get a result after the disappointment of the Aston Villa game.”
In attack, Solskjaer looks like he has more options, with Marcus Rashford recently returning to training, while the slightly underwhelming Jadon Sancho looked back to his best with his performances for England.
Chadwick expects Rashford will remain an impact sub for the time being, and hopes to see Sancho starting alongside Ronaldo and Mason Greenwood.
“It’s fantastic to see Rashford coming back to fitness but I wouldn’t throw him straight back in,” Chadwick said. “He could probably do with some games coming off the bench. With what he offers he can make a fantastic impact as a substitute.
“For now I’d stick with Ronaldo as the number 9 and Sancho and Greenwood up there with him. Sancho looked a bit more like his old self, a bit more confident for England. The more he’s on the pitch the more chance he’s got to make an impact. I think he’ll be a success once those first few goals and assists come and he settles into it. I think Rashford and Lingard are great live-wire players to produce something from the bench. For now Ole should stick with this front three because at times it’s looked fantastic.
“Just look at the numbers Sancho’s had in the past – his stats were exceptional at Borussia Dortmund and I’m sure he’ll get there with United, it’s only October so there’s plenty of time left this season.
“There’ll be times when he’s not firing on all cylinders, but things can change quickly – a goal, a bit of magic, that sort of thing we now he can do, that can turn his form around. I’m sure he’ll be looking at double figures for goals and assists.
“Some players hit the ground running straight away, but with Sancho it looks like it’ll take a bit more time, in fairness it took him a bit of time to get going last season as well. He played at the Euros as well and hasn’t had much of a break. A player of his quality won’t go through the whole season like this, I’m sure we’ll soon see what the price tag was all about.”
This weekend’s test against Leicester is one of a number of big games coming up for Man Utd at the moment, with Solskjaer under huge pressure to get results against the likes of Liverpool and Manchester City after a recent dip in form against opponents like Aston Villa and Everton.
Chadwick admits the pressure on the manager is going to be huge if the team continues to struggle in these games, but he’s also backing Ronaldo to make a big difference against quality opposition.
“The next four games … I wouldn’t say they’d determine his future, but obviously if United came out of those games and lost all four then the pressure would be huge,” Chadwick said.
“You sort of look at the away games with more confidence, their away form is second to none really, they’ve achieved incredible things in their away games. I think the fact that the next two home games are Liverpool and City, that should create the best atmosphere, especially with Cristiano Ronaldo back in the team. I think that’ll result in a whole different mood at Old Trafford and plenty of positivity despite the recent poor home results.
“It’s a tough away game against Leicester, but under Ole they seem to be able to pull a result out of the bag when they need it. If they can go into the Liverpool game off the back with a win against Leicester, and they win that game, then suddenly everything in the garden’s rosy again. That’s the way it is with Manchester United, at least from the outside on social media and so on – everything’s either going incredibly well or it’s a crisis, there’s not much room for anything in-between.
“But I think Ronaldo’s first game back for United against Liverpool after so many years will be huge, if they win that it appeases everyone associated with the club because that rivalry is so intense.”