Just hours after an ESPN report emerged that the Glazer family, which owns Manchester United, has sanctioned a three-year rebuilding project for the English giants, the team went out and demonstrated why it’s needed.
The Red Devils barely eked by third-tier Rochdale 5-3 on penalties after a 1-1 draw in regulation of the Carabao Cup third round at Old Trafford.
United goalkeeper Sergio Romero dove to his right to stop Jimmy Keohane’s penalty, the second for Rochdale, and Daniel James powered the final spot kick past Rochdale keeper Robert Sánchez to help United escape.
Mason Greenwood scored the Red Devils’ goal in the 68th minute, cutting inside and firing a left-footed shot home to break a scoreless deadlock (via ESPNFC):
Sept. 19: 17-year-old Mason Greenwood becomes the youngest-ever goalscorer for Man United in European competition— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) September 25, 2019
Sept. 25: Greenwood scores the breakthrough goal vs. Rochdale pic.twitter.com/eep1hCDhdM
Greenwood, just 17 years old, also scored the winner for United vs. Astana last Thursday in the Europa League.
Someone even younger, 16-year-old Luke Matheson, equalized for Rochdale less than 10 minutes later, which ultimately forced the penalties after stoppage time.
One early-round Carabao Cup tie does not a declarative judgment make, but there were enough troubling trends Wednesday that it’s a convenient snapshot. The Red Devils’ lineup featured Paul Pogba, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Jesse Lingard, Phil Jones and Fred, not to mention James and Juan Mata off the bench. Not a Champions League winner, to be sure, but more than enough talent to comfortably beat Rochdale, which is 17th in the League One table and closer to the drop than the top.
Or at least it should be. But this United squad is lacking for depth as it’s being remade in the image of manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, whose signature achievement to date was steadying a punctured ship Jose Mourinho left in his wake in the middle of last season. There was possession against Rochdale, but not much in the way of gilded-edge chances.
Wan-Bissaka denied Rochdale themselves a chance early in the second half by clearing a ball off the line:
WAN-BISSAKA TO THE RESCUE!— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) September 25, 2019
He denies Rochdale with a goal-line clearance! pic.twitter.com/StKZNEcOj5
Wan-Bissaka and James both came aboard this summer, and both seem like solid signings at this early stage.
Solskjaer and United will need more. This is Manchester United, the club that until last season had won the Premier League as many times as the rest of the top flight combined.
Prompted by chief rivals Liverpool and Manchester City running away from the Premier League pack yet again, executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward told club investors on a conference call Tuesday that patience is needed as United seeks to overhaul its culture and direction, according to ESPN.
Will Solskjaer be afforded enough time to reshape the squad? Should it be given to him, considering his reputation is largely staked on his playing career and not his managerial work with Norway’s Molde and United’s reserves?
Are the Red Devils truly investing in the Solskjaer-Woodward tandem, or are they just waiting out Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola as an open secret? Should the owners of a club of United’s stature ever admit to such a rebuild?
Questions abound at Old Trafford these days. If you watched the match vs. Rochdale, you’d know why they beg asking.
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