Man United should be ‘feared’ more by teams, consistency is needed in a crunch season for Solskjaer and Varane is ‘exceptional’… DWIGHT YORKE, WES BROWN and DENIS IRWIN on their former club
- Manchester United will hope to build on their thrilling victory against Villarreal
- Boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will know the pressure is on to win trophies this year
- Dwight Yorke believes United, his former club, need to be feared by more teams
- The importance of being consistent has been highlighted by legend Wes Brown
- United stalwart Denis Irwin has been impressed by Raphael Varane’s showings
The electric ripples that pulsed around Old Trafford after Cristiano Ronaldo struck again to seal Manchester United’s last-gasp victory over Villarreal may live long in the memory for some supporters, but beneath the surface lurked a demand for more.
To little surprise, the headlines the next day were all focused on Ronaldo throwing off his shirt and pulling that iconic superhero-like pose. That will have come a relief to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who will know his team, on the whole, struggled.
After all, this will quickly play out to be his most important season in charge. For better or worse, now is the time for results. Having assembled a team of titans, anything below winning trophies will be judged as a failure.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer knows there is more to come from his Manchester United team this year
Cristiano Ronaldo scored a late winner against Villarreal but supporters are demanding more
Of course, that is part of the job description at United. He will be under no illusions. In those hallowed corridors, and out on the pitch, the spotlight burns just that bit brighter – uncomfortably so, in fact. There can be no passengers.
It is perhaps understandable, then, for lovers of the club to want better displays, and to see free-flowing football bouncing around those magic boots of Ronaldo. Dwight Yorke, for one, has admitted he feels exactly this way.
He is positive about United and optimistic about what lies ahead, but has bemoaned the fact that, in some corners at least, his former side no longer strike fear into the heart of their opponents, like they did in their glory days.
Ronaldo (C) will be expecting to lead United to silverware this season despite their mixed form
A trio of United greats have spoken to Sportsmail and given their views on the state of the club
‘I find it frustrating, when you have that sort of talent going forward, that you can’t push teams right back,’ Yorke tells Sportsmail. ‘They should be fearing us more than I think they are at the moment.
‘It’s just unbelievable. [Anthony] Martial can come on, [Marcus] Rashford still has to come back into the equation. We are a serious threat, this team going forward.
‘You’ve got Bruno [Fernandes], [Paul] Pogba is included in that. You’ve got Ronaldo. I mean, what more do you really need?
‘Unfortunately, everybody can’t play at the same time. I think we have enough to send shockwaves around the Premier League, and certainly Europe as well.’
Ronaldo, Jadon Sancho, Fernandes, Edinson Cavani – these are all players who have arrived in recent years at United as part of their quest to restore their DNA and the winning mentality lost after Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement.
Former United star Dwight Yorke believes teams should fear them more than they currently do
Make no mistake, they can all single-handedly take games by the scruff of its neck and win them on their own. But several times, particularly under Solskjaer, they have promised much but fallen agonisingly short every time.
No one will be more pained by this than the man in charge of it all. A prolific marksman in his playing days, Solskjaer clearly has the dressing room in the palm of his hand, and is able to both charm and unleash fury.
He also has support everywhere that matters, including from his former team-mates and United’s greatest servants.
Wes Brown, for example, wholeheartedly believes in Solskjaer’s project. On his part, there is also excitement, and a dose of realism.
‘He’s obviously brought in good signings,’ Brown, who played alongside Solskjaer for eight years, says. ‘This summer, the signings are winners, which is going to help the team. This season is a big season for him.
Wes Brown has hailed United’s summer signings, including Ronaldo, and also feels optimistic
A former team-mate of Solskjaer, Brown (above) says the pressure is on to clinch silverware
‘But any manager at Manchester United will always be looked at to win trophies. That’s just the club we’re at. Ole will be no different. But I do think this season, we have a squad capable of definitely doing that.
‘The signings brought in are experienced and have won many trophies before. We’re still early on in this season. The team are just getting to feel and know each other. We still have got enough to win trophies.
‘It’s a new-ish team. Defensively they’re just getting to know each other. Cristiano has come back. They’re just warming up. I think we’ve had spells in the games so far where we can see potential. I just think it’s about making it more consistent now.’
The king of consistency is perhaps Raphael Varane. A winner of four Champions League titles at Real Madrid, he arrived at United to much fanfare and will be crucial in steering his new side to the same kind of success.
Raphael Varane joined United from Real Madrid and has attracted praise from a club legend
Denis Irwin (left) says Varane provides experience and has adapted to the Premier League
While still bedding in next to Harry Maguire, the qualities of the centre back often likened to a Rolls-Royce are clear. He has also attracted glowing praise from Denis Irwin, a man who knows all about throwing his body in the way for the cause.
‘He’s been so good. He’s an experienced player and has won plenty of trophies,’ Irwin says. ‘He’s been at a big club before, he can handle the pressure.
‘The Premier League is totally different to La Liga, but he’s been able to handle the physicality as well. That’s been a huge plus. He’s slotted straight in and he’s been as good as anybody for us.
‘Ronaldo gets the headlines because he’s scored five goals in five games, but I think Varane has been exceptional for us.’
Jadon Sancho is still finding his feet with United, and Yorke is adamant he will burst into form
So, it is Ronaldo and Varane who have been the headline-hoggers this season. That has allowed Sancho, who joined from Borussia Dortmund over the summer after a lengthy chase, to try and settle in. He is yet to flourish.
It has not been an easy process for him, however, a fact Yorke was quick to highlight. Leaving a club where he quickly emerged as one of the world’s finest talents brought with it prying eyes, and United are not a club willing to wait forever.
But there is a steely confidence that Sancho will eventually burst into life, and from that point he is not expected to look back. Still a young man, the winger has been brought in for the next 10 to 15 years, Solskjaer has insisted.
And Yorke is among those looking forward to watching him find his feet. ‘He’s a relatively young boy, to be quite honest,’ he says. ‘He’s still in that learning environment. He’s come into a new team for him. It’s something which is new to him.
Described as an ‘unbelievable talent’ by Yorke, United signed Sancho with an eye on the future
‘More often than not, as a young man it takes time to adapt, without a doubt. He’s obviously a really unbelievable talent. It’s just a matter of time. People have to be patient. He’s come in for a lot of money, and a lot of expectation comes with that.
‘But ultimately, you have to give him time. We can see he hasn’t really bedded into the whole system yet; he hasn’t really hit the ground running as we all expected. But certainly, he’s one for the future.
‘It will just take some time, at the end of the day. Everybody wants to come here and do well. It’s such a difficult situation, especially when you’re not playing from the start. He’s not been given a real run in the team just yet.
Solskjaer will know he must deliver success this season, with the spotlight now firmly on him
Brown, Irwin and Yorke were taking part in a panel event to launch Maui Jim’s sunglasses range
‘In the parts of games we’ve seen, he’s been a little bit timid in some ways. He’s not running at defenders. But that will come. He’ll feel more comfortable. It’s just a matter of getting a string of games under his belt. He will get more confidence.’
The potential is undoubtedly there for him, just like it is for the United team as a whole. But the time for gradual progress has passed. It is now or never.
They must win trophies this season, or face bitter disappointment yet again.
Wes Brown, Denis Irwin and Dwight Yorke were taking part in a live audience panel event alongside club legend Patrice Evra, to launch Maui Jim’s official Manchester United Club Collection sunglasses range.
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