Are Manchester United's problems down to their players or their plan?
By Joe Harker
Manchester United's 3-1 defeat to rivals Manchester City in the semi finals of the Carabao Cup was humbling.
The performance of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's team in the first half was dreadful, with the United manager lamenting the performance as the worst he had seen all season.
United are one of the richest clubs in the world and while no team is entitled to success they should not be doing as badly as this. Is their problem down to the players they have or the manager's plans?
After the game Miguel Delaney, the chief football writer of the Independent, said the humbling 3-1 defeat was the "new normal" for the club.
He criticised Solskjaer for struggling to put together a cohesive plan for United and coach the players in it, with the only time his United team look dangerous being when they counter-attack.
The simple reality of being a club like Manchester United is you will be expected to have the ball and attack in most games while your opponents must work out how to react to you, picking a counter-attacking strategy that depends on the other team having the ball and attacking makes little sense.
Delaney wonders where United are supposed to be going with all this. They look like they're trying to be a counter-attacking side that plays better without the ball, that is not really something they can be for the vast majority of their games.
Whatever else is going wrong at Old Trafford, the overall gameplan of the manager appears to be the wrong decision. United look clueless in games where they have most of the ball and the onus is on them to attack, that's the case for most of their games so it would appear the plan would be wrong.
The Counter Claim:
On the other hand, even if Solskjaer's strategy might not be the best decision his job isn't made much easier by the players he has at his disposal.
Managers take a lot of criticism but when Solskjaer is picking his team or looking to his bench for game changing players he's faced with dross and deadwood.
Since Sir Alex Ferguson retired the club has spent hundreds of millions on new players, many of whom have already been moved on due to being not good enough.
They have gone from manager to manager and experienced the same problems as years of incompetent recruitment have taken their toll. You could likely count on one hand the number of transfers the club has made in the last few years that would be considered a real success.
Many players in the current squad are a joke even in the eyes of the United fans, but still they stay at the club and are offered new contracts to the confusion of all.
Having the right plan is important but the manager needs the right players to carry it out. The squad at Solskjaer's disposal is horribly overpaid and underperforming, leaving the manager attempting to cut down a tree with a herring.
United have spent close to £1 billion since they last won the Premier League and Sir Alex Ferguson retired back in 2013, with a plethora of players being brought in to disappoint the Old Trafford crowds.
Many have already gone, those who have stayed and those who were already at the club have combined this season for the club's worst campaign for decades.
Fans are increasingly pointing the finger of blame at the owning Glazer family and chief executive Ed Woodward. They are growing increasingly aware that whoever sits in the manager's chair will struggle due to the way the club is run.