Arsenal a litmus test for Ole

Jose Mourinho's reign came to an end after a listless defeat to MUFC's arch rivals LFC at Anfield. However based on this year's fixtures the Manchester derby on 07-December could represent a pivotal fixture to ascertain if English Premier League's most successful club have indeed progressed or regressed overall, despite assurances of spending in January if the right players becomes available. By then Ole needs to ensure the off-field work in training, team bonding, coaching and recruitment re-alignment, promotion of youth to reflect on the pitch with positive results.

Liverpool come to Old Trafford immediately after the international break on 20-Oct which might reduce the impact of a loss unless its a very heavy one. This match against Arsenal therefore assumes more significance than normal given the legacy of title chasing Ferguson vs Wenger rivalry and the void of their subsequent departures. Arsenal represent an ideal match to secure at least a draw given their attacking threat and porous defense. A loss would ring alarm bells immediately and push MUFC to the bottom half of the table.

Martial performs well against top sides and if the Frenchman is unfit then Greenwood will lead the line as Rashford is out injured. James rested against Rochdale will be a sure starter. Lingard's good form against the Gunners earns him the right of front three slot and if he does not take his chance might not get it back easily. Pogba a doubt with a swollen ankle might force Ole to play Fred, McTominay and Mata which is very very predictable. Pereira had a good spell of games as first choice incl Chelsea win but might not start this game as Lingard gets the nod. Matic saved for European excursions. Young in for recovering Shaw. Garner having played on Thursday for U23 should have rightfully earned a spot on the bench after continuing his excellent form with a winner against Norwich U23's.

Ole needs to be mindful of two things: One to contain the score in a losing game, and Two to eke out a result against top 6 rivals if unable to beat them. The first of these suffered a blow with a 0-2 loss away at West Ham and begs a question as to the score in a predicted loss against the likes of Man City and Liverpool. MUFC have not yet replaced either Fellaini or Herrera which makes a new look defense vulnerable. The same under staffed midfield holds the key for the second point about the ability to hold out for a win or earn a point like the Leicester result. No attempt has been made thus far to play one of the Tuanzebe or Rojo as a holding midfielder to address this gap nor has the 4-3-3 system being changed. To play High Press on a weekly basis it requires good squad strength to proactively use substitutes and rotate the players. For an evolving team like MUFC game management becomes very important which given the young age of the squad will only improve from playing i.e., inevitably making mistakes due lack of experienced spine in the team, resulting in dropped points, short term frustration and long term gain.

The team bonding exercise initiated by De Gea and Mata had a good turnout with the exception of Pogba. Underscores the efforts to unite a disgruntled dressing room which has also leaked information in the recent past. MUFC have struggled away from home this season reversing a trend under Mourinho. Old Trafford faithful have always got behind a young team which was one of the criteria for Ole's clearout also. Injury may have forced Ole to finally give Greenwood a start which the fans have been calling for. Fans want Tuanzebe, Gomes and Garner to also start when fit and now rather than later. A word of caution for a fan driven team management can look no further than the mid-table woes of Everton. Ole understands this and thus has been patiently introducing the youth one at a time. Cohesion amongst the players does amount to holding out for a result despite the shortcomings like inability to score the second goal.

Ole has arrested the mistakes of signing wrong players, has retained the respected coach in Mike Phelan as his assistant, had a good pre-season which promoted scores of young players, put Nicky Butt in charge of youth promotion, got rid of six unwanted first team players to make way for youth, renewed the contract of MUFC's best player in post Ferguson era in David De Gea.... These are the right steps which might not bear fruit immediately but the traditions of the club have been reinstated for which Ole should earn the time he deserves.

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