Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s party line in recent weeks has been that he has the best coaching staff “in the world”. That looks a laughable claim in the light of recent events.
Former Alex Ferguson lieutenant Mike Phelan has provided a link with former glories but offers nothing on the training ground.
Ex-United midfielder Michael Carrick, a coaching novice for all his former playing glories, is heavily involved at United’s Carrington complex but it is previously unknown Kieran McKenna who has grown in stature and importance at Old Trafford.
The 35-year-old Northern Irishman, whose playing career in the Tottenham youth team was ended by a hip injury, had started his coaching career with the London club before moving to United, where he proved his worth with the U18s.
He was elevated to the first team by Jose Mourinho in July 2018 and was kept in place by Solskjaer when he took over that December.
But, still, by standards at the top end of elite Premier League football, the two main coaches are wholly inexperienced and the prospect of them coaching personalities such as Cristiano Ronaldo and Edinson Cavani — who are of a similar age and a much-higher playing profile — was always going to be potentially problematic.
There is the added complication of another former United legend, Darren Fletcher, who is technical director, but is frequently seen taking part in training sessions although without a designated role.
The French World Cup winner was widely criticised for his red card, just 15 minutes after coming on as a half-time substitute, in the weekend humiliation against Liverpool.
But the problem of Pogba — or, more specifically, his agent Mino Raoila — has been on-going from virtually the moment he returned to the club in August 2016, both on and off the field.
On it, there has been the problem of where exactly Pogba’s best position is and how Solskjaer can best accommodate him. For the past two games, the United boss has as good as given up that attempt and relegated him to the bench.
Off the field, Pogba has been a major disruption, frequently talking of wanting to leave the club and currently entering the final few months of his existing contract, with no sign of him being willing to sign the new deal currently being offered by the club.
Paul Scholes suggested that, should Solskjaer keep his job, he should consider never playing Pogba again but added, more realistically, that such an outcome is unlikely.
“Look, he probably will play again won’t he?” said Scholes. “But I don’t think they will be missing anything if he doesn’t. He’s caused mayhem over the last couple of years.”
Solskjaer’s reign will be remembered for many things – gifting the Premier League the phrase “McFred” in honour of his favoured midfield pairing Scott McTominay and Fred.
The two holding positions in the centre of midfield has been a headache for Solskjaer for many months.
McFred, plus Pogba, Nemanja Matic and forgotten signing Donny van de Beek have all been used in those positions although, on the big occasion, the United manager has, more often than not, seemed to default to the McFred option.
It is hard to see why.
Despite Solskjaer’s claims to the contrary, Fred, in particular, has looked below the necessary standard, easily knocked off the ball, full of unforced errors and wasteful in possession. McTominay, in a better team alongside better players, might be passable but has been exposed by his partner.
Solskjaer and his employers should have addressed the issue in the summer and either recruited new talent or looked at adopting a different style of play.
Given the depth of attacking talent at his disposal, it is hard to see why Solskjaer would not have experimented with a 4-3-3 formation favoured by Liverpool and Manchester City even if he clearly lacks the holding midfield talent possessed by his two rivals.
The signing of Cristiano Ronaldo was clearly a massively successful marketing coup for United and will remain so, regardless of what happens to the club and Solskjaer.
But whether he has helped the