Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has been told that one glaring error in the transfer market has cost Manchester United from launching a Premier League title challenge.
Having finished as runners-up last season, key figures responsible for deals at Old Trafford issued a triple statement of intent during the summer window.
A move four years in the making, England forward Jadon Sancho is finally a United player after Borussia Dortmund agreed to sanction his £72.9million return to the UK, while he was followed through those doors by Raphael Varane and five-time Ballon d’Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo.
Solskjaer has a squad capable of conjuring up match-winning moments in tricky situations.
However, in order to genuinely compete for the top-flight trophy alongside Liverpool, neighbours Manchester City and Chelsea, they had to sign a top-quality defensive midfield player.
That’s the verdict from talkSPORT pundit and former Premier League striker Darren Bent.
He said: “I think that’s the one thing that will cost United is that midfield. That role has become vital in front of the back four – whether you play a two or whether you play a one.
“The fact United didn’t address that and didn’t go get a top-class holding midfielder… that would have given [some freedom] to the likes of Fernandes and Pogba. You would have only had to play one [holding midfielder].
“He doesn’t trust one of them to sit there. He’s got to go with McTominay, he’s got to go with Fred.
“I thought Everton capitalised on that. They hit them on the counter and played really well. The pace that they had going forward, I thought they were superb.”
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Bent added: “What they have got in their favour, United have got that much firepower that – at any given moment – anyone can just go bang, turn up with something class and win them the game.”
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“I thought they were poor against Villarreal. Ronaldo does what Ronaldo does – he pops up with the goal.
“It’s going to be difficult for them to keep pace with Liverpool, Chelsea and City. I think they’re going to struggle.”