Woodward urges patience with Solskjaer at Man United

Manchester United's Harry Maguire touches his forehead as he leaves at the end of the English Premier League soccer match between West Ham and Manchester United at London stadium in London, Sunday, Sept. 22, 2019. West Ham beat Manchester United 2-0. (AP Photo/Leila Coker)

MANCHESTER, England — Injuries are starting to bite, rivals are already pulling clear, and a former captain says it is "scary" how far the team has fallen.

Six games into the Premier League and there are already signs it will be a tough season for Manchester United and its manager, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

One of the club's most senior officials is urging patience, however.

"It is important we are patient while Ole and his team build to the future," United executive vice chairman Ed Woodward said on an earnings call to investors on Tuesday. "We will continue to focus on the long-term strategy and won't be influenced by short-term distractions."

Distractions like Roy Keane, a retired United great, reacting to a meek 2-0 loss at West Ham on Sunday by saying: "I knew they weren't in a great place but I am shocked and saddened by how bad they are."

"No quality," Keane continued. "A lack of desire. A lack of leaders. A lack of characters. It is a long way back and it is scary just how far they have fallen."

United's worst performance of the season highlighted the deficiencies in Solskjaer's squad after an offseason when the club eschewed its recent fixation with making marquee signings, focusing instead on bringing in young, hungry British players more likely to buy into United's culture.

It led to the arrival of 21-year-olds Daniel James and Aaron Wan-Bissaka, along with England defender Harry Maguire for 80 million pound ($97 million). Out went attackers Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez to Inter Milan, who weren't replaced.

Solskjaer now has just two senior forwards in his squad, Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford, and both are currently out injured.

With just two wins in its first six league games, United is already 10 points behind first-place Liverpool, historically its biggest rival. A day before Solskjaer's team slumped at West Ham, Manchester City — United's other fierce rival — beat Watford 8-0.

"We are optimistic for the future," Woodward said. "The sale and loaning of players this summer has also allowed the manager to involve more of our young players and provide a firm foundation and culture ready for building the next trophy-winning squad.

"Returning to the roots of our club's ethos, of youth-led attacking football, is the right way forward," Woodward added. "Everyone at the club — the board, the manager and all the staff — remains resolute in our desire to get Manchester United back to the top of English football."

United, which announced record revenues of 627.1 million pounds ($783 million) for the last financial year, won the last of its 20 top-flight league titles in 2013 — the final season before Alex Ferguson retired.

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