Football

No signings, no fourth place for Manchester United: Owen Hargreaves

Hargreaves and Allardyce back Solskjaer, say Man United must make January signings

Some of the doom and gloom surrounding Manchester United was lifted with the 6-0 FA Cup fourth-round win over Tranmere Rovers last Sunday, but Owen Hargreaves and Sam Allardyce warned that the Red Devils have little chance of sustained improvement without signings.

A muddy and wobbly Prenton Park pitch had looked the perfect stage for a shock, particularly with third-tier Tranmere having already knocked out Watford in the previous round.

Instead, Micky Mellon's men were given a mauling, with Harry Maguire, Diogo Dalot, Jesse Lingard, Phil Jones and Anthony Martial all finding the net before the break, before Mason Greenwood's second-half penalty wrapped things up.

United have yet to make a signing during the January transfer window, despite looking short of options in midfield and up front.

The situation has been exacerbated by the fact that record-signing Paul Pogba has started just six matches all season due to injury and top scorer Marcus Rashford has suffered a double stress fracture in his back.

Ex-United midfielder Hargreaves said on BT Sport: "(Ole Gunnar Solskjaer) desperately needs help...

"(Ander) Herrera left, (Marouane) Fellaini left, in midfield, they are really light.

"Then (Romelu) Lukaku leaves, (Alexis) Sanchez leaves, they don't have any help up top.

"Rashford then gets injured, Pogba hasn't played. (Scott) McTominay, one of their best players this season, hasn't played. The recruitment wasn't there to back Ole up and then injuries to key players.

"To be fifth with this squad, I think right now is as good as it can possibly get.

"There are only four points separating fifth and 14th.

"I don't think it's going to move up, it's more likely to go down and that's the big worry."

WRETCHED JANUARY

United sit fifth in the English Premier League, six points behind Chelsea in the final Champions League spot, and have endured a wretched start to the year, losing four times in all competitions in January.

They have been heavily linked with Sporting Lisbon captain Bruno Fernandes, but reports have suggested that the clubs are at an impasse in negotiations with the window closing this week.

Former England and Bolton Wanderers manager Allardyce has backed Solskjaer.

He said on talkSPORT: "If Ole doesn't get that support and start buying better players at United, then I'm not so sure that results will improve that much.

"That puts him under threat, and the pressure is mounting on him. The manager is taking the can for it at the moment, but really, you're only as good as the players you've got.

"And he's working as hard as he can with what he's got."

Former Marseille striker Tony Cascarino was not so complimentary.

He wrote in his column for The Times: "Solskjaer should enjoy the moment while it lasts.

"The hammering of Tranmere yesterday would have relieved the pressure on the Manchester United manager a little, but he is in the job on a game-to-game basis at the moment.

"And you have to believe that if United get a pounding from Manchester City in their League Cup semi-final, second leg on Wednesday, yesterday's result will mean absolutely nothing."

Solskjaer has appeared tetchy recently and that was on display again at Prenton Park.

He told Tranmere goalkeeper Scott Davies, "Thanks for firing up the fans and the players" after the match, in response to the lifelong Manchester City fan having previously said "it would be great if my club could have an influence on (United) having another bad day".

Solskjaer added: "You can see everyone wanted us to fail but it doesn't bother me."

United face City at the Etihad on Thursday morning (Singapore time) in the second leg of the League Cup semi-final, with the Citizens ahead 3-1 on aggregate.

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