Manchester United Are Like an Unbaked Cake, We Just Need to Let it Finish

26/02/2016 17:46 GMT | Updated 26/02/2017 10:12 GMT

A cold Thursday night somewhere in the middle of Denmark was where Manchester United reached their lowest ebb of a painful two and a half years since Sir Alex Ferguson's retirement left the club in need of a new leader.

Ask anyone and virtually all would tell you that United are in deep, deep crisis. The manager can't hack it, the board haven't got a clue, and above all the players aren't anything like good enough.

Of course there are problems. Louis van Gaal hasn't been the rip-roaring success many had hoped, although he has done more than people are prepared to acknowledge, and Ed Woodward doesn't seem to have a particularly good handle on football operations, that's despite his excellent ownership of the club's business operations.

But that last thing, commenting on the quality of the current players, is totally wide of the mark.

This United squad, which critics are happy to remind anyone who'll listen has cost hundreds of millions to assemble, has not been performing well enough. That's impossible to deny. But we've seen flashes of top quality play on occasions throughout the season - perhaps most notably against Stoke earlier this month - that should tell anyone the potential is there waiting to explode.

Fans were infuriated by the recent Sunderland defeat, with the rage clouding any sound reasoning. It wasn't that United played particularly badly, but rather were shocked that their opponent unexpectedly played so well. As has been proven time after time in the Premier League, this season even more than others, any club can surprise any opposition on any given day.

The loss against FC Midtjylland was brought on by a dismal performance. But when one considers the sheer volume of injuries and the inexperienced stand-ins who were subsequently thrust in at the deep end, it becomes largely circumstantial. Any team would struggle with 14 injuries, let alone one already dealing with huge pressure.

To make it perfectly clear, this is not a bad squad that needs overhauling. There are already a ridiculous number of rumours about Jose Mourinho demanding six or seven different 'first' signings, as well as a list of players he wants rid of, if and when he gets the job (a mistake, which an argument for another time). But tearing things up and starting again from near scratch is the absolute last thing the club needs.

Woodward may have failed to deliver several big targets in the transfer market, but most of the players who have arrived since 2013 have been good additions. To briefly list but a few, Ander Herrera is as good as Cesc Fabregas on his day, Juan Mata was lauded as one of the best in the Premier League when at Chelsea, Daley Blind is an intelligent reader of the game and Morgan Schneiderlin is the exact kind of 'best of the rest' player who would have been a typical Ferguson signing.

This is actually a talented and capable Manchester United squad. The (fixable) problem is that it's just totally undercooked and therefore not quite ready for what people are expecting.

Imagine you're baking a cake. You put the ingredients in a bowl, stir them together, deposit the mixture in a tin and place that tin in the oven. When you think it's done you take it out of the oven, put a skewer in the middle and see if it comes out clean. If it does, it's ready, if not, put it back in to finish baking.

What United have currently got is the metaphorical cake baking in the oven. But instead of doing the skewer test, fans, pundits, journalists and everyone else have dived straight in and are shovelling it down in great big handfuls, only to spit it out in disgust because it's still half-raw. Hey guys, it's not done yet.

There are a lot of developing players that have still yet to reach their best. Of all the players at the club, Mata is the only one at the age (27) where he should be hitting his peak. At 26, Herrera, Chris Smalling and Matteo Darmian should be there within the next 12 months or so. Beyond those individuals, Memphis Depay, Anthony Martial, Luke Shaw, Jesse Lingard and plenty of others are much younger still.

In the modern world we live in everything always seems like it has to be the best or the worst something that has ever happened. How the majority of people are currently perceiving Manchester United now appears to be a product of exactly that. But it's not that bad and it will get much better given time.

Let the cake finish baking. Then we'll enjoy it together.

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