Manchester United will be hoping for a much better result when they host Brighton at Old Trafford on Tuesday night, but failure to do so might actually help them in their long-term ambitions of getting back on track.
There has been a frustrating pattern to United’s last three outings. They played irresistible football in the first-half, squandered an abundance of opportunities and then crumbled in the second-half, allowing teams to bounce back from the ropes and deliver their own knockout blows.
The last fortnight has once again highlighted the importance of appointing the correct manager at the end of the season in order to get the most from a talented squad, but it has also highlighted the complex string of issues which are deep-rooted in the organization.
Many of those issues at the club stem from a culture of reactive decisions rather than proactive ones. It could be another dangerous trap as they search for a new manager ahead of the summer.
While there is an obvious reason for the long-term interest in current managerial target Mauricio Pochettino, it is crucial the club appoint the right man to take them forward for the best part of the next decade, not simply a manager who previously fitted the bill .
At the weekend, United were shown exactly what a progressive manager like Ralph Hasenhuttl could offer if given the chance, while on Tuesday night they will face another in the shape of Graham Potter.
While neither of the pair currently have an elite club on their CVs it seems only a matter of time before they do, with both having demonstrated how to build a squad, and an identity, in the Premier League despite their restricted resources.
All too often, United have been guilty of pursuing yesterday’s man to solve their problems, and with a huge decision to make on their next permanent manager, it is crucial they consider those who are on the rise and look destined for the top.
United also need to consider the foundations that were left by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer before his sacking from the club last November.
Although the Norwegian stayed in the hot seat for longer than necessary, it is important to acknowledge the work that he did oversee at Old Trafford, with solid foundations in place for a bright future.
After a poor run of results, it is easy to label the club as in crisis, but United are still blessed with a star-studded squad of underachievers who need to be whipped into shape. A ruthless approach will be needed at the end of the season, though in the right hands there is a lot of untapped potential for any new manager to unlock.
Gary Neville labeled Solskjaer a ‘bridge manager’ when he was eventually sacked. It seemed like an apt term, one which acknowledged the need for the initial rebuilding under the Norwegian, while also acknowledging his short-comings from him.
It means any appointment this summer needs to be able to execute the blueprints that are already in place, rather than rip them up and go in a completely different direction.
With the bridge now constructed, it is crucial that United’s next building blocks lead them to the right destination.
Hasenhuttl and Potter both certainly fit that mould.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.