Man Utd start pre-season at one of the most crucial points in their history

MANCHESTER UNITED start pre-season preparations in Perth today at one of the most crucial points in their recent history.

Not for nearly three decades has the club been in such a state of uncertainty.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer faces a make-or-break pre-season with Man Utd
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Their £89million record signing Paul Pogba is heading to be the most disliked player ever at Old Trafford.

It was not even clear by midday yesterday if he would be on the tour. But he did turn up at the airport.

Good for him.

Right now you only have to look at the responses to any social media post by this current crop of players to see the mood among the Red Devils fans.

They can forgive defeats but they cannot forgive highly-paid players simply not trying — and in the final two months of last season that is what they saw.

How did it come to this?

On March 6 it seemed like United were returning to a force to be reckoned with.

An incredible comeback against Paris Saint-Germain in the second leg of their Champions League knockout clash in the Parc des Princes had their fans giddy.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was at the wheel and some supporters claimed they had never enjoyed a period following the club like this one.

One of their own had lifted up the stumbling giant and set it back on course again.

Yet from the moment Solskjaer was installed permanently as the new boss things went wrong.

Few disagreed with the appointment at the time having witnessed the way the 1999 treble hero had turned things around.

At that point, United’s No 1 target for the manager’s seat Mauricio Pochettino was having a bit of a wobble at Spurs and Solskjaer was talking of eclipsing them into third.

Yet by the end of the campaign Spurs had finished third and reached the Champions League final and United were back in the Europa League after finishing sixth.

The question then was, had executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward acted in haste in giving Solskjaer a three-year deal?

Right now the biggest task for United is not bridging the gap between themselves and Manchester City and Liverpool.

The worry is keeping the likes of Wolves and Leicester at bay.

They are heading for mid table — not top of the table and the two signings made so far — Aaron Wan-Bissaka from Crystal Palace for £45m and Dan James from Swansea for £15m — are not going to change that quickly.

The same players, bar Ander Herrera, that completed that embarrassing lap of appreciation at a sparsely populated Old Trafford on the final day of last season, are still there.

Its crunch time for a number of Red Devils as the club looks to end their recent misery
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And the laborious journey to Perth, Singapore and Shanghai, Norway, and Wales over the next few weeks is not going to improve anyone’s mood.

David Moyes was just trying to get his feet under the manager’s table when he was being hawked around Thailand and Australia in his first pre-season.

Sir Alex Ferguson himself said he always preferred just a couple of weeks in northern Europe rather than these epic trips to countries where the heat reaches three figures on the thermometer.

Solskjaer is taking a squad of players away that is broken.

Four of the biggest names are clearly disaffected.

Pogba and striker Romelu Lukaku want out, keeper David De Gea is still to sign a new deal, and as for £505,000-a-week winger Alexis Sanchez, where do you start?

The most expensive flop in the club’s history.

Solskjaer has already begun reshaping his squad for the new season
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He had been excused from the tour having taken part in the Copa America with Chile but limped off in the third/fourth place play-off match with Argentina with a hamstring injury.

It says a lot about the popularity of this team when, at a recent function for United fans, a shirt signed by all the players managed to raise only £50 in an auction.

And such is the paranoia over the growing anti-Glazer campaign that the club cancelled two phone-in shows on MUTV recently over fears of what callers might say.

Solskjaer’s final words to the team at the end of last season laid bare his feeling about many of the players as he told them he could easily get rid of half the squad.

Well, not that easy, as there are few buyers out there for any of these players, bar Pogba, and certainly not on the wages they currently earn at Old Trafford.

When Jose Mourinho claimed United’s second-place finish two seasons ago was the biggest achievement in his career, eyebrows were raised.

We now know what he meant. It seems incredible looking back that he got this group to that position having won the Europa League and League Cup the season before.

United had one of the greatest managers in the world at that point. Perhaps the club did not appreciate just how good he was and how much more support he needed.

They effectively allowed player power to win on that one.

It is still winning. Unfortunately the team is not.

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