Despite topping Group L in the UEFA Europa League and staying unbeaten at the end of three rounds, Manchester United are yet to make a bold claim to being one of the leading contenders for the title.
The attack has been toothless, midfield unstable and defence inconsistent and highly unpredictable. While the latter is the least of the three evils, the new centre-back pairing of Victor Lindelof and Harry Maguire is yet to convince as a solid partnership.
Statistically, the Red Devils have the fifth-best defence in the Premier League, having conceded 11 goals in as many games. They have also kept three clean-sheets in three games in Europe.
While these numbers could suggest that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has it sorted at the back, the lack of consistency could hurt his side in the bigger games in the competition.
United lack a midfielder who can act as a screen for the defence and play dirty when needed. This further puts the centre-backs in pressure when the opposition break. A momentary lapse in concentration can hence cost them dearly, despite staging a promising performance for most parts of the game.
Lindelof lacks the experience and the composure to play 90 minutes against a top team without putting a toe out of line. He has demonstrated this on several occasions this season. The Sweden international was particularly poor in United’s 3-1 win over Norwich City.
The 25-year-old also had a forgettable outing against West Ham, with Sebastien Haller and Anderson running circles and providing him a tough time on the pitch. Even on the occasions where United have kept a clean-sheet, the defence has looked shaky and vulnerable on the counter.
While there is no question regarding the talent he possesses, Lindelof needs to work on translating it into solid performances on the pitch. United will face tougher opposition in the competition and the partnership between the Swede and Maguire will be crucial to their chances of yet another Europa League title.
The current centre-back duo has done enough to prove that it is definitely an upgrade over any of the past defences over the last couple of seasons. But have they done enough to push a claim that they are a leading Europa League contender? Not yet.