Manchester United need "one or two additions" after being eliminated from the UEFA Champions League by Barcelona on Tuesday, according to manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
United lost the quarter-final second leg 3-0 at the Camp Nou to complete a 4-0 aggregate defeat. Solskjaer is already looking ahead and has admitted "the next few years are going to be massive for us to get to the level that Barcelona and other teams are at," per David McDonnell of the Daily Mirror:
"We need to create an environment of having a top class attitude and world class attitude every single day. We've got good players to work with and done really well to get to the quarters and challenge for top four. But, as I said, we've got a rebuilding job but it starts with the coaches and players, and with one or two additions."
Only one or two may seem like a conservative figure to many United fans after Solskjaer conceded Barca "were a couple of levels above over the two games," per BT Sport (h/t BBC Sport).
To say United were outclassed isn't an overstatement. They were toyed with by a Barcelona team that isn't as good as in previous years, which only underlines how far the Red Devils have fallen behind Europe's elite.
As McDonnell noted, Solskjaer believes "the next few years are going to be massive" if United are going to get back to Barca's level.
Those years will likely see heavy investments and the departures of several players. It's what Samuel Luckhurst of the Manchester Evening News believes the Red Devils need, using Sir Alex Ferguson's response to a 4-0 defeat at the Camp Nou back in 1994 as an example of how United should proceed.
Luckhurst noted that the defeat prompted Ferguson to ditch established stars such as Paul Ince, Mark Hughes and Andrei Kanchelskis. He also called for Solskjaer to make more sweeping changes to his squad.
It's a sound argument, considering how ruthlessly Lionel Messi, Philippe Coutinho and Luis Suarez exposed United's many weaknesses. A defence that's leaked goals all season couldn't live with an in-form Messi. Nor could United muster any credible responses with their own attacking efforts.
Struggling to stop Messi is hardly a unique failing, but the Red Devils' inability to score is inexcusable for a squad loaded in the forward areas. A group featuring Marcus Rashford, Jesse Lingard, Anthony Martial, Alexis Sanchez and Romelu Lukaku couldn't surpass an endeavour that one Ajax player has managed in the competition this year:
United's forwards weren't helped by a midfield lacking in power and guile. Paul Pogba disappointed in both games amid rumours he is already unhappy working with Solskjaer, despite experiencing a revival in form after the Norwegian took over from Jose Mourinho in December, per Le Parisien (h/t Jean Palacios of AS).
Meanwhile, Fred, a big-money import for Mourinho last summer, looked out of his depth against Barca. The Brazilian still hasn't seized his place in United's best XI.
In fairness to Fred, even goalkeeper David De Gea, United's most dependable player in recent years, looked lost at the Camp Nou. His blunder gifted Messi a second goal and took the tie away from the Red Devils.
Doubts about Pogba and De Gea, along with fundamental weaknesses both at the back and in the creative department, leave Solskjaer with an uphill task to get United back to winning again at this level.
A to-do list this big may raise doubts about the 46-year-old's ability to handle the job. The Champions League exit merely compounds recent setbacks that have marred Solskjaer's promising start:
Solskjaer may have to take a few steps backward before moving forward in a job on this scale. It might mean cashing in on De Gea and Pogba this summer to boost funds for the necessary rebuild.
What it can't mean is missing out on being in the Champions League next season. United must regroup with what they have in order to overturn a two-point deficit to fourth place in the Premier League, starting with Sunday's trip to Everton.