Sixth, Third, Second. These are the three positions Manchester United have finished under the watch of former striker Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. The latter two were in his two full seasons in charge and the finishes represent progress for the Red Devils. The natural next step is to go one better this time around and bring the title back to Old Trafford for the first time since 2013 in the great Sir Alex Fergusons final season. As a bare minimum however, United must seriously challenge for the Premier League title, something they have failed to do since their last title win, even in United’s two runners up finish since 2013 under Ole and Jose Mourinho, it was more a best of the rest scenario finishing 12 and 19 points off Manchester City on both occasions.
To seriously challenge for the title, with Manchester City and Chelsea expected to invest, as well as Liverpool welcoming back many long term absentees from last season, United needed major investment to get them at the level of the three teams above and they seem to have acted early with the imminent arrival of Jaden Sancho from Borrusia Dortmund in what has seemed like one of the longest transfer sagas in the history of football, as well as looking to secure the services of serial winner Raphael Varane to bolster the defensive ranks at Old Trafford. Below I will be taking a look at the Red Devils current squad and if it is good enough to bring the title back to Old Trafford
It still remains to be seen whether it is Dean Henderson or David De Gea that will be in between the sticks next season, however at different stages of their careers it is evident that neither keeper wants to sit on the bench and wait for cup competitions and with Tom Heaton joining the ranks from Aston Villa, as well as Lee Grant staying on board, this suggests United are prepared for the departure of one of them. It was understood that Wolves had a loan offer swiftly rebuffed for Henderson, however De Gea has made it clear that he also wants to stay at the club. This could come down to whoever fails to get the nod in the opener against Leeds and how they will feel at that point. One of De Gea’s only realistic destination with his mega contract in PSG now appear out of the running after signing Milan’s Donnarumma. Whoever is to be Ole’s man he needs to make his mind up sooner rather than later.
One area where United have certainly improved is the defence, last years deadline day arrival of Alex Telles prompted an improvement from Luke Shaw and his performances in the last year for club and country have been at a world class level. As for right back, if United are to stomp up for former Tottenham man Kieran Trippier, they will hope his arrival will improve the performances of Aaron Wan-Bissaka, much in the same mould as how Telles’s arrival improved Shaw’s performances. Trippier, however having just started three games for England at the Euros, over Wan-Bissaka who failed to even get in the squad, won’t be content sitting on the bench, and his versatility could allow Telles to move on for the right price. After two years, it seems Harry Maguire has finally got a partner to complement him. It is evident Maguire needs to play along side a more athletic defender, hence the pending arrival of Raphael Varane. Last season Maguire started along side the more athletic Eric Bailly but after a disastrous defensive display in a 6-1 defeat to Tottenham early last season, Victor Lindelof came in for Eric Bailly. Whilst the swede did a decent job next to Maguire it was obvious that that partnership wasn’t going to be good enough to get United to where they want to be. Overall an improved defensive showing is a must with United conceding 44 goals last term even more than Arsenal down in 8th.
Last season Ole was very loyal to his 4-2-3-1 system resulting in a double pivot consisting on both Scott McTominay and Fred, leaving the more attack minded Donny Van de Beek on the fringes and resulting in Paul Pogba playing in an unfamiliar role on the left hand side especially in the bigger games. However this time around, it has been reported that Ole wants to move to a more attack minded 4-3-3 with only one sitting midfielder, which could spell bad news for one of McTominay or Fred but is good news for the likes of Pogba and Van de Beek. The improved defence is one reason why Ole may feel more comfortable to only play one sitting midfielder but the Brazilian and the Scotsman could both find themselves looking on from a far if United sign highly rated Eduardo Camavinga from Rennes. Due to the fact his contract is up next summer they may wait until next summer however the risk there is many big clubs will go for the youngster. Neither McTominay or Fred are natural defensive midfielders and the only natural screening midfielder currently on United’s books is the ageing Nemanja Matic and it remains to be seen whether he will have the legs, especially if he has to protect defence on his own. For this reason i believe it to be imperative that United sign a holding midfielder if they are to change formation whether that be Camavinga, Declan Rice or someone else. The formation could have a negative impact on star man Bruno Fernandes with this more withdrawn role perhaps increasing his defensive work load and he will have to work in tandem with Pogba or Van de Beek as oppose to playing in front of them.
Edison Cavani’s impressive performance last term earned him a new contract and he even in the twilight of his career will expect to lead the line next term. He will perhaps share the baton with Mason Greenwood who may see less game time on the right hand side due to the arrival of Jadon Sancho. Marcus Rashford’s surgery which means he is set to miss the first few weeks of the season may provide Anthony Martial the opportunity to stake his claim to be a regular starter after a disappointing showing last season. If a sensible offer comes in for the Frenchman i wouldn’t be surprised to see him leave Old Trafford as he has never really lived up to the potential he showed early on having now been in Manchester for six seasons. Daniel James got more minutes towards the end of the season however Sancho’s arrival inevitably pushes the Welshman down the pecking order and perhaps he may look for a loan move to get more game time.
If Manchester United are able to sign a holding midfielder to join Varane and Sancho, which will allow United to move to a more adventurous 4-3-3 i believe they could win the league. Now that Ole has finally been backed however he has a chance to prove the doubters wrong and after another trophyless season last term after a heart breaking penalty defeat in the Europa League final, a trophy as well as a title challenge is a must for this season to be considered a success. Failure to meet these targets could spell pressure for Ole next May.
Manchester United fans, What is a successful season for you? Do you Trust Ole Gunnar Solskjaer? Are you happy with your transfer window so far? Comment Below
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