Manchester United have been the most successful club in the Premier League era. Under legendary manager Sir Alex Ferguson, United went on to win 13 league titles, making him the most successful manager in the league’s history. But it’s been seven years since Sir Ferguson has left the club and things haven’t been exactly smooth for the Red Devils. They’ve had some high profile managers like Jose Mourinho and Louis Van Gaal at the helm, but nothing seemed to click at the giant club. To make matters worse, in these seven years, United have seen their bitter rivals, Liverpool and once labelled as ‘noisy neighbours’, Manchester City rising to prominence and lifting the kind of silverware, Manchester United would have wanted to win.
However, in the recent past, things have started to look promising. After United’s former player Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was appointed at the helm, he has managed to instill the basic principles which the club was known for in their prime. He has promoted promising youngsters from the youth teams and reintroduced attacking football on the field. With certain signs emerging that Manchester United could be well on their way of being title contenders next season, we examine what all can lead to it.
A YOUNG AND VIBRANT TEAM
Under Solskjaer, the club has taken a new approach of promoting young players through the ranks of the club and buying players who are of a certain age. Manchester United have one of the youngest squads in the league with the average age being 25.8. From their main starting eleven, Nemanja Matic is the oldest player, who is turning 32 soon. Their main players in Paul Pogba, Harry Maguire, Bruno Fernandes and Fred are all at their peak age between 25 to 27 and that bodes well for the club.
Their front three of Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and Mason Greenwood are 22, 24 and 18, respectively, and already seem like a real deal in the league. Rashford at 22 has made over 150 appearances and that’s a remarkable achievement for the youngster. The mixture of these young players and the experienced ones seems to have blended perfectly for United and suggests that this club will only improve with time.
A GOAL-CHURNING FORWARD LINE
The super impressive front three of Rashford, Martial and Greenwood have collectively scored more than 44 goals in this Premier League 2019-20 campaign and form a deadly trio. Just to give some context, Liverpool’s title-winning front line of Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane have 46 goals between them.
The link-up play between the three Manchester United forwards is exceptional and their pace coupled with a solid finishing touch leads to havoc in the opposition box. There are talks that the club is looking to rope in Europe’s hottest property Jadon Sancho as a big-money signing in the transfer window, which will no doubt increase the overall quality of the squad.
A COMPLETE MIDFIELD PUZZLE
Midway through the season, if anybody would’ve asked Manchester United fans what was the weakest link of their squad, then most would’ve chosen the midfield. But with the arrival of Bruno Fernandes from Sporting Club de Portugal, it seems like that issue has resolved itself. Bruno’s impeccable quality on the ball coupled with his vision makes him exactly the kind of player United wanted to be pulling the strings in the midfield. Since his arrival, Bruno has registered seven goals and seven assists in the Premier League, and more importantly, has freed Pogba from the sole burden of midfield creativity.
Pogba and Matic look like completely different players since the Portuguese has arrived and suddenly, United’s midfield woes are no longer apparent. They can now boast of decent depth in this department as Fred, Scott McTominay, Juan Mata and Andreas Pereira are more than handy options to come off the bench and make an impact. Aston Villa’s captain Jack Grealish seems to be a target for Manchester United in the summer and his arrival will definitely add more weightage in this department.
A SHAKY DEFENSIVE UNIT
This is definitely an area which Manchester United have to strengthen. In the last summer, United broke the transfer market as they bought Harry Maguire from Leicester City for 80 million euros, making him the most expensive defender of the world. But still, this area needs special attention as club captain Maguire isn’t the fastest out there and Victor Lindelof seems to get bullied by the more physical attackers in the Premier League.
Another big debating point is the David de Gea dilemma. De Gea recently made his 400th appearance for the club but has been error-prone in the recent past. He has made the joint-highest number of errors leading to a goal by any goalkeeper in the Premier League since August 2018 and his form is a big concern for the club. Even though Ole has publicly backed him to be the number one but some people believe that United need to look at alternatives now. They are blessed that for this they don’t have to look at the transfer window. Sergio Romero is more than capable of taking the number one spot and at the same time, with 13 clean sheets from 35 games for this season’s surprise-package Sheffield United, Manchester United loanee Dean Henderson could be called back to don the shirt.
United will not have a long break between the seasons because of their UEFA Europa League commitments, but if they finish this season with the momentum they’ve found since the restart, then the Red Devils could prove to be the real deal in the upcoming season.
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