Ever since Sir Alex Ferguson left in 2013, the Manchester United squad has seemingly always been 2-3 world-class players away from a title challenge. However, for the first time in nearly a decade, United have shown the ambition required to compete for the Premier League and have invested heavily in the transfer market to address their needs.
While United’s competitors have also improved significantly, Solskjaer has continued to make progress in his 2.5 years at Old Trafford, and the Manchester United faithful will be hoping that this transfer window proves to be the catalyst for future success.
Manchester United have made some marquee moves in the transfer window this summer and have improved the quality of their starting XI with the additions of Raphael Varane and Jadon Sancho for a combined fee of a reported €140 million.
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Jadon Sancho will address plenty of issues for Manchester United, easing the creative burden placed on Bruno Fernandes while also providing another pacy forward who can run behind the defence and play on the counter-attack. Varane, on the other hand, adds plenty of experience and speed to United’s backline and allows Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to shift to a 4-3-3 system with a higher defensive line.
While Sancho and Varane bring some star power to the Manchester United starting XI, the Red Devils are still one puzzle piece away from being title favourites and should target an athletic central midfielder such as Declan Rice, Saul or Eduardo Camavinga before the end of the window.
BEST STARTING XI
The biggest selection headache for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer ahead of the new season is whether to stick with David de Gea in goal or turn to Dean Henderson. While De Gea is still the highest earner in the squad, the Spaniard has suffered a steep decline since 2018, and the new season might be the right time to complete the transition and give Dean Henderson the responsibility of being number one.
Harry Maguire has been one of the unsung heroes for both club and country over the past few years and will partner new signing Raphael Varane at the heart of United’s defence. At left-back, Luke Shaw has continued his stellar rise in the past 12 months and is an integral part of Manchester United’s lineup with his creativity and set-piece delivery. Aaron Wan-Bissaka, on the other hand, has had less joy creatively with the ball at his feet but the 23-year-old is still one of the best 1v1 defenders in the league.
In central midfield, Scott McTominay has emerged as a key part of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s system, and the Scotsman will accompany Paul Pogba – who is entering the final year of his contract. In big games, Solskjaer will turn to the McFred axis in midfield to offer more solidity, but against the smaller teams who will sit back, Pogba is likely to be the preferred partner due to his ability to progress the ball up the pitch.
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Bruno Fernandes picks himself in the number 10 role, and with Marcus Rashford sidelined for 12 weeks after undergoing surgery on his shoulder, Jadon Sancho is likely to move over to the left-wing, with youngster Mason Greenwood starting from the right.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer can choose from a variety of options up front, but Edinson Cavani proved to be the difference in front of the goal at various crucial stages last season and should lead the line for the Red Devils in this campaign.
While a club of the size and stature of Manchester United should only be judged upon their trophy cabinet, the expectations have certainly risen for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer ahead of the start of the new campaign with the significant investment made in the summer.
Solskjaer has proved that he can bring stability to the club and consistently take them to the Top Four. The burning question, however, is whether he can take them to that next level that makes them compete for titles consistently and be revered as one of the best teams in Europe.
Premier League Prediction: 4th
[Image Credit: Manchester United]