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Manchester United 2021/22 Premier League Season Review – A Royal Mess

Manchester United players celebrate after a goal
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Manchester United reached their nadir in the 2021/22 Premier League season. The Red Devils finished the campaign on 58 points – 35 behind champions Manchester City – while also completing the incredibly rare feat of having a goal difference of zero, having scored and conceded 57 goals. After finishing second in the Premier League in 20/21, the season started with plenty of optimism for Manchester United following the additions of Cristiano Ronaldo, Jadon Sancho and Raphael Varane in the summer. 

However, most of this hope was misplaced as United churned through three different managers in a span of ten months and looked more like a collection of unhappy superstars rather than a team.

What went right?

In a season of such turmoil and anguish, it is difficult to find any positives in the sea of darkness for Manchester United. Although they weren’t helped by the system they played in, star players such as Paul Pogba, Marcus Rashford, Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw and Bruno Fernandes all regressed compared to the previous campaign under Ole, while new signing Jadon Sancho struggled to adapt after joining from the Bundesliga.


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However, it wasn’t all doom and gloom for Manchester United. Despite a few injuries, Raphael Varane settled in nicely in his first season at Old Trafford, Anthony Elanga enjoyed a breakout season for the club, while Cristiano Ronaldo showcased that he is still one of the best poachers in world football, an attribute which could prove to be vital next season.

What went wrong?

Where to begin?

As mentioned previously, perhaps the inflexion point in Manchester United’s season was the arrival of Cristiano Ronaldo. There is no doubting Ronaldo’s ability, and he was pretty much unplayable during a stretch between April and May, but the Portuguese superstar’s arrival imbalanced the United setup and style of play, warping the expectations and dressing room dynamics.


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Tactically, Ronaldo never really fit alongside other United stars such as Bruno Fernandes since both of them require the system to surround and feed them. This imbalance plagued the rest of the squad, resulting in a loss of confidence for United’s young attacking stars and a broken dressing room.

Apart from Ronaldo, the other major acquisition United got wrong this season was the interim appointment of Ralf Rangnick. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s position was untenable by the end of his tenure, but replacing him with a manager who has coached only one season in the top flight in the last decade was always a mistake. Although Rangnick’s appointment was only temporary, the German completely underachieved in his time at Old Trafford, winning just 11 of his 29 matches in charge.

Despite having an incredibly talented squad, Rangnick struggled to create a system that had any signs of repeatable success, and there were very few signs that suggested the manager had the authority and respect of the players.

Player of the season

Following their excruciatingly painful season, Manchester United themselves scrapped their end of year awards. Very few players performed anywhere close to their potential, but the one player who did exceed expectations was Fred. The Brazilian quietly compiled a promising campaign, emerging as a pivotal player under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Ralf Rangnick.


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Fred finished with four goals and four assists in 26 starts for the club, and his pressing, stamina and ability to win duels played a big part in keeping United afloat and helping them finish in the Europa League places.

What Next?

The winds of change are expected to blow across Old Trafford this summer with the arrival of new manager Erik Ten Hag. The Dutchman will want to stamp his authority and style of play on the side, and the Red Devils will need a major makeover considering the sorry state of the team at the back end of last season.


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In terms of the playing squad, there are plenty of high-profile names expected to leave Manchester over the next two months, with Paul Pogba, Edinson Cavani, Jessie Lingard, and Dean Henderson all on their way out following the end of their contract. United are expected to clear a lot of room on the wage bill this summer with these departures, and this could open up room for new signings to fit Erik Ten Hag’s system.

However, despite any new incomings expected in the summer, the situation Manchester United are in at the moment isn’t an overnight fix. Things might get worse before they get better under the Dutchman, and it could take a while yet until the glory days fully return.


[Featured Image Credit: Manchester United]